Equity and behavior exchange in dysfunctional marital perceptual processes

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


Counseling Psychology

First Committee Member

Bruce D. Forman - Committee Chair


Various perceptual processes have been implicated as explanatory constructs for the relationship between couples' exchange patterns and dyadic adjustment. The differences between equity, equality, and self outcome propositions were investigated in an effort to precisely define the perceptual process or processes that were most useful for predicting dyadic adjustment. Forty married and co-habitating heterosexual couples participated in the study. The clinical and non-clinical couples were heterogeneous in dyadic satisfaction and age. Two versions of the Behavior Exchange Inventory and the Dyadic Adjustment Scale were used to assess subjects' perceptions of fairness, self gains, and marital satisfaction. In addition, an evaluation of the tenets of psychological equity was accomplished by making a comparison between participant couples' ratings and trained observers' ratings of the messages exchanged during a 45-minute intake interview. The results indicated that self outcome or a pure social exchange orientation was superior as a predictor of dyadic adjustment. Equity and equality served only to augment the predictive utility of outcome. Additionally, there were no conclusive gender differences and partners appeared to distort uniformly, irrespective of the association between their benefiting status and their dyadic adjustment. Restoration of psychological equity appears to be a long-term process that is not observable during a single assessment session. The findings support the notion that couple happiness is a function of responding to their perceived intimate exchange patterns, especially their notion of self-gain.


Psychology, Social; Sociology, Individual and Family Studies

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