Encyclopedia of Couple and Family Therapy

2019 Edition
| Editors: Jay L. Lebow, Anthony L. Chambers, Douglas C. Breunlin

Quid Pro Quo in Social Exchange Theory

  • Christina Balderrama-DurbinEmail author
  • Seigie Butler
  • Binghuang A. Wang
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-49425-8_52

Name of Concept

Quid pro quo in social exchange theory


Reciprocity; “Tit-for-tat”


Quid pro quo in social exchange theory integrates behavioral reinforcement and quasi-economic principles to understand the development and maintenance of interpersonal dynamics. Relationships are considered a social “exchange” that is governed by reciprocal transactions. Emerson (1976) referred to this theoretical framework as the “economic analysis of noneconomic social situations.” Moreover, it has been proposed that all interpersonal interactions can be reduced to the exchange of “resources” (Homans 1958). Resources extend beyond tangible goods and services such as money and division of labor to include less tangible, socioemotional resources such as love, companionship, or respect. Additionally, resources can exist on both a microlevel such as occupational status or individual attributes and on a macrolevel such as cultural factors or community norms (Levinger 1976). Quid pro...

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. Amato, P., & Previti, D. (2003). People’s reasons for divorcing: Gender, social class, the life course, and adjustment. Journal of Family Issues, 24, 602–626.  https://doi.org/10.1177/0192513x03254507.Google Scholar
  2. Dew, J., Britt, S., & Huston, S. (2012). Examining the relationship between financial issues and divorce. Family Relations, 61, 615–628.  https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1741-3729.2012.00715.x.Google Scholar
  3. Emerson, R. M. (1976). Social exchange theory. Annual Review of Sociology, 2, 335–362.  https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev.so.02.080176.002003.Google Scholar
  4. Esmaeeli, M., Gholamzadeh Jofreh, M., & Shafiabady, A. (2016). What keeps dissatisfied people in marriage? Asian Social Science, 12, 188–194.  https://doi.org/10.5539/ass.v12n4p188.Google Scholar
  5. Gottman, J. M. (1994). Why marriages succeed or fail. New York: Simon & Schuster.Google Scholar
  6. Homans, G. (1958). Social behavior as exchange. American Journal of Sociology, 63, 597–606.  https://doi.org/10.1086/222355.Google Scholar
  7. Karney, B., & Bradbury, T. (1995). The longitudinal course of marital quality and stability: A review of theory, methods, and research. Psychological Bulletin, 118, 3–34.  https://doi.org/10.1037//0033-2909.118.1.3.Google Scholar
  8. Levinger, G. (1976). A social psychological perspective on marital dissolution. Journal of Social Issues, 32, 21–47.  https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1540-4560.1976.tb02478.x.Google Scholar
  9. Marriage and Divorce. (2016). http://www.apa.org. Retrieved 10 October 2016, from http://www.apa.org/topics/divorce/.
  10. Munsch, C. (2015). Her support, his support: Money, masculinity, and marital infidelity. American Sociological Review, 80, 469–495.  https://doi.org/10.1177/0003122415579989.Google Scholar
  11. Nakonezny, P., & Denton, W. (2008). Marital relationships: A social exchange theory perspective. The American Journal of Family Therapy, 36, 402–412.  https://doi.org/10.1080/01926180701647264.Google Scholar
  12. Nye, F. I. (1982). The basic theory. In F. I. Nye (Ed.), Family relationships: Rewards and costs (pp. 13–31). Beverly Hills: Sage.Google Scholar
  13. Rank, M. R., & LeCroy, C. W. (1983). Toward a multiple perspective in family theory and practice: The case of social exchange theory, symbolic interactionism, and conflict theory. Family Relations, 32, 441–448.  https://doi.org/10.2307/584622.Google Scholar
  14. Rusbult, C. E. (1980). Commitment and satisfaction in romantic associations: A test of the investment model. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 16, 172–186.  https://doi.org/10.1016/0022-1031(80)90007-4.Google Scholar
  15. Sprecher, S. (1998). Social exchange theories and sexuality. Journal of Sex Research, 35, 32–43.  https://doi.org/10.1080/00224499809551915.Google Scholar
  16. Thibaut, J. W., & Kelley, H. H. (1959). The social psychology of groups. New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  17. Wilmarth, M., Nielsen, R., & Futris, T. (2014). Financial wellness and relationship satisfaction: Does communication mediate? Family and Consumer Sciences Research Journal, 43, 131–144.  https://doi.org/10.1111/fcsr.12092.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Christina Balderrama-Durbin
    • 1
    Email author
  • Seigie Butler
    • 1
  • Binghuang A. Wang
    • 1
  1. 1.Binghamton University – State University of New YorkBinghamtonUSA

Section editors and affiliations

  • Brian Baucom
    • 1
  1. 1.University of UtahSalt Lake CityUSA