The Formation of Relationships

1 January 2018

In 1962 Kerckoff and Davis (pg 486 Gross 2005)posited another form of relationship formation theory known as the filter model. They believed that there are three filters that are important at different times before we can enter a relationship. At the start there is a group of people that are free and available for relationships which the individual then narrows down further using different internal tests to leave only those that they consider to be suitable partners.

The first filter is the social and demographic variables where an individual tends to pick people with similar educational and economic background to their own. The second filter is the similarity of attitudes and values, where people with different values, attitudes and interests to us are filtered out as incompatible. The third stage is the complementarity of emotional needs where the individual decides how well between the two people they fit together as a couple.

Kerckoff and Davis (1962) then tested their model in a longitudinal study using student couples that had been together for more or less than 18 months. They completed several questionnaires over 7 months which reported on attitude similarity and personality traits with their partner. They found that attitude similarity was the most important factor up to about 18 months into a relationship, after this time psychological compatibility and the ability to meet each other’s needs became important, supporting the idea of the filter model.

The filter model is a more useful way to think about factors that are influential in relationship development and when they might come into action. It also emphasises the importance of demographic factors and similarity of attitudes and values as filters in development of relationships, evidence shows this continues in relationship survival. However, the division of relationships into stages does not capture their fluid and dynamic nature. Real life relationships tend to flow more than the model demonstrates. Some may develop faster and others slower than the filter model suggests which is a failing on the model itself to not take issues such as this into account.

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