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  • Cited by 2
  • Print publication year: 2003
  • Online publication date: September 2009

2 - Relationships as Outcomes and Contexts


In this chapter we provide a broad overview of how culture influences all aspects of social relations. We consider the interpretation of social relations as both outcomes of individual and situational experiences as well as contexts within which a broad range of development occurs. We suggest that the traditional view of social relations as predictors of well-being and other outcome variables needs to be complemented by the recognition that in some cases social relations are in themselves an outcome. And finally, as life-span developmental psychologists we emphasize the importance of recognizing the continuing influence of development and the dynamic nature of social relations both as outcomes and predictors.

In this chapter we explore how relationships can be outcomes of individual and life experiences as well as contexts within which a broad range of development occurs. At the same time social relations also influence important mental and physical outcomes over the life course. We propose that the conceptualization of relationships as both outcomes and contexts of development provides a unique insight into the complex and multidimensional potential of relationships. Relationships are outcomes, in the sense that personal and situational characteristics of the individual shape the type of relationships an individual needs or seeks, the kinds of support exchanged, and the ways in which those relationships are evaluated. Characteristics of the individual and the situation affect the way individuals initiate, develop, maintain, and sometimes end relationships across their life span. But relationships also serve as a context of individual development.

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