Development of Intimate Relationships
18 Pages 4407 Words
Section One : Relationship Formation
The formation of relationships has always been of interest to researchers of social psychology, but it was not until
the 1970s that the bulk of theory began to emerge. It was during this time that a wide range of paradigms were
developed, but "the domain of relationship development is awesomely vast and incompletely charted" (Duck &
Gilmour, 1981a, p vii). Two theories that emerged in the 70s were social penetration theory (Altman & Taylor,
1973) and another based around attraction by Levinger and Snoek (1972). Both stem from the social
psychological paradigm and offer two useful and complementary models of relationship development.
A. Social Penetration Theory
Social Penetration theory was devised by Altman and Taylor in 1973 in an attempt to explain the development of
interpersonal relationships from strangers to good friends. They propose that relationship formation will proceed
gradually and in an orderly fashion, through reciprocal exchange from non-intimate, relatively unemotional aspects
of the selves to intimate, private and vulnerable central core aspects of the selves (Duck & Gilmour, 1981a, p
The events that occur in the formation of any relationship are, according to Altman and Taylor (1973),
encompassed by four "social penetration processes": verbal exchange, nonverbal use of the body, use of physical
environment, and interpersonal perceptions. All of these processes occur in different ways at different levels of
intimacy and encounter.
Verbal behaviours provide the informational content of an interaction while nonverbal behaviour involves use of
the body, such as postures and position, gestures, limb and head movements, facial expressions such as smiling,
eye gaze, etc. Use of the physical environment includes manipulation of spatial features including personal space
between people and of physical objects and areas. All of these communicative behav...
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