Perceived Partner Commitment in Stay/Leave Decisions

2794 words (11 pages) Essay in Psychology

08/02/20 Psychology Reference this

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 Mass Media articles are the easiest way for the general public to get information about new studies in the scientific community as well as the significance of their findings. The availability of these articles means that almost everyone can access these articles in some way or another and because of this it is very important that these articles are accurate in their claims as well as supported by the studies they are talking about. These mass media articles should be analyzed for their accuracy and the studies the articles are based on should also be analyzed to make sure that both have well-supported and accurate claims. These articles should as use more then one paper to add more support and evidence to the claim they are trying to sell the general public on.

Unhappy couple advise: Why stay in an unhappy relationship

 The article, “Unhappy Couple Advise: Why Stay in an Unhappy Relationship”, on, written by Marianne Garvey, makes three main claims about the study, How Interdependent are Stay/Leave Decisions? On Staying in the Relationship for he Sake of the Romantic Partner (Joel, Impett, Spielmann, & MacDonald, 2018)and uses no other studies to gather more evidence or support of these claims. The first claim and most important claim the mass media article makes is that when people are deciding to end a relationship they take into consideration how much they perceive that their partner wants and needs the relationship to continue. The article also makes two more claims in general about relationships: That a person may opt to stay in an unfulfilling relationship if there are not good alternatives and that people stay in relationships because they are hoping it will get better. In addition, the reference that the mass media article uses is to an summary to the scientific paper instead of the paper itself which leads one to believe the author did not use the actually paper that they based their mass media article off.

 The study that the mass media article was based on supports two out of the three claims made by the mass media article. The first claim about considering the romantic partners commitment and reliance on the relationship has support from the article however the mass media article overplays that importance on the overall decision to terminate a relationship. The scientific article claims that it only adds to the decision to end a relationship, and that there are many other contributing factors to relationship termination (Joel et al., 2018).  The second claim made by the mass media article about staying in a relationship due to lack of suitable alternatives is a well supported theory by many papers, however the mass media article chose to use the introduction from the paper from before to support this claim. Although it still technically is true, this claim could has been better supported by a second reference paper about attachment theory and its influence on stay/leave decision making.. The third claim the mass media article makes is that people will stay in a relationship in hopes that it will get better and this claim has no mention in the study it is referencing. There is most likely some research that the author could have found to support this third claim, however no such reference exists on this mass media article. The original study comes to the conclusion that people take their partners need and commitment into consideration while making stay or leave decisions about the relationship but there is no mention of an individual staying in an unsatisfied relationship in hope that the relationship will improve.

 The study that the mass media article uses has one factor about the study that could lead to a lack of generalizability. The journal article in question conducted two studies to gather evidence for their hypotheses and in both studies they only collected their information from online sources. While this did lead to a large number of participants, the participants studies are only limited to people with access to the internet and email as well as only to people who used the sites that the study used to conduct its research. The methods of the experiment are not mentioned whatsoever in the mass media article so it is not surprising that the lack of generalization that the scientific article suffers from is also not mentioned. This lack of generalization could work in favour of the mass media article, as the people who participated in the study itself are most likely the same general people that are reading the mass media article.

Literature Review

 The Study How Interdependent are Stay/Leave Decisions? On Staying in the Relationship for he Sake of the Romantic Partner (Joel et al., 2018) talks about three major areas of research to highlight the importance and relevance of his topic: Prosocial decision making, social interdependence theory, and stay/leave relationship decisions. These are important to the overall conclusion that the study comes to because to serves to show how this study is related to current relationship theories as well as to show that their research is new and not just a rehash of current research.

Prosocial Decision Making

 According to the article, an abundance on evidence on prosocial decision making suggests that most people do not make decisions based on maximizing their own interests even if it is detrimental to others but instead have intrinsic inclinations to consider the interests of others (Joel et al., 2018). In an experiment by Rand, Greene and Nowak (2012), they used a cooperative game to test if cooperation is intuitive or if it was cause by self-reflection and that selfishness is intuitive. The results this study yielded showed that shorter decision making times lead to less selfish decisions and that the selfishness of these decisions grew when the decision making time is lengthened. This supports the theory that cooperation is intuitive because the tests were fast choices had to be made resulted in more cooperative results. This study gives evidence to the claims made in the article as it suggests that prosocial cooperation is intuitive and would therefor have more intrinsic inclinations.

 The article uses prosocial decision making to introduce the theory that people will take other people into consideration when making decisions. The research area has a lot more to offer when it comes to its importance in romantic relationships. While prosocial decision-making may be important in stay/leave decisions, there is also studies which support its influence in relationship formation as well. A longitudinal study by Stavrova and Ehlebracht (2015) analyzes the effect of prosocial behaviour on relationship formation. From a period of 1992 to 2012, the study analyzed approximately 22,000 individuals across 10,000 households to compare their prosocial behaviour from a year to their relationship status in the following year. The results the study yielded showed that increased prosocial behaviour lead to an increased chance of entering a relationship in the following year. The study also shows that being in a relationship increased an individuals prosocial behaviour overall. These studies showcase the importance of prosocial behaviour in relationships and that prosocial behaviour in involved with most aspects of relationship.

Social Interdependence Theory

 Social Interdependence theory is a theory that is based around the idea that all of an individuals decisions and outcomes are effected by others. This theory allows decisions to be analyzed by a more situational point of view. The premise of social interdependence theory is that the structure of the goals of all the individuals in a situation will affect the overall outcome of the situation (Johnson, & Johnson, 2006). The research pertaining to social interdependence theory on close relationships is important because it gives researchers a way to better analyze the interpersonal process in these relationships.

In the article, How Interdependent are Stay/Leave Decisions? On Staying in the Relationship for he Sake of the Romantic Partner, the authors state interdependence theory’s importance on close relationships in an accurate way (Joel et al., 2018). The article states that in order for a close relationship to function well, each individual must take the other needs into consideration to maximize the effectiveness of an outcome. Other research on the topic supports this claim; The meta-analysis by Johnson and Johnson (2006) was able to determine that positive interdependence between individuals in close relationships yielded many benefits to each individual including: more commitment to achieve goals, more likelihood to take on difficult tasks, a better persistence in working toward goal achievement, and higher morale. These benefits serve to increase reward as well as strengthen the relationship itself, which shows that theses positive interdependence situations are better for an individual overall. This can show how if an individual is highly reliant and committed to the relationship the other individual may avoid choosing a leave decision as it would lead to a negative interdependence outcome which in turn has fewer benefits overall. Interdependence theory is important when considering stay/leave decisions in relationships. The theory has been used to further understand relationship commitment as it was theorized that commitment could be calculated by using an individual’s current relationship satisfaction and their available alternatives (Rusbult, 1980)

 While the article does state a lot of the benefits of social interdependence theory, the article fails to mention any of the weakness that the theory and research has. The first weakness is that although here is an abundance of research, which connects positive social interdependence with positive relationships, achievement and greater psychological health, there is not enough research correlating interdependence, interaction patterns and outcomes. Another weakness is that there is enough detail when talking about how the psychological processes of interdependence theory affect dependent variables in each situation. The third weakness is that most of the research on this theory is only centered on cooperation and that there should be more research that details competition so that the theory can be better represented (Johnson, & Johnson, 2006). While social interdependence theory is important when talking about relationship decisions, the authors of the article could have included some of the weakness of the theory in their paper to further the readers understanding of the important aspects of relationship decision making.

Stay/Leave Relationship Decisions

 The research on the idea that people care about their partners needs is abundant when considering the research surrounding prosocial decision making and interdependence theory but this article states that it is one of the first papers in the direct relationship between prosocial behaviour and its influence on stay/leave decisions (Joel et al., 2018). The area of stay/leave relationship decisions does have a good amount of research in general however. Most of the research on this topic is centred on the investment model.

 The investment model is based on many important aspects of the interdependence model and assumes that people are interested in minimizing cost while maximizing reward in relationships. The model states that relationship commitment is affect by outcome values of the current relationship, the comparison level of alternate relationships and the investment size of the current relationship Commitment is referred to as resources spent on a relationship; there are two types of investment in a relationship: Extrinsic, where extraneous interests become linked to a current relationship and intrinsic, which are things such as emotional involvement, time, and money. Commitment is increased over time as more resources are put into the current relationship (Rusbult, 1980). This model has been used the most when studying stay/leave decisions but the article states that there has not been enough research done on another aspect of stay/leave decisions, which is one’s partners commitment and reliance on the relationship.

Another area of research on stay/leave decisions is the moral motivations that may arise during this stay/leave decision. Several researchers are theorized a moral component to relationship commitment and stay/leave decisions. A study on long distance relationship commitment by Lydon, Pierce, and O’Regan (1997) looked at how the morality of an individual relates to their relationship commitment in times of uncertainty. The results of this study concluded that moral commitment is highly correlated to investment and that moral commitment predicted persistence of relationships in times of uncertainty. This study however is still focused on one’s self when making stay/leave decisions.

Original Study Evaluation

 The study that the mass media article is based on conducted two experiments to test the hypothesis. This first study was two-part longitudinal study of romantic relationships. The first part had participants conduct a large questionnaire about their current relationship and the second part had them complete weekly surveys about their relationships. The methods of this study seem to be appropriate to conduct an experiment on a large number of participants at once. The methods are reliable due to the large amount of participant as well as the large range of age of the participants (18 to 68) and relationship length (1 month to 40 years). The validity of the methods is also good because the questionnaires used to test their hypothesis accurately measure what the study was trying to analyze. The second study conducted in this experiment was a pre-registered replication of study 1. This was done to confirm the results of study 1 while address some of the limitations that study 1 suffered from.  The first study had a lot of participants that where happy with their relationship so this study focused on individuals considering stay/leave decisions in their relationships. This study had its participants take two surveys at 2 different times to test for relationships satisfaction, perceived partner satisfaction and stay/leave decisions. The methods seem affective and valid as the study is carefully testing for their hypothesis. The study is also reliable as it is pre-registered as well as it has a large and diverse sample size.

 Given the results and methods of this experiment, the conclusion the researchers came up with seems very plausible. The results the experiment yielded gave large support to the hypothesis that stay/leave decisions are directly affected by the perceived commitment and reliance a partner has on a relationship.  The studies showed that an individual’s belief on how committed their partner is and distressing the breakup would be for the partner predicted the likelihood that a relationship ending decision would be made. The study also made one more significant claim that the mass media article did nit mention which is that the research also supports the idea that an individual will take their partners feelings into consideration during all important life decisions that could affect the relationship as a whole.


 While the mass media article did discuss some of the findings that the scientific article found, the mass media article made one unsupported claim and also made some assumptions about what the findings actually say. The author of this mass media article should have done further research into the topic and strayed away from making unjustified claims. The scientific article was a well-done study with good experimental design and strong support of the hypothesis. While mass media is important to get information out to the general public, it is important that these articles are accurate in their claims and that they are properly portraying what the scientific experiment had set out to find.


  • Joel, S., Impett, E., Spielmann, S., & Macdonald, G. (2018). How Interdependent are Stay/Leave Decisions? On Staying in the Relationship for the Sake of the Romantic
  • Partner. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,115(5), 805-824. doi:10.31219/
  • Johnson, D. W., & Johnson, R. T. (2005). New Developments in Social Interdependence Theory. Genetic, Social, and General Psychology Monographs,131(4), 285-358. doi:10.3200/mono.131.4.285-358
  • Lydon, J., Pierce, T., & Oregan, S. (1997). Coping with moral commitment to long-distance dating relationships. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,73(1), 104-113. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.73.1.104
  • Rand, D. G., Greene, J. D., & Nowak, M. A. (2012). Spontaneous giving and calculated greed. Nature,489(7416), 427-430. doi:10.1038/nature11467
  • Rusbult, C. E. (1980). Commitment and satisfaction in romantic associations: A test of the investment model. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology,16(2), 172-186. doi:10.1016/0022-1031(80)90007-4
  • Stavrova, O., & Ehlebracht, D. (2015). A Longitudinal Analysis of Romantic Relationship Formation. Social Psychological and Personality Science,6(5), 521-527. doi:10.1177/1948550614568867
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