The traditional study of personality focuses on the structure of personality and its origins (Allport, 1937; Murphy, 1932). However, an important reason to examine personality is to understand how it influences people’s daily lives in meaningful and predictable ways (Shiner & Masten, 2012). For example, personality is associated with individual outcomes such as physical health, happiness and identity; interpersonal outcomes including romantic relations (e.g., to whom individuals are attracted; Ozer & Benet-Martinez, 2006), martial satisfaction, martial success and parenting; and social outcomes such as occupational choice, community involvement and political affiliation (Ozer & Benet-Martinez, 2006). Personality also impacts the perception of received social support and actively seeking social support (Lakey et al., 2010). Although social behavior is often shaped by the dispositions and perceptions of the individuals involved in the interactions (Elster, 2015), social relationships also profoundly affect personality (Back et al., 2011).
For several decades, social psychologists have tilled the fertile fields of interpersonal attraction and close relationships, with impressive results. It is now possible to predict with some certainty the course and future of an adult romantic relationship on the basis of the behaviors and attitudes of the participants (Fletcher & Fincham, 1991; Gottman, 1994). Unfortunately, the study of adolescent romantic relationships has not kept apace with these advances; models generated to describe adult relationships have not been applied systematically to those during adolescence. In this chapter we discuss the nature and functions of adolescent romantic relationships, integrating prevailing theories of social exchange with a developmental perspective on close relationships.
Social exchange theory (Kelley & Thibaut, 1978; Thibaut & Kelley, 1959) provides a popular and compelling framework for understanding adult romantic relationships (Clark & Reis, 1988). Economic principles are extended to interpersonal behavior: Individuals establish and maintain relationships that proffer optimal rewards relative to costs. Widely recognized by social psychologists, exchange theory awaits developmental applications (Graziano, 1984; Laursen, 1996). This oversight is not an indictment of the theory but a manifestation of conceptual neglect in the area of adolescent close peer relationships (Furman, 1993).
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