How Do Different Theoretical Perspectives and Methodologies Create Different Forms of Knowledge About Close Relationships

How do different theoretical perspectives and methodologies create different forms of knowledge about close relationships? Discuss with reference to the cognitive social and social psychoanalytic perspectives. Social Psychology is divided into four different theoretical perspectives. Every perspective is strengthened by a set of ontological and epistemological assumptions, that profile the kinds of research questions that can be generated and the sorts of methodologies used to address research questions. Then, methods employed delimit the kinds of social psychological knowledge that is produced.In this essay, two perspectives will be studied around the topic of close relationships: Cognitive Social approach and Social Psychoanalytic approach. Generalities will first be presented and then those approaches will be linked with the topic of close relationships, looking at their ways of applications and methods and the kind of knowledge produced. The Cognitive Social Psychology (Haslam, 2007, DVD 1, DD307) focuses on information-processing in social context; in other words, our socially structured minds and thoughts.Researchers’ aim is to assess and discern, in controlled social conditions, individual cognitions in term of causal relations and patterns among variables that may not be obvious. The methodology is quantitative; testing theory-based hypotheses using standard statistical techniques. Methods use social psychometrics and are tested, replicable and experimental such as laboratory-based experiments and field experiments. They also include surveys, questionnaires, case studies and observational methods.The aim is to discern principles and generalize them past the original population of the study. In his article, Duck (1999) gives an overview of works on close relationships. These works studied the formation, maintenance or dissolution of close relationships and their factors of influence, in aim to explain and predict relationships patterns and to develop general principles of social behavior in close relationships and thus create knowledge about close relationships. Duck mainly talks about courtship.Considering courtship as a “process” and focusing on its progress and styles, it can be studied with systematic, quantitative research. Researchers thus applied tried and tested psychological methods, such as surveys or interviews, to the objective study of close relationships, to identify factors of general significance in relationships. Researchers manipulate variables in controlled settings to show that those variables do not interact in the same way in different settings and thus in different social contexts, helping to develop situated knowledge about close relationships.Duck (1999, in Langdridge and Taylor) comments that there are “six basic types of love” (p. 18) identified by Hendrick and Hendrick (1993) and that (p. 24) “courtship breaks down into four major types” (accelerated-arrested, accelerated, intermediate and prolonged couples). This kind of generalization is the consequence of defining relationships in a way that they can be compared by measurement. Researchers created structural hierarchies by mixing variables such as commitment, passion, intimacy or activities done together, to create different forms of love or courtships.Comparing styles of loving and childhood attachment, Zeifman and Hazan (1997) found similarities, enabling to state characteristics for each kind of love (secure, avoidant (fearful or dismissive) and anxious/ambivalent styles of love), associating them with different ways of controlling or answering to affect and emotion. Asking people to make value and cultural judgement (for instance, being in a relationship is a success and not being in a relationship is a failure) on their relationships showed that symbolic meaning of relationships is important in the construction of emotions around the relationship or after its dissolution.An example of this value judgement is that we celebrate lengthy relationships with different anniversary according to a cultural frame. Love is thus expressed in a cultural context and those who are not in the frame can feel pressures from their respective cultures to not reveal their love (affairs, homosexual relationships). Looking at cohabitation, using statistical researches, it has been showed that the frequency of cohabitation is higher in young couples than old ones, demonstrating a change over time in the cultural way of seeing it.Looking for further factors that can predict love and allow us to foresee its success or failure, specific stimuli or characteristics were highlighted such as matched characteristics, demographic origins or backgrounds, personality characteristics (similarities and differences), intimacy or idea of “being a couple”, that can predict the progress, stability and success of relationships. Those characteristics were, for example, stated after analysis of questionnaire presenting question such as “what sorts of people get into the most stable and happy relationships? ”.This kind of methods enable the researchers to analyze people’s belief and knowledge about relationships and find that they are often related to religion, economic, background, race, age, intelligence, and so on. Social influences can also take control of relationships by pressuring people with expectations for a successful marriage. The pressures or disapproval, might through someone in or out a relationship without his/her better judgment. There is the “Romeo and Juliet effect”, but it has been showed that a parental opposition is usually very strong and ends up in most cases in a breaking-up.Therefore, the integration of the partner in the other partner’s network is an important factor of stability for the relationship. Duck thus talks about people in courtships in terms of expectations and roles of society. The theory of multiplicity of factors showed that different factors can be complementary and can together describe relationship processes and foresee relationship patterns. Those different factors are linked to expectations and roles of society in interpersonal attraction: e. . geographical proximity, physical attractiveness, similarities in terms of background values and interests, perceptions of the costs and rewards of relationships. Duck is thus pro interdisciplinary researches. Theory thus enables psychologists to constitute researches, explain results and also help them be relativist about results. There is a risk to put to much importance on the results of laboratory-based experiments and forget that relationships are happening in the real world.This sort of rational and conscious conjecture and rigorous methods of studying close relationships differs with the hidden and unconscious world of the Social Psychoanalytic perspective. The Social Psychoanalytic perspective (Lucey, 2007, DVD 1, DD307) focuses on the identity construction, influenced psychically and socially in a dynamic relation with others. Human behaviours are partly shaped by unconscious motivations frequently in conflict with conscious thoughts and intentions.The methodology is qualitative and interpretative, looking at interconnections between internal world of individuals and external world of groups and society. The aim is to look how language is used and how meanings are constructed so data is extracted from narrative interviews in their whole (field notes, interview dynamics) such as meanings of everyday life, free-associations, contradictions and conflicts, unconscious defences mechanisms, following-up questions, ordering and wording of interviewees and also non-linguistic, unselfconscious aspects of self expressed though the body.The analysis is looking for signs of emotions, affects and potential conflicts and also identifications that interviewees might show in their narratives. Methods are for example case study, narrative interview, observation and free association narrative interview (FANI). The latter method enables to build knowledge about unconscious conflict, by looking beyond structured interviews and decreasing the risk of confining interviewees with questions assumptions using instead open but specific questions, allowing a narrative, grounded in an actual event, context.Significations of free-associations are sought and so are unconscious conflicts between inner-self and expressed-self. The use of narrative aim to go further the boundaries of semi-structured interview methods that tend to impose a way of speaking to the interviewee and to avoid a too coherent life story by allowing free associations that can reveal hidden aspects of self. In her article, Chodorow (1999 [1978]) give a psychoanalytic object relation theory of the development of close relationships and particularly gendered heterosexual adult relationships.However, she takes a perspective more Psychoanalytic rather than Social Psychoanalytic. The Social Psychoanalytic perspective is based on a ‘relational’ development of Psychoanalysis, and views the principle of the self to combine many different and unconscious influences of childhood development. It regards the current social and cultural context as very important, particularly in shaping gender relations.The social world influences what an individual stores at an unconscious level and how the unconscious mind influence in its turn individuals’ feelings and actions. The research focus in this article is on the importance of hidden, unobservable unconscious processes and the influence of early relationships in further relationships. Unconscious process are not good variables for objective measurements employed by more scientific approaches in psychology.Social psychoanalysts thus rather analyze interpretations and meanings in human experiences and life stories. The Object Relation Theory highlights the mental representations of early significant relationships as fundamental parts of our unconscious selves. The self, or identity, is constructed influenced by the model of relations between people and is therefore an continuous project, influenced by unconscious forces from its interaction with the context.Chodorow (1999 [1978]) outline the social structural power relations of gender from our relational experiences in earliest infancy and points out how they influence all our intimate relationships. Those early relationships with our parents around the Oedipus complex, stay in our unconscious processes and thus shape and develop our adult relationships. Women mother girls and boys. They will thus follow different developmental paths towards adult femininities and masculinities and meanings of heterosexual object-choice.In Object Relation Theory, the psychological consequences of those early significant relationships, in pre-Oedipal period, are guided by their mental representations. We do not represent a person but the relationship we had with this person. Girls develop a sense of self-in-relation and are thus able to empathize and connect. They need to be loved by both gender (male partner as well as female friends) to recreate the bisexual triangle they had when they transferred, but not substituted, the first primary love choice from the mother to the father.Boys develop a sense of self that is less dependent on relationships and connection and assert independence, because they resolved their Oedipus complex by repressing the first strong attachment with their mother This social organization is reproduced when girls feel the need of motherhood, to perpetuate the internalized connection they had with their mother and when boys feel they have to get distance with their children as their father did with them.Chodorow’s application of psychoanalytic object relations theory to the development of gendered identities and its analysis showed that men and women’s meanings about heterosexual intimacy is different because their unconscious processes built during the development of their gendered identities are different. The primary link with the mother becomes the main goal of adult sexual relationships for both men and women. Women can fulfill men’s need better than men can for women’s need. In sexual relationships a man is reunited with the woman but women need more.They need to be pregnant and become a mother to identify with their mother again. Knowledge extracted from psychoanalytical researches such as FANI and narratives are that unconscious forces thus shape us and aspects of the social world are implanted in our internal worlds during early childhood to become intra-psychic processes that may operate throughout our lives. This point of view tends to bypass the individual-society dualism. Relationships involve a sort of interconnection between unconscious needs, wishes and anxieties.Social psychologist have thus found gender differences in friendships and intimacy. Early infant experiences and the maternal responsibility for mothering can explain those power inequalities between girls in need of mothering and boys in need of distance. The generalization of gender points up that this is a theoretical approach assuming a particular model of the person. However it has to be noted that there are within-groups variations which assumes that “women” and “men” are not homogenous categories of being.One similarity between Cognitive Social and Social Psychoanalytic perspectives is that they both pay attention to the fact that relationships are socially situated. However, the Cognitive Social perspective views the individual and the society as separate entities with one influencing the other and vice-versa, whereas the Social Psychoanalytic perspective attempts to transcend this individual-society dualism, postulating that the social influences are intra-psychically insert in the inner world of the individual in aim to have a perpetual influence on the individual’s actions and behaviours.Those perspectives have different set of ontological and epistemological assumptions within their theoretical framework and so they have their own characteristic kinds of research questions and use a unique range of methodologies to address them. Cognitive Social Psychology address close relationships in a statistical and quantitative view, making a point in being replicable over time and evaluating observable variables.However, according to Social Psychoanalytic perspective, it focuses too much on generalization, quantification and objectivity and does not explain unobservable processes in relationships, such as the emotional dimension that deeply connect one person to another. Psychoanalysis on the other hand, can be seen as lacking the required validity and reliability that is usually needed to make the findings generalisable across populations. Both assume too much homogeneity within gender groups.Everyone is an individual subject, with his/hers own life-story that structures and is structured by their own unique experience of close relationships all over their lives. In conclusion, in aim to address all aspects of close relationships, researches can be interdisciplinary and thus quantitative researches may be useful to gain knowledge about the different relationships we can find in the world and about the ways the social context (religious, economical and so on) influence the success of those relationships.In turn, qualitative researches may be constructive to create knowledge about the unconscious and hidden motivation that influence our ability to live in a “good” relationship and the kind of relationships we will develop. However, those researches have to be carried keeping in mind that everyone is different and that we evolve in the real world and not in a laboratory and also that we learn and develop from our experiences.

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