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Measuring Equity in Close Relationships

Danielle M. Young and Elaine Hatfield

University of Hawai’i

Measuring Equity in Close Relationships


Purpose

According to Equity theory, people perceive a relationship as equitable when they and their partners are getting what they both “deserve” from their romantic and marital relationships. In theory, couples feel most comfortable when their romantic and sexual relationships are maximally profitable, and (considering what they and their partners contribute to their relationship) they are reaping all the rewards they deserve—no more and certainly no less (See Hatfield, Walster, & Berscheid, 1978). Equity has been found to relate to many aspects of relationships and appears to be important throughout a couple’s lifetime (Pillemer, Hatfield, & Sprecher, 2008). More recently, evolutionary theorists contend that concerns about equity have an enormous impact in the dating marketplace (Baumeister & Vohs, 2004). The Global Measure of Equity and the Multi-Trait Measure of Equity were designed to assess men’s and women’s perceptions of how fair and equitable their love and sexual relationships are (Traupmann, Peterson, Utne, & Hatfield, 1981; Walster, 1975.).


Description

On the widely used Global Measure of Equity, men and women are asked to assess how fair and equitable they perceive their dating and marital relationships to be. Respondents indicate their judgments on a seven point Likert scale, with answers ranging from +3: I am getting a much better deal than my partner, to -3: My partner is getting a much better deal than I am.


On the Multi-Trait Measure of Equity, the experimenter begins by explaining the concept of equity by saying:
We’re interested in the give-and-take that goes on in a dating relationship or marriage. We’d like to ask you a few questions about the things you put into your relationship . . . and the kinds of things you get out of it.
She then hands the respondent a list of 25 items, which are comprised of Personal Concerns, Emotional Concerns, Day-to-Day Concerns, and Things one gains or loses simply by dating or being married (each item can also be rated as to importance). Once again, men and women are asked to assess how fair and equitable their dating and marital relationships are and to indicate their judgments on a seven point Likert scale, ranging from +3: I am getting a much better deal than my partner, to -3: My partner is getting a much better deal than I am.



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