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date: 13 December 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter describes a program of research focused on the nature of giving and receiving benefits in close relationships. It begins with an initial, qualitative distinction drawn between communal and exchange relationships in the late 1970s, together with experimental work devoted to establishing the distinction. Subsequent theoretical developments, including adding the construct of communal strength, introducing the ideas of hierarchies of communal relationships and of individual differences in communal and exchange orientations, together with empirical work relating to those developments, are then described. Challenges to the work, including others' (but not our own!) convictions that the original qualitative distinction was simply a distinction between short-term and long-term exchange relationships and that we were naïve to think that entirely unselfish communal relationships exist (we don't!) are raised and addressed. Finally, recent work on the applicability of communal norms to ongoing close relationships, such as marriages and friendships, on factors that undermine the communal nature of these relationships, and on ways in which people initiate (or fail to initiate) communal relationships is discussed. Throughout, we strive to place this work in the rapidly evolving relationship science context within which it evolved: When we started this work, few social psychologists were studying the relationships that are, normatively, communal in nature. Today, many people study them.

Keywords: communal relationships, close relationships, communal norms

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