Inter Relational Essay Help

"Companionship" redirects here. For the album by Sahib Shihab, see Companionship (album).

An interpersonal relationship is a strong, deep, or close association or acquaintance between two or more people that may range in duration from brief to enduring. This association may be based on inference, love, solidarity, regular business interactions, or some other type of social commitment. Interpersonal relationships are formed in the context of social, cultural and other influences. The context can and may and perhaps vary from family or kinship relations, friendship, marriage, relations with associates, work, clubs, neighborhoods, and places of worship. They may be regulated by law, custom, or mutual agreement, and are the basis of social groups and society as a whole.

Field of study[edit]

The study of interpersonal relationships involves several branches of the social sciences, including such disciplines as sociology, communication studies, psychology, anthropology, and social work. Interpersonal skills are vital when trying to develop a relationship with another person. The scientific study of relationships evolved during the 1990s and came to be referred to as 'relationship science',[1] which distinguishes itself from anecdotal evidence or pseudo-experts by basing conclusions on data and objective analysis. Interpersonal ties are also a subject in mathematical sociology.[2]


Main article: Outline of relationships § Types of relationships

  • TOTEM="Too Old To Ever Marry." Many older people choose not to marry because of their age, financial and family obligations. Wills and often reverse mortgages are in effect, and marriage would complicate the relationship. In a TOTEM relationship, each partner maintains his or her home and, in the case of reverse mortgages, each person maintains residency in their own home sufficient to comply with the reverse mortgage requirements. Wills, trusts, etc., are left in their original form and family members need not be concerned about their future.


Human beings are innately social and are shaped by their experiences with others. There are multiple perspectives to understand this inherent motivation to interact with others.

Need to belong[edit]

According to Maslow's hierarchy of needs, humans need to feel love (sexual/nonsexual) and acceptance from social groups (family, peer groups). In fact, the need to belong is so innately ingrained that it may be strong enough to overcome physiological and safety needs, such as children's attachment to abusive parents or staying in abusive romantic relationships. Such examples illustrate the extent to which the psychobiological drive to belong is entrenched.

Social exchange[edit]

Another way to appreciate the importance of relationships is in terms of a reward framework. This perspective suggests that individuals engage in relations that are rewarding in both tangible and intangible ways. The concept fits into a larger theory of social exchange. This theory is based on the idea that relationships develop as a result of cost-benefit analysis. Individuals seek out rewards in interactions with others and are willing to pay a cost for said rewards. In the best-case scenario, rewards will exceed costs, producing a net gain. This can lead to "shopping around" or constantly comparing alternatives to maximize the benefits or rewards while minimizing costs.

Relational self[edit]

Relationships are also important for their ability to help individuals develop a sense of self. The relational self is the part of an individual's self-concept that consists of the feelings and beliefs that one has regarding oneself that develops based on interactions with others.[4] In other words, one's emotions and behaviors are shaped by prior relationships. Thus, relational self theory posits that prior and existing relationships influence one's emotions and behaviors in interactions with new individuals, particularly those individuals that remind him or her of others in his or her life. Studies have shown that exposure to someone who resembles a significant other activates specific self-beliefs, changing how one thinks about oneself in the moment more so than exposure to someone who does not resemble one's significant other.[5]

Power and dominance[edit]

Power is the ability to influence the behavior of other people. When two parties have or assert unequal levels of power, one is termed "dominant" and the other "submissive". Expressions of dominance can communicate intention to assert or maintain dominance in a relationship. Being submissive can be beneficial because it saves time, emotional stress, and may avoid hostile actions such as withholding of resources, cessation of cooperation, termination of the relationship, maintaining a grudge, or even physical violence. Submission occurs in different degrees; for example, some employees may follow orders without question, whereas others might express disagreement but concede when pressed.

Groups of people can form a dominance hierarchy. For example, a hierarchical organization uses a command hierarchy for top-down management. This can reduce time wasted in conflict over unimportant decisions, prevents inconsistent decisions from harming the operations of the organization, maintain alignment of a large population of workers with the goals of the owners (which the workers might not personally share) and if promotion is based on merit, help ensure that the people with the best expertise make important decisions. This contrasts with group decision-making and systems which encourage decision-making and self-organization by front-line employees, who in some cases may have better information about customer needs or how to work efficiently. Dominance is only one aspect of organizational structure.

A power structure describes power and dominance relationships in a larger society. For example, a feudal society under a monarchy exhibits a strong dominance hierarchy in both economics and physical power, whereas dominance relationships in a society with democracy and capitalism are more complicated.

In business relationships, dominance is often associated with economic power. For example, a business may adopt a submissive attitude to customer preferences (stocking what customers want to buy) and complaints ("the customer is always right") in order to earn more money. A firm with monopoly power may be less responsive to customer complaints because it can afford to adopt a dominant position. In a business partnership a "silent partner" is one who adopts a submissive position in all aspects, but retains financial ownership and a share of the profits.

Two parties can be dominant in different areas. For example, in a friendship or romantic relationship, one person may have strong opinions about where to eat dinner, whereas the other has strong opinions about how to decorate a shared space. It could be beneficial for the party with weak preferences to be submissive in that area, because it will not make them unhappy and avoids conflict with the party that would be unhappy.

The breadwinner model is associated with gender role assignments where the male in a heterosexual marriage would be dominant in all areas.


Interpersonal relationships are dynamic systems that change continuously during their existence. Like living organisms, relationships have a beginning, a lifespan, and an end. They tend to grow and improve gradually, as people get to know each other and become closer emotionally, or they gradually deteriorate as people drift apart, move on with their lives and form new relationships with others. One of the most influential models of relationship development was proposed by psychologist George Levinger.[6] This model was formulated to describe heterosexual, adult romantic relationships, but it has been applied to other kinds of interpersonal relations as well. According to the model, the natural development of a relationship follows five stages:

  1. Acquaintance and acquaintanceship – Becoming acquainted depends on previous relationships, physical proximity, first impressions, and a variety of other factors. If two people begin to like each other, continued interactions may lead to the next stage, but acquaintance can continue indefinitely. Another example is association.
  2. Buildup – During this stage, people begin to trust and care about each other. The need for intimacy, compatibility and such filtering agents as common background and goals will influence whether or not interaction continues.
  3. Continuation – This stage follows a mutual commitment to quite a strong and close long-term friendship, romantic relationship, or even marriage. It is generally a long, relatively stable period. Nevertheless, continued growth and development will occur during this time. Mutual trust is important for sustaining the relationship.
  4. Deterioration – Not all relationships deteriorate, but those that do tend to show signs of trouble. Boredom, resentment, and dissatisfaction may occur, and individuals may communicate less and avoid self-disclosure. Loss of trust and betrayals may take place as the downward spiral continues, eventually ending the relationship. (Alternately, the participants may find some way to resolve the problems and reestablish trust and belief in others.)
  5. Ending – The final stage marks the end of the relationship, either by breakups, death, or by spatial separation for quite some time and severing all existing ties of either friendship or romantic love.

Friendships may involve some degree of transitivity. In other words, a person may become a friend of an existing friend's friend. However, if two people have a sexual relationship with the same person, they may become competitors rather than friends. Accordingly, sexual behavior with the sexual partner of a friend may damage the friendship (see love triangle). Sexual activities between two friends tend to alter that relationship, either by "taking it to the next level" or by severing it.[citation needed]

A list of interpersonal skills includes:

  • Verbal communication – What we say and how we say it.
  • Nonverbal communication – What we communicate without words, body language is an example.
  • Listening skills – How we interpret both the verbal and non-verbal messages sent by others.
  • Negotiation – Working with others to find a mutually agreeable outcome.
  • Problem solving – Working with others to identify, define and solve problems.
  • Decision making – Exploring and analysing options to make sound decisions.
  • Assertiveness – Communicating our values, ideas, beliefs, opinions, needs and wants freely.

Relationship satisfaction[edit]

Social exchange theory and Rusbult's investment model shows that relationship satisfaction is based on three factors: rewards, costs, and comparison levels (Miller, 2012). Rewards refer to any aspects of the partner or relationship that are positive. Conversely, costs are the negative or unpleasant aspects of the partner or their relationship. Comparison level includes what each partner expects of the relationship. The comparison level is influenced by past relationships, and general relationship expectations they are taught by family and friends.

There is research showing that individuals in long-distance relationships, LDRs, rated their relationships as more satisfying than individuals in proximal relationship, PRs (Stafford, & Reske, 1990; Stafford, 2005). Alternatively, Holt and Stone (1988) found that long-distance couples who were able to meet with their partner at least once a month had similar satisfaction levels to unmarried couples who cohabitated. Also, the relationship satisfaction was lower for members of LDRs who saw their partner less frequently than once a month. Agreeing with Holt and Stone was Guldner and Swenson (1995), who found that LDR couples reported the same level of relationship satisfaction as couples in PRs, despite only seeing each other on average once every 23 days.

Social exchange theory and the investment model both theorize that relationships that are high in costs would be less satisfying than relationships that are low in costs. LDRs have a higher level of costs than PRs, therefore, one would assume that LDRs are less satisfying than PRs. As previously stated, current research shows that individuals in LDRs are actually more satisfied with their relationships compared to individuals in PRs (Stafford, 2005). This can be explained by unique aspects of the LDRs, how the individuals use relationship maintenance behaviors, and the attachment styles of the individuals in the relationships. Therefore, the costs and benefits of the relationship are subjective to the individual, and recent research implies that people in LDRs tend to report lower costs and higher rewards in their relationship compared to PRs (Stafford, 2005).

Flourishing, budding, blooming, blossoming relationships[edit]

Positive psychologists use the various terms "flourishing, budding, blooming, blossoming relationships" to describe interpersonal relationships that are not merely happy, but instead characterized by intimacy, growth, and resilience.[7] Flourishing relationships also allow a dynamic balance between focus on the intimate relationships and focus on other social relationships.


While traditional psychologists specializing in close relationships have focused on relationship dysfunction, positive psychology argues that relationship health is not merely the absence of relationship dysfunction.[8] Healthy relationships are built on a foundation of secure attachment and are maintained with love and purposeful positive relationship behaviors. Additionally, healthy relationships can be made to "flourish." Positive psychologists are exploring what makes existing relationships flourish and what skills can be taught to partners to enhance their existing and future personal relationships. A social skills approach posits that individuals differ in their degree of communication skill, which has implications for their relationships. Relationships in which partners possess and enact relevant communication skills are more satisfying and stable than relationships in which partners lack appropriate communication skills.[9]

Adult attachment and attachment theory[edit]

Healthy relationships are built on a foundation of secure attachments. Adult attachment models represent an internal set of expectations and preferences regarding relationship intimacy that guide behavior.[10] Secure adult attachment, characterized by low attachment-related avoidance and anxiety, has numerous benefits. Within the context of safe, secure attachments, people can pursue optimal human functioning and flourishing.[8] This is because social acts that reinforce feelings of attachment also stimulate the release of neurotransmitters such as oxytocin and endorphin, which alleviate stress and create feelings of contentment.[11]Attachment theory can also be used as a means of explaining adult relationships.[12]

Secure attachment styles are characterized by low avoidance of intimacy and low anxiety over abandonment. Secure individuals are comfortable with intimacy and interdependence and are usually optimistic and social in everyday life. Securely attached individuals usually use their partners for emotion regulation so they prefer to have their partners in close proximity (Conde, Figueiredo, & Bifulco, 2011; Miller, 2012). Preoccupied individuals tend to be low on avoidance of intimacy and high on anxiety about abandonment. Preoccupied people are normally uneasy and vigilant towards any threat to the relationship and tend to be needy and jealous. Dismissing individuals are low on anxiety over abandonment and high in avoidance of intimacy. Dismissing people are usually self-reliant and uninterested in intimacy and are independent and indifferent towards acquiring romantic partners (Chopik, Edelstein, & Fraley, 2013). Fearful attachment styled individuals are high in avoidance of intimacy and high in anxiety over abandonment, which means they rarely allow themselves to be in relationships, and if they do get into one, are very anxious about losing the partner. They are very fearful of rejection, mistrustful of others, and tend to be suspicious and shy in everyday life. Attachment styles are created during childhood but can adapt and evolve to become a different attachment style based on individual experiences (Chopik et al., 2013). A bad breakup or a bad romantic situation can change someone from being in a secure attachment to insecure. On the contrary, a good romantic relationship can take a person from an avoidant attachment style to more of a secure attachment style.

Romantic love[edit]

Main article: Romantic love

The capacity for love gives depth to human relationships, brings people closer to each other physically and emotionally, and makes people think expansively about themselves and the world.[8]

Stages of romantic interpersonal relationships can also be characterized more generally by the following: attraction; initiation; development; sustaining vs. terminating.

  • Attraction – Premeditated or automatic, attraction can occur between acquaintances, coworkers, lovers, etc., be based on sexual arousal, intellectual stimulation, or respect. Studies have shown that attraction can be susceptible to influence based on context and externally induced arousal, with the caveat that participants be unaware of the source of their arousal. A study by Cantor, J. R., Bryant, J., & Zillmann, D. (1975), induced arousal through physical exercise and found that participants rated erotic pictures highly 4 minutes post-exercise (when no longer realized aroused by exercise) than either immediately after (when arousal and awareness were greater) or 10 minutes later (when exercise-induced arousal had dissipated). As supported by a series of studies, Zillman and colleagues showed that a preexisting state of arousal can heighten reactions to affective stimuli.[13] A classic study by Dutton & Aron (1974) showed that fear arousal from suspension bridges leads to higher attraction ratings by males of a female confederate.[14]
  • Initiation – There are several catalysts in the initiation of a new relationship. One commonly studied factor is physical proximity (also known as propinquity). The MIT Westgate studies famously showed that greater physical proximity between incoming students in a university residential hall led to greater relationship initiation. More specifically, only 10% of those living on opposite ends of Westgate West considered each other friends while more than 40% of those living in adjacent apartments considered each other friends.[15] The theory behind this effect is that proximity facilitates chance encounters, which lead to initiation of new relationships. This is closely related to the mere exposure effect, which states that the more an individual is exposed to a person or object, the more s/he likes it. Another important factor in the initiation of new relationships is similarity. Put simply, individuals tend to be attracted to and start new relationships with those who are similar to them. These similarities can include beliefs, rules, interests, culture, education, etc. Individuals seek relationships with like others because like others are most likely to validate shared beliefs and perspectives, thus facilitating interactions that are positive, rewarding and without conflict.
  • Development – Development of interpersonal relationships can be further split into committed versus non-committed romantic relationships, which have different behavioral characteristics. In a study by Miguel & Buss (2011), men and women were found to differ in a variety of mate-retention strategies depending on whether their romantic relationships were committed or not. More committed relationships by both genders were characterized by greater resource display, appearance enhancement, love and care, and verbal signs of possession. In contrast, less committed relationships by both genders were characterized by greater jealousy induction. In terms of gender differences, men used greater resource display than women, who used more appearance enhancement as a mate-retention strategy than men.[16]
  • Sustaining vs. terminating – After a relationship has had time to develop, it enters into a phase where it will be sustained if it is not otherwise terminated. Some important qualities of strong, enduring relationships include emotional understanding and effective communication between partners. Research has also shown that idealization of one's partner is linked to stronger interpersonal bonds. Idealization is the pattern of overestimating a romantic partner's positive virtues or underestimating a partner's negative faults in comparison to the partner's own self-evaluation. In general, individuals who idealize their romantic partners tend to report higher levels of relationship satisfaction.[17] Other research has examined the impact of joint activity on relationship quality. In particular, studies have shown that romantic partners that engage in a novel and exciting physical activity together are more likely to report higher levels of relationship satisfaction than partners that complete a mundane activity.[18]

In his triangular theory of love, psychologist Robert Sternberg theorizes that love is a mix of three components: some (1) passion, or physical attraction; (2) intimacy, or feelings of closeness; and (3) commitment, involving the decision to initiate and sustain a relationship. The presence of all three components characterizes consummate love, the most durable type of love. In addition, the presence of intimacy and passion in marital relationships predicts marital satisfaction. Also, commitment is the best predictor of relationship satisfaction, especially in long-term relationships. Positive consequences of being in love include increased self-esteem and self-efficacy.[8]

Referring to the emotion of love, Psychiatrist Daniel Casriel defined the "logic of love" as "the logic of pleasure and pain" in the concept of a "Relationship Road Map" that became the foundation of PAIRS'relationship education classes.[19]

"We are drawn to what we anticipate will be a source of pleasure and will look to avoid what we anticipate will be a source of pain. The emotion of love comes from the anticipation of pleasure."[19]

Based on Casriel's theory, sustaining feelings of love in an interpersonal relationship requires "effective communication, emotional understanding and healthy conflict resolution skills."[20]

Theories and empirical research[edit]


Confucianism is a study and theory of relationships especially within hierarchies.[21] Social harmony—the central goal of Confucianism—results in part from every individual knowing his or her place in the social order, and playing his or her part well. Particular duties arise from each person's particular situation in relation to others. The individual stands simultaneously in several different relationships with different people: as a junior in relation to parents and elders, and as a senior in relation to younger siblings, students, and others. Juniors are considered in Confucianism to owe their seniors reverence and seniors have duties of benevolence and concern toward juniors. A focus on mutuality is prevalent in East Asian cultures to this day.

Minding relationships[edit]

The mindfulness theory of relationships shows how closeness in relationships may be enhanced. Minding is the "reciprocal knowing process involving the nonstop, interrelated thoughts, feelings, and behaviors of persons in a relationship."[22] Five components of "minding" include:[8]

  1. Knowing and being known: seeking to understand the partner
  2. Making relationship-enhancing attributions for behaviors: giving the benefit of the doubt
  3. Accepting and respecting: empathy and social skills
  4. Maintaining reciprocity: active participation in relationship enhancement
  5. Continuity in minding: persisting in mindfulness

Theory of intertype relationships[edit]

Socionics has proposed a theory of intertype relationships between psychological types based on a modified version of C.G. Jung's theory of psychological types. Communication between types is described using the concept of information metabolism proposed by Antoni Kępiński. Socionics allocates 16 types of the relations — from most attractive and comfortable up to disputed. The understanding of a nature of these relations helps to solve a number of problems of the interpersonal relations, including aspects of psychological and sexual compatibility. The researches of married couples by Aleksandr Bukalov et al., have shown that the family relations submit to the laws, which are opened by socionics. The study of socionic type allocation in casually selected married couples confirmed the main rules of the theory of intertype relations in socionics.[23][24] So, the dual relations (full addition) make 45% and the intraquadral relations make 64% of investigated couples.

Culture of appreciation[edit]

After studying married couples for many years, psychologist John Gottman has proposed the theory of the "magic ratio" for successful marriages. The theory says that for a marriage to be successful, couples must average a ratio of five positive interactions to one negative interaction. As the ratio moves to 1:1, divorce becomes more likely.[8] Interpersonal interactions associated with negative relationships include criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling. Over time, therapy aims to turn these interpersonal strategies into more positive ones, which include complaint, appreciation, acceptance of responsibility, and self-soothing. Similarly, partners in interpersonal relationships can incorporate positive components into difficult subjects in order to avoid emotional disconnection.[25]

In addition, Martin Seligman proposes the concept of Active-Constructive Responding, which stresses the importance of practicing conscious attentive listening and feedback skills. In essence, practicing this technique aims to improve the quality of communication between members of the relationship, and in turn the gratitude expressed between said members.[26]

Capitalizing on positive events[edit]

People can capitalize on positive events in an interpersonal context to work toward flourishing relationships. People often turn to others to share their good news (termed "capitalization"). Studies show that both the act of telling others about good events and the response of the person with whom the event was shared have personal and interpersonal consequences, including increased positive emotions, subjective well-being, and self-esteem, and relationship benefits including intimacy, commitment, trust, liking, closeness, and stability.[27] Studies show that the act of communicating positive events was associated with increased positive effect and well-being (beyond the impact of the positive event itself). Other studies have found that relationships in which partners responded to "good news" communication enthusiastically were associated with higher relationship well-being.[28]

The Vulnerability Stress Adaptation (VSA) Model[edit]

The VSA is a framework for conceptualizing the dynamic processes of intimate relationships, which emphasizes the consideration of multiple dimensions of functioning, including couple members’ enduring vulnerabilities, experiences of stressful events, and adaptive processes, to account for variations in marital quality and stability over time. According to the VSA model, in order to achieve a complete understanding of relationship functioning, research must consider all functional dimensions, including enduring vulnerabilities, stress, and adaptive processes simultaneously.[29]

Other perspectives[edit]

Neurobiology of interpersonal connections[edit]

Humans are social creatures, and there is no other behavioral process that is more important than attachment. Attachment requires sensory and cognitive processing that lead to intricate motor responses. As humans, the end goal of attachment is the motivation to acquire love, which is different from other animals who just seek proximity.[30] There is an emerging body of research across multiple disciplines investigating the neurological basis of attachment and the prosocial emotions and behaviors that are the prerequisites for healthy adult relationships.[8] The social environment, mediated by attachment, influences the maturation of structures in a child's brain. This might explain how infant attachment affects adult emotional health. This continues on throughout childbearing.[31] Researchers are currently investigating the link between positive caregiver–child relationships and the development of hormone systems, such as the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis (HPA axis) and Oxytocinergic system. In order to accurately study the neurobiology of interpersonal connection, the behavior must fulfill three requirements. The first is that the behavior must have a noticeable onset so that researchers are able to examine the formation of the attachment bond or how it is inhibited. Second, the behavior must be selective in order differentiate it from normal social interaction. Lastly, the behavior being studied has to be testable so it can be measured and manipulated, in order to establish reliability.[30]

  • The mother–infant attachment – Key biological factors have emerged that can explain the motivation behind maternal caregiving behavior in humans and mammals. However, it does differ from species to species, due to that some species only exhibit maternal care postpartum, others exhibit it only slightly and some are very maternal.[30] Two main neuroendocrine systems that revolved around Oxytocin and Dopamine,[32] and another neuropeptide, prolactin are directly involved as mediators of maternal care.[30] The mother–infant bond is so complex and strong due to these biological systems, that a response to maternal separation exists. The response to separation is due to the withdrawal of several different components from behavioral and biological systems.[33] Separation anxiety, the psychological term that describes the response that occurs when an infant is separated from the mother, causes loss of those components, as seen in studies done with rats.[34]
  1. Oxytocinergic system – Oxytocin is a peptide hormone produced in the hypothalamus that is passed through the posterior pituitary gland into the bloodstream. Oxytocin acts on the mammary glands and uterine muscles to stimulate the secretion of milk and uterine contractions during childbirth. However, it is a crucial factor in many aspects of social bonding, specifically the onset of the mother–infant attachment bond.[32] It acts on the medial preoptic area (MPOA) and the ventral tegmental area (VTA) in the brain which are critical for integration of sensory information in maternal care.[30] Oxytocin plays a key role in physical proximity and nurturing care and leads (as shown in studies with rats) the mother to go from avoiding behavior to caring for their young. Oxytocin knockout rats or injection of an oxytocin receptor antagonist will lead to neglect of the infant or pup.[32] In mammals, the development of the Oxytocinergic system has led to the basis of the mother–infant attachment.
  2. Dopaminergic system – Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that affects behavior in not just the mother but in the offspring as well. Dopamine is essential in for reinforcing behavior that gives us pleasure because it is part of the limbic system that deals with emotion. Therefore, it is able to stimulate responsive maternal care and reinforce attachment. Understanding the dopaminergic system is important because it could make the difference between maternal neglect and nurture.[32]
  3. Prolactin – As seen in lesion studies of rats prolactin, which is also involved in lactation, is important in encouraging maternal behavior. Decreasing the levels of prolactin or lack of the receptor of prolactin leads to inhibition of maternal care in rats.
  • Adult–adult pair bond formation – Oxytocin and vasopressin play a crucial part in the process of bond formation of mates. Vasopressin is a peptide hormone whose main function is to retain water in the body, and is also known as antidiuretic hormone (ADH). Pair bonding is studied using voles and it has been found that injection of both hormones stimulates the behavioral responses needed in pair bond formation, even when mating hasn't occurred.[30] These results are also proven when injection of receptor antagonists of this hormones inhibits mating and necessary behaviors.

The ability to study the biological processes behind attachment allows scientists to be able to understand the fundamental levels to makeup a psychological construct. It provides a link between a psychological concept and its physiological foundation.[34]


In interpersonal relationship those who feel secure are open with their emotional expression, those who are anxious-ambivalent don't express them and process them internally which might lead to immune system disorders, those who are avoidant direct their emotions onto others. Those who have similar coping system have a positive relationship status. Those who are open with their emotional expression with appropriateness is found to have a positive well being. Culture, personal characteristics and experiences are influencing factors in behavioral aspects of interpersonal relationship.[citation needed]


Researchers are developing an approach to couples therapy that moves partners from patterns of repeated conflict to patterns of more positive, comfortable exchanges. Goals of therapy include development of social and interpersonal skills. Expressing gratitude and sharing appreciation for a partner is the primary means for creating a positive relationship. Positive marital counseling also emphasizes mindfulness. The further study of "flourishing relationships could shape the future of premarital and marital counseling as well."[8]


Some researchers criticize positive psychology for studying positive processes in isolation from negative processes.[35] Positive psychologists argue that positive and negative processes in relationships may be better understood as functionally independent, not as opposites of each other.[36]

See also[edit]


  1. ^Berscheid, Ellen (April 1999). "The greening of relationship science". American Psychologist. 4. 54 (4): 260–266. doi:10.1037/0003-066X.54.4.260. PMID 10217995. 
  2. ^Berscheid, E., & Peplau, L.A. (1983). The emerging science of relationships. In H.H. Kelley, et al. (Eds.), Close relationships. (pp. 1–19). New York: W.H. Freeman and Company.
  3. ^
  4. ^Andersen, S. M.; Chen, S. (2002). "The relational self: an interpersonal social-cognitive theory". Psychological Review. 109 (4): 619. doi:10.1037/0033-295x.109.4.619. 
  5. ^Hinkley, K.; Andersen, S. M. (1996). "The working self-concept in transference: significant-other activation and self change". Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 71 (6): 1279. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.71.6.1279. 
  6. ^Levinger, G. (1983). Development and change. In H.H. Kelley, et al. (Eds.), Close relationships. (pp. 315–359). New York: W.H. Freeman and Company.
  7. ^Fincham, F.D.; Beach, S.R.H. (2010). "Of Memes and Marriage: Toward a Positive Relationship Science". Journal of Family Theory & Review. 2: 4–24. doi:10.1111/j.1756-2589.2010.00033.x. 
  8. ^ abcdefghSnyder, C.R., & Lopez, Shane, J. (2007). "Positive psychology: the scientific and practical explorations of human strengths.", Thousand Oaks, California: Sage Publications, 297–321.
  9. ^Burleson; Samter (April–June 2009). "Definition of Interpersonal Relationships". Communication Quarterly. 57 (2). 
  10. ^Tewari, Ankit (23 March 2016). "How to get your ex-girlfriend back advice". Win Your Ex Back. Retrieved 17 May 2016. 
  11. ^Poquérusse, Jessie. "The Neuroscience of Sharing". Retrieved 16 August 2012. 
  12. ^Hazan, Cindy; Shaver, Phillip R. (1994). "Attachment as an Organizational Framework for Research on Close Relationships". Psychological Inquiry: an International Journal for the Advancement of Psychological Theory. 5 (1): 1–22. doi:10.1207/s15327965pli0501_1. 
  13. ^Cantor, J. R.; Zillmann, D.; Bryant, J. (1975). "Enhancement of experienced sexual arousal in response to erotic stimuli through misattribution of unrelated residual excitation". Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 32 (1): 69. doi:10.1037/h0076784. 
  14. ^Dutton, D. G.; Aron, A. P. (1974). "Some evidence for heightened sexual attraction under conditions of high anxiety". Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 30 (4): 510. doi:10.1037/h0037031. 
  15. ^Festinger, L., Back, K. W., & Schachter, S. (1950). Social pressures in informal groups: A study of human factors in housing (No. 3). Stanford University Press.
  16. ^de Miguel, A.; Buss, D. M. (2011). "Mate retention tactics in Spain: Personality, sex differences, and relationship status". Journal of Personality. 79 (3): 563–586. doi:10.1111/j.1467-6494.2011.00698.x. 
  17. ^Murray, S. L.; Holmes, J. G.; Griffin, D. W. (1996). "The benefits of positive illusions: Idealization and the construction of satisfaction in close relationships". Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 70 (1): 79. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.70.1.79.

Melissa McCauley

March 2013


Relational-Cultural Theory (RCT) brings relationships to the forefront of human psychology. It examines the complexity of human relationships, using concepts of connection and disconnection, as well as recognizing and exploring the social implications of psychological theory. The cultural aspect brings into focus the influence of larger culture and power differentials on the quality and nature of relationships and the subsequent effects on healthy coexistence.[1] This essay will examine the relational lens that Relational-Cultural Theory brings forward in the field of psychology and the ways in which it informs and intersects with conflict transformation and peacebuilding.

Background and Guiding Assumptions

"Connection and relationship with others is seen as essential to understanding the self and to its making and remaking."[2]

Relational-Cultural Theory (RCT) developed alongside the rising feminist movement in psychology in the 1970s. The development of the theory can be credited to the collaborative efforts of a group of women psychologists working at the Stone Center at Wellesley College including Jean Baker Miller, Judith V. Jordan, Janet Surrey, and Irene Stiver. The focus of the Stone Center's original work was on women. Amidst mounting pressure for women's equality, they explored women's experience living in oppressive, patriarchal systems, specifically in response to the United States context of the time.[3]

The cultural aspect of RCT was an addendum to the originally conceived relational theory, suggesting that relationships cannot be isolated from the larger culture. One of RCT's core tenets is to name oppressive systems and give voice to marginalized populations, including both men and women. The psychologists of the Stone Center were driven by a desire to call attention to the influence of systemic power differentials on the disruption of connection at both the individual and societal level.[4] The scope of relational theory, in this way, extends beyond personal, intimate relationships, to consider the overarching structures that shape wider relational patterns. An underlying goal of RCT lies in exploring how societal structures can better contribute to peaceful coexistence.

Relational theory takes as one of its assumptions the inherently social nature of human beings.[5] Based on the belief that individuals are socially constituted by relationships, RCT seeks to understand the complexity behind relationship formation. The theory proposes that our relational nature drives us to "grow through and toward connection".[6] Jean Baker Miller coined the term 'growth-fostering relationships' to represent relationships in which active participation by all parties leads to mutual development. These types of relationships contribute to healthy functioning and flourishing. Miller proposed that 'growth-fostering relationships' encompass five essential attributes, or the 'Five Good Things', as listed below:

  1. Sense of Zest or Energy
  2. Increased Sense of Worth
  3. Clarity: Increased knowledge of oneself and the other person in the relationship
  4. Productivity: Ability and motivation to take action both in the relationship and outside of it
  5. Desire for more Connection: In reaction to satisfaction of relational experience[7]

RCT holds that "we grow toward an increased capacity for respect, having an impact on the other, and being open to being changed by the other" in developing these kinds of relationships.[8] Growth-fostering relationships require mutuality, which describes the shared participatory process of relationships, rather than denoting sameness or equality between peoples. [9] It acknowledges the reality of diversity and inevitability of power differentials, while describing a path not only toward healthy coexistence, but also mutual empowerment.

The significance of this concept of mutuality lies in the conviction that its absence results in the development of psychological problems and contributes to the rise of violent conflict.[10] RCT asserts that experiences of disconnection which disrupt or deny our inherently relational nature greatly contribute to a state of human suffering. Alternatively, experiences that support our drive toward connection lead to increased pro-social behavior. This idea of mutuality has many implications for conflict transformation, such as the vital need for healthy reconnection.

Neuroscience Support

The development of neuroscience has helped support the common adage of RCT: personal is political. "Neuroscientific data is demonstrating that the brain grows in connection, that we come into the world ready to connect, and that disconnection creates real pain."[11] For example, the Social Pain/Physical Pain Overlap Theory proposes that the experience of social pain, inherent in disconnection, and physical pain share similarities in their biological experience. This theory brings to light the real consequences of pain that social separation and rejection cause, and helps to support the RCT assumption that connection is not simply a desire, but a profound human need.[12]

Neuroplasticity, or brain plasticity, has shown that the human brain is not a static organ, but actually changeable over the course of a lifetime. This discovery gives hope for the capacity of individuals and societies as a whole to change.[13] Neuroplasticity has positive implications for already existing theories. For example, attachment theory describes the importance of a healthy and secure caregiver-infant relationship to the social and emotional development, including empathic capacity, of the infant. Although the harmful developmental effects remain in the absence of such a relationship, neuroplasticity suggests the possibility of healing the damage caused, and thus revitalizing empathic ability after this early development stage.[14] The prospect of developing empathy later in life is crucial for RCT because it holds that mutual empathy is required for the existence of 'growth-fostering relationships'. Every person, then, has the capability of improving his or her empathic possibilities and, therefore, potential to experience healthy relationships.

Mutual Empathy

Mutual empathy is described as an "openness to being affected by and affecting another person."[15] This relational process involves both emotional and rational aspects. The element of respect is seen to play a critical role in fostering mutual empathy. The four major components of empathy include:

  1. The capacity for emotional response
  2. The mental capacity to take the perspective of the other
  3. The ability to regulate emotions
  4. The level of awareness of self and others[16]

Relational theorists emphasize the need for understanding that, just as disconnection is inevitable in relationships, experiencing empathic failure is unavoidable. Empathic failure, however, can lead to great reconnection if awareness, trust, and authenticity are present. [17] Having empathic understanding does not imply only having positive emotions, but rather committing to a fuller understanding of one's own and another's experience.[18] The other is seen as a dynamic, whole being, rather than defined by a single attribute or action.

Various strategies have been increasingly employed in both therapeutic and conflict transformation efforts to teach and enhance empathy. Skills can be taught at the cognitive level such as active listening, paraphrasing, and appropriate articulation of feelings. Activities such as dramatization, role-playing, self-presentation, and imitative play can be employed to develop the affective experience of individuals in relation to others. There is also a growing exploration of the use of art in the cultivation of empathy between peoples.[19]

Dance movement therapy (DMT) illustrates one example of an empathy-building intervention. DMT often uses mirroring activities, aiming to increase body awareness of self and other and contributing to the building of empathy through a non-verbal mode of interaction. David Harris, a DMT practitioner, has shown the possibilities of using this type of intervention in peacebuilding contexts through his innovative program with ex-child soldiers in Sierra Leone. Harris utilized DMT to rebuild empathic capacity in the ex-combatants to further their personal healing and aid in their overall reconciliation with the local community.[20]

Another example of an intervention with a focus on building empathy is inter-group dialogue. Inter-group dialogue processes are used, increasingly with youth populations, to increase empathy for differences while bringing focus to group commonalities in order to increase connection and overall group unity. For example, Seeds of Peace is a non-profit organization that brings youth leaders from conflict areas together in camp intensives that promote dialogue and relationship-building to enhance future coexistence.[21]

Empathy allows for more effective and sustained interactions between people and institutions. The enhancement of social empathy could greatly improve conflict transformation efforts for it provides the "ability to understand people by entering into their situations in ways that reveal inequalities and disparities and then to act to effect social change."[22] Relational theorists also point to the potential of infusing a sense of empathy into policy-making and social programs, fostering a greater tolerance for differences and enhancing consideration of the 'other' in decision-making.[23]

Separate-Self Paradigm to Relational

Relational theorists seek to challenge the separate-self paradigm embedded in political and social values, predominantly found in the West. This paradigm views individuals as autonomous and socially isolated beings. Autonomy, from a separate-self perspective, is equated with complete independence. Personal strength is congruent with self-sufficiency. Belief in inherent human selfishness and separateness leads to the acceptance of hyper-competitive behavior and an overemphasis on self-development.[24]

RCT highlights the contention between this separate-self paradigm and its guiding assumption of our inherent relational nature. The theory considers the traditional development view that humans move from full dependence as infants to full independence in adulthood to be misconceived.[25] Rather than moving toward total independence, RCT defines autonomy from a relational perspective, allowing for the simultaneous development of self and development in relation to others. It recognizes that even in adulthood, humans are shaped by relationships.

Relational theorists counter the common argument that the acknowledgement of human interdependency implies a sacrifice to individual agency. Jennifer Nedelsky, states, "I embrace the notion of the unique, infinite value of each individual, and the value of interiority, and the value of the ability of individuals to shape their own lives. But I reject the liberal variants of these values that fail to see the central role relation play in each of them."[26] The demonization of interdependency within a separate-self paradigm is seen to greatly limit the healthy functioning of individuals and groups of people as they operate under systems propagating disconnection.[27] The concept of relational autonomy allows for the simultaneous need for self and others. Autonomy, when conceived relationally, allows for the naming of non-mutual relationships and encourages the pursuit of transformation at both an individual and societal level.

Social Implications of Theory Development

RCT has highlighted the importance of theorists, across disciplines, remaining cognizant of how their development of ideas may, albeit unconsciously, substantiate and sustain normalized power differentials.

The values of separate self have been infused in theories of human psychology. Traditionally, theories of psychological development have further perpetuated harmful power stratifications by individualizing problems. RCT suggests that 'pathologizing' individuals due to weakness and helplessness diverts attention away from the overarching social conditions underwriting the development of psychological problems. The oppressive relationships institutionalized within a society have direct impact on the interpersonal relationships between its members.[28]

RCT seeks to broaden psychological theory by moving beyond its focus on individual intervention, which has largely resulted in superficial treatments that ignore the root causes of disturbance. A shift to relational thinking allows for the deeper analysis of when and how individual psychological problems are reflective of larger socially destructive patterns.[29] With this expanded awareness, models of therapy start to hold potential for societal transformation.

What if the ultimate goal for psychotherapy evolved into creating space for widespread participation in 'growth-fostering relationships'? RCT guides us to view treatment beyond the relief of individual symptoms, to the promotion of reconnection with others. Reconnection is made possible by transforming the social conditions causative of the individual pain and disconnection.

Domination / Subordination

"The autonomy of all cannot be an autonomy of independence and control."[30]

Relational theorists argue that the illusion of independent autonomy fosters an environment in which relationships characterized by domination and subordination can, and are even encouraged, to take place. The ever-present dominant-subordinate systems around the world, characterized by political and cultural inequalities, have a significant impact on overall human functioning and flourishing. The mechanisms used by dominant groups to marginalize others involve disconnection and disempowerment.[31] The RCT concepts of condemned isolation and the central relational paradox highlight the complexities of these ongoing unjust relationships.

Condemned isolation describes the "experience of isolation and aloneness that leaves one feeling shut out of the human community. One feels alone, immobilized regarding reconnection, and at fault for this state."[32] Shame and isolation are tools used by dominant groups to maintain an unchallenged, privileged status. The condemned experience leads to the internalization of dominant beliefs. Marginalized peoples adopt feelings of unworthiness, leading to further withdrawal from larger society and even each other.[33] This cycle of imposed degradation and self-degradation serves the interests of the dominant group, and is often an under acknowledged process.

The central relational paradox of RCT further illuminates the engrained status of a subordinated individual or group of people as they adopt strategies of disconnection out of a need for self-protection.

"In the face of repeated disconnections, people yearn even more for relationship, but their fear of engaging with others leads to keeping aspects of their experience out of connection. The individual alters herself or himself to fit in with the expectations and wishes of the other person, and in the process, the relationship itself loses authenticity and mutuality, becoming another source of disconnection."[34]

Far from thriving in growth-fostering relationships, the subordinated existence consists of learning how to simply survive within an oppressive relationship. The engagement in inauthentic relationships for survival undermines any sense of autonomy. Those who have been suppressed lack the opportunities for developing skills that enable autonomy.[35]

Opportunities for developing autonomy are given to those within the dominant group. The illusion of self-sufficiency ascribes their success to individual attributes, relegating those in the subordinate group to the prescribed identity of dependent, weak individuals.[36] Ironically, much of the dependency is a consequence of the intentional stripping away of agency. Adopting a relational lens exposes the systemic inequalities that set up these fixed relational images. RCT describes relational images as the expectations and fears we have formed in our minds based on our past experiences in relationships:

"As we develop these images, we are also creating a set of beliefs about why relationships are the way they are. Relational images thus determine expectations not only about what will occur in relationships but about a person's whole sense of herself or himself. These often become the unconscious frameworks by which we determine who we are, what we can do, and how worthwhile we are."[37]

Just as isolation and shame hold the subordinate in a lesser position, socialization leads to ambivalence, denial, and the unquestioned belief in meritocracy among those in the dominant group. This describes the presence of what RCT refers to as 'controlling images', in which the objectification of marginalized peoples becomes entrenched psychologically in both the dominant and subordinate groups. [38] This state of inequality between peoples gives rise to the existence of many intractable conflicts. Additionally, the persistent non-mutuality and disconnection experienced has a demoralizing intergenerational impact. The question that relational theorists might pose would be, given the prevalence of hierarchy in our human societies, how might relations be structured to make autonomy a collective experience shared by all?[39]

Resistance and Transformation

Moving toward resistance and transformation requires overcoming the strategies of shame and isolation employed by oppressors. Resistance and transformation in oppressive systems requires sustained and strategic efforts to challenge the social norms and structures that degrade relational values. Below is a list of beginning strategies for resistance which suggest a means to escape shame and isolation and a path toward transformation:

  1. Naming the Problem and Noticing Who Makes the Rules
  2. Complaining
  3. Claiming Strength
  4. Developing Communities of Resilience and Courage[40]

One of the most powerful ways to resist and transform disconnection is to name it. Increasing awareness of relational patterns and images empowers people to imagine alternate patterns and images that would better serve them. Complaining enables those in unjust relationships to denounce them and seek change. The third step involves communicating the shared benefits of moving toward a system that promotes relational values, which involves the shifting of attitudes. Finally, especially in cultures of persistent violence, having a community, or support system, is crucial for strengthening the resilience and courage that the process of resistance and transformation demands.[41] One way to disable the dominant group's power advantage of isolation and shame is through community resistance. Enormous power can be drawn from concerted group action.

As people move out of isolated self-protective strategies to engaging constructively as a collective group, it is of equal importance that the group maintains mindfulness in action. The goal of moving toward a power relationship marked by mutuality must remain central. In this way, the resisting group is not attempting to disempower the dominant group, but rather disempowering the non-relational values that undermine mutuality and agency.[42] This mindfulness requires the practice of empathy and a willingness to reconnect even with those who have been a source of disconnection and disempowerment. Authentic change requires that all parties are eventually open to relational movement.

Relational Movement and Waging Good Conflict

RCT suggests that relationships are not static, but actually very dynamic in nature. Healthy relationships naturally move along a continuum between connection and disconnection throughout their existence. Although humans desire connection, moments of disconnection cause fear and vulnerability when they are not named. An internal defense mechanism is often activated in order to protect oneself, which leads to even more disconnection. This fear creates a tension with our desire for reconnection. As relationships mature, each party can develop his or her awareness. With increased awareness, parties become more attentive and responsive to the movement of the relationship and the confidence in the relationship is improved. The moments of disconnection become less an experience of insecurity, but rather an opportunity to strengthen the relationship in working toward reconnection.[43]

Understanding that disconnection is natural and inevitable corresponds with the idea shared among conflict theorists that conflict is not only inevitable, but also an opportunity for growth.[44] The negative connotation often associated with conflict is largely due to the destructive consequences seen and experienced as a result of suppressed conflict. There is, however, a constructive way to 'wage good conflict'.[45] "Disconnection and conflict should not be mistaken for failures in or roadblocks to reconciliation, but rather recognized as possible pathways for transforming misunderstanding to empathy and building bridges between strangers and enemies through collective relational struggle."[46]

Implications for Peacebuilding

The ever-increasing globalization that marks our time in history brings with it great potential for change in relational awareness and dynamics, along with great danger in perpetuating inauthentic, non-mutual relationships. As our social relations extend further, the pool of people in which we interact becomes not only larger, but also increasingly diverse. The need for strategies of coexistence and mutual connection has become more essential to the well-being and ultimate growth of the human race.[47] The role that disconnection plays in conflicts around the world, both within and across borders, must be brought to the forefront of awareness. Both relational theorists and peacebuilders alike espouse the primacy of relationships in humans' lives. Peacebuilding, at its core, aims to build sustainable, just relationships. As John Paul Lederach wrote:

"Peacebuilding requires a vision of relationship. Stated bluntly, if there is no capacity to imagine the canvas of mutual relationships and situate oneself as part of that historic and ever-evolving web, peacebuilding collapses. The centrality of relationship provides the context and potential for breaking violence, for it brings people into the pregnant moments of the moral imagination: the space of recognition that ultimately the quality of our life is dependent on the quality of life of others. It recognizes that the well-being of our grandchildren is directly tied to the well-being of our enemy's grandchildren."[48]

It is within this space of moral imagination that the creation of a world in which the pursuit of development does not sacrifice human connectedness becomes possible. The reality of our global interdependency can only be denied at a cost that affects each and every one of us. We must adopt, what Evelyn Linder terms, a new global culture of 'connected individualism.'[49] This implies a widespread attitudinal shift, which would require support mechanisms within societies to promote and enhance a new relational culture. Incorporating a relational view to policy-making, infusing the rise of a human rights culture with a relational lens, engaging in a relational approach to decision-making and the implementation of power structures, and inducing structural changes that reflect positively on interpersonal relations within a culture are all approaches that could provide this support.

Relational theorists assert that individual freedom implies a sense of responsibility that may too often be overlooked. Adopting a culture of 'connected individualism' would entail a coordinated, collective effort of people at all levels, of all backgrounds to participate in an increased moral responsibility.[50] Peacebuilding requires steadfastness. The absence of immediately visible change should not thwart peacebuilding efforts, for patterns of thinking and behaving are deep-rooted. The intersection of RCT and peacebuilding principles and interventions provides a rich space for further exploration of research and concrete intervention strategies in moving forward.

Returning back to the adage, 'personal is political', it is imperative that the psychological realities of human existence no longer get relegated to the sidelines as a private matter. Relational theorists posit that denying our multidimensionality in public interactions ultimately impedes the presence of 'growth-fostering relationships'.[51] Naming the pervasive inauthenticity and disconnection that saturates many social structures, and thus impacts personal lives, is the first step toward transformation. Let us imagine a way in which the centrality of relationships in our lives and the reality of global interdependence no longer serve as impediments, but as seeds for sustained growth and change toward peaceful coexistence.


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Birrell, Pamela and Jennifer Freyd. "Betrayal Trauma: Relational Models of Harm and Healing." Journal of Trauma Practice. 5. no. 1 (2006): 49-63.

Comstock, Dana, Thelma Duffey, and Holly George. "The Relational Cultural Model: A Framework for Group Process." The Journal for Specialists in Group Work. 27. no. 3 (2001): 254-272.

Comstock, Dana, Tonya Hammer, Julie Strentzsch, Kristi Cannon, Jacqueline Parsons, and Gustavo Salazar. "Relational-Cultural Theory: A Framework for Bridging Relational, Multicultural, and Social Justice Competencies." Journal of Counseling & Development . 86. no. 3 (2008): 279-287.

Eisenburger, Naomi, and Matthew Lieberman. "Why it Hurts to be Left Out: The Neurocognitive Overlap Between Physical and Social Pain." The Social Outcast: Ostracism, Social Exclusion, Rejection, and Bullying. (2005): 109-130.

Gerdes, Karen, Elizabeth Segal, Kelly Jackson, and Jennifer Mullins. "Teaching Empathy: A Framework Rooted in Social Cognitive Neuroscience and Social Justice." Journal of Social Work Education. 47. no. 1 (2011): 109-131.

Harris, David. "When Child Soldiers Reconcile: Accountability, Restorative Justice, and the Renewal of Empathy." Journal of Human Rights Practice. (2010): 334-354.

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Lederach, John Paul. The Moral Imagination: the Art and Soul of Building Peace. New York : Oxford University Press, 2010.

Lindner, Evelin. "Dynamics of Humiliation in a Globalizing World." International Journal on World Peace. 24. no. 3 (2007): 15-52.

Llewellyn, Jennifer. Being Relational: Reflections on relational theory and health law. Vancouver: UBC Press, 2012.

Miller, Jean Baker. Toward a New Psychology of Women. Boston: Beacon Press, 1976.

Morray, Elisabeth and Belle Liang. "Peace Talk: A Relational Approach to Group Negotiation Among Arab and Israeli Youths." International Journal of Group Psychotherapy. 55. no. 4 (2005): 481-506.

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[1] Jean Baker Miller Training Institute, "The Development of Relational-Cultural Theory." Last modified 2013.

[2] Jennifer Llewellyn, Being Relational: Reflections on Relational Theory and Health Law, (Vancouver: UBC Press, 2012 ): 90.

[3] Jean Baker Miller Training Institute, "The Development of Relational-Cultural Theory." Last modified 2013.

[4] Judith V. Jordan, Linda M. Hartling, and Maureen Walker, The Complexity of Connection, (New York: Guilford Press, 2004): 3-6.

[5] Jennifer Llewellyn, Being Relational: Reflections on Relational Theory and Health Law, (Vancouver: UBC Press, 2012): 4.

[6] Judith V. Jordan, "Recent Developments in Relational-Cultural Theory," Women & Therapy, 31, no. 2-4 (2008): 2.

[7] Jean Baker Miller Training Institute, "The Development of Relational-Cultural Theory." Last modified 2013.

[8] Jean Baker Miller Training Institute, "Glossary of Relational-Cultural Theory Key Terms." Last modified 2013. Accessed March 23, 2013.

[9] Judith V. Jordan, Linda M. Hartling, and Maureen Walker, The Complexity of Connection, (New York: Guilford Press, 2004): 3.

[10] Carolyn West, "The Map of Relational-Cultural Theory," Women & Therapy, 28, no. 3-4 (2005): 103.

[11] Jean Baker Miller Training Institute, "Glossary of Relational-Cultural Theory Key Terms." Last modified 2013.

[12] Naomi Eisenburger and Matthew Lieberman, "Why it Hurts to be Left Out: The Neurocognitive Overlap Between Physical and Social Pain." The Social Outcast: Ostracism, Social Exclusion, Rejection, and Bullying (2005): 37.

[13] Amy Banks, "Developing the Capacity to Connect," Journal of Religion & Science, 46, no. 1 (2011): 178-179.

[14] Karen Gerdes, Elizabeth Segal, Kelly Jackson, and Jennifer Mullins, "Teaching Empathy: A Framework Rooted in Social Cognitive Neuroscience and Social Justice," Journal of Social Work Education, 47, no. 1 (2011): 113.

[15] Jean Baker Miller Training Institute, "Glossary of Relational-Cultural Theory Key Terms." Last modified 2013.

[16] Karen Gerdes, Elizabeth Segal, Kelly Jackson, and Jennifer Mullins, "Teaching Empathy: A Framework Rooted in Social Cognitive Neuroscience and Social Justice," Journal of Social Work Education, 47, no. 1 (2011): 112.

[17] Judith V. Jordan, "Recent Developments in Relational-Cultural Theory," Women & Therapy, 31, no. 2-4 (2008): 2.

[18] Carolyn West, "The Map of Relational-Cultural Theory," Women & Therapy , 28, no. 3-4 (2005): 105.

[19] Karen Gerdes, Elizabeth Segal, Kelly Jackson, and Jennifer Mullins, "Teaching Empathy: A Framework Rooted in Social Cognitive Neuroscience and Social Justice," Journal of Social Work Education, 47, no. 1 (2011): 110-123.

[20] David Harris, "When Child Soldiers Reconcile: Accountability, Restorative Justice, and the Renewal of Empathy," Journal of Human Rights Practice (2010): 334-354.

[21] Seeds of Peace, Last modified 2013.

[22] Karen Gerdes, Elizabeth Segal, Kelly Jackson, and Jennifer Mullins, "Teaching Empathy: A Framework Rooted in Social Cognitive Neuroscience and Social Justice," Journal of Social Work Education, 47, no. 1 (2011): 117.

[23] Karen Gerdes, Elizabeth Segal, Kelly Jackson, and Jennifer Mullins, "Teaching Empathy: A Framework Rooted in Social Cognitive Neuroscience and Social Justice," Journal of Social Work Education, 47, no. 1 (2011): 123-125.

[24] Jennifer Nedelsky, Law's Relations: A Relational Theory of Self, Autonomy, and Law, (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011): 118-123.

[25] Judith V. Jordan, "Recent Developments in Relational-Cultural Theory," Women & Therapy, 31, no. 2-4 (2008): 2.

[26] Jennifer Nedelsky, Law's Relations: A Relational Theory of Self, Autonomy, and Law, (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011): 36.

[27] Pamela Birrell, and Jennifer Freyd, "Betrayal Trauma: Relational Models of Harm and Healing," Journal of Trauma Practice, 5, no. 1 (2006): 60-61.

[28] Pamela Birrell, and Jennifer Freyd, "Betrayal Trauma: Relational Models of Harm and Healing," Journal of Trauma Practice, 5, no. 1 (2006): 60-61.

[29] Dana Comstock, Tonya Hammer, Julie Strentzsch, Kristi Cannon, Jacqueline Parsons, and Gustavo Salazar, "Relational-Cultural Theory: A Framework for Bridging Relational, Multicultural, and Social Justice Competencies," Journal of Counseling & Development, 86, no. 3 (2008): 279-287.

[30] Jennifer Nedelsky, Law's Relations: A Relational Theory of Self, Autonomy, and Law, (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011): 306.

[31] Jordan, Judith V., Linda M. Hartling, and Maureen Walker. The Complexity of Connection. New York: Guilford Press, 2004: 129-146.

[32] Jean Baker Miller Training Institute, "Glossary of Relational-Cultural Theory Key Terms." Last modified 2013.

[33] Jean Baker Miller, Toward a New Psychology of Women, (Boston: Beacon Press, 1976): 6-12.

[34] Jean Baker Miller Training Institute, "Glossary of Relational-Cultural Theory Key Terms." Last modified 2013.

[35] Jennifer Llewellyn, Being Relational: Reflections on Relational Theory and Health Law, (Vancouver: UBC Press, 2012): 17.

[36] Jordan, Judith V., Linda M. Hartling, and Maureen Walker. The Complexity of Connection. New York: Guilford Press, 2004: 4-5.

[37] Jean Baker Miller Training Institute, "Glossary of Relational-Cultural Theory Key Terms." Last modified 2013.

[38] Jordan, Judith V, Linda M Hartling, and Maureen Walker. The Complexity of Connection. New York: Guilford Press, 2004: 129-146.

[39] Jennifer Nedelsky, Law's Relations: A Relational Theory of Self, Autonomy, and Law, (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011)

[40] Jordan, Judith V, Linda M Hartling, and Maureen Walker. The Complexity of Connection. New York: Guilford Press, 2004: 22.

[41] Jordan, Judith V, Linda M Hartling, and Maureen Walker. The Complexity of Connection. New York: Guilford Press, 2004: 22-25.

[42] Jordan, Judith V, Linda M Hartling, and Maureen Walker. The Complexity of Connection. New York: Guilford Press, 2004: 21-22.

[43] Dana Comstock, Thelma Duffey, and Holly George, "The Relational Cultural Model: A Framework for Group Process," The Journal for Specialists in Group Work, 27, no. 3 (2001): 254-272.

[44] John Paul Lederach, The Little Book of Conflict Transformation, (Intercourse, PA: Good Books, 2003); Lisa Schirch, The Little Book of Strategic Peacebuilding, (Intercourse, PA: Good Books, 2004).

[45] Jean Baker Miller, Toward a New Psychology of Women, (Boston: Beacon Press, 1976): 125-134.

[46] Elisabeth Morray and Belle Liang, "Peace Talk: A Relational Approach to Group Negotiation Among Arab and Israeli Youths," International Journal of Group Psychotherapy, 55, no. 4 (2005): 503.

[47] Amy Banks, "Developing the Capacity to Connect," Journal of Religion & Science, 46, no. 1 (2011): 169.

[48] John Paul Lederach, The Moral Imagination: The Art and Soul of Building Peace, (New York : Oxford University Press, 2010): 35.

[49] Evelin Lindner, "Dynamics of Humiliation in a Globalizing World," International Journal on World Peace, 24, no. 3 (2007): 39-52.

[50] Jennifer Llewellyn, Being Relational: Reflections on Relational Theory and Health Law, (Vancouver: UBC Press, 2012); Jennifer Nedelsky, Law's Relations: A Relational Theory of Self, Autonomy, and Law, (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011).

[51] Jennifer Nedelsky, Law's Relations: A Relational Theory of Self, Autonomy, and Law, (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011): 158-199.

Use the following to cite this article:
McCauley, Melissa. "Relational-Cultural Theory: Fostering Healthy Coexistence Through a Relational Lens." Beyond Intractability. Eds. Guy Burgess and Heidi Burgess. Conflict Information Consortium, University of Colorado, Boulder. March 2013 <>.

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