2013. Vol.4, No.11, 850-857
Published Online November 2013 in SciRes (http://www.scirp.org/journal/psych) http://dx.doi.org/10.4236/psych.2013.411122
A Comparison of Relationship Behaviors
Brian Eberly, Robert Pasnak*, Keith Renshaw, Linda Chrosniak
George Mason University , F airfax, USA
Received July 24th, 2013; revised August 23rd, 2013; accepted September 24th, 2013
Copyright © 2013 Brian Eberly et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons At-
tribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the
original work is properly cited.
Pro-relationship behaviors—commitment, accommodation, sacrifice, and forgiveness—differ across rela-
tionships with parents, friends, and romantic partners. In order to test the extent to which the type of rela-
tionship plays a role in how willing a person is to accommodate, forgive, or sacrifice, participants were
administered a series of questionnaires. The associations of these pro-relationship behaviors with com-
mitment were compared across relationships. Although the tendency to accommodate, sacrifice, and for-
give in one relationship was significantly correlated with the tendency to behave similarly in other rela-
tionships, there were significant differences from one relationship to another. For example, participants
were significantly less likely to sacrifice for a friend than for a parent or a romantic partner. Conversely,
participants were found to be significantly less accommodating for a parent than they were for a friend or
for a romantic partner. Also, participants were significantly more likely to forgive friends than they were
to forgive a romantic partner. All relationship behaviors were significantly correlated with commitment
across all three relationship types, but the strength of these correlations was not consistent. This inconsis-
tency is probably due to the differences in expectations that people have for different relationships. The
friendships of college students are usually temporary, as friends graduate and move on, whereas relation-
ships with parents last until death. Although there were inconsistencies, there were many significant cor-
relations that showed that behavior in one relationship did predict behavior in other relationships. Just as
behavior towards one’s parents was related to behavior towards one’s friends, it was also predictive of
behavior towards romantic partners. Whether this applies to adolescents from other cultures, and whether
it applies to non-university students, remains to be determined.
Keywords: Friends; Parents; Romantic Partners; Relationships
Over the past few decades, a great deal of the research re-
garding interpersonal relationships has been centered on the
concept of interdependence (Kelly & Thiabaut, 1978). Interde-
pendence refers to the way that the actions and feelings of one
person are influenced by, and in turn, influence the behaviors
and feelings of another in an interpersonal relationship. Inter-
dependence also refers to the degree to which two people de-
pend upon one another. Dependence can in turn be defined as
the need for something specific, in this case a relationship, at
any given time (Rusbult & Van Lange, 2003).
Commitment to a relationship and another person, in many
ways, reflects dependence. In the context of Rusbult’s invest-
ment model, commitment is defined as the motivated desire for
a relationship to persist (Rusbult, 1980, 1983; Rusbult & Buunk,
1993). To date, the bulk of the research on interpersonal com-
mitment has focused on romantic relationships. Such research
suggests that commitment is linked with a number of variables,
such as the extent of their investment (e.g., time, money, joint
friends, etc.) in the relationship (e.g., Rusbult, 1980), attach-
ment style (e.g., Joel, MacDonald, & Shimotomai, 2011), self-
esteem (e.g., Rill, Baiocchi, Hopper, Denker, & Olson, 2009),
and relationship satisfaction (e.g., Weigel, Brown, & O’Riordan,
2011). From a more behavioral perspective, researchers also
have found that individuals are likely to engage in a variety of
relationship maintenance behaviors when prompted by a desire
for the relationship to persist (Weiselquist et al., 1999; Kuma-
shiro, Finkel, & Rusbult, 2005; Kubacka et al., 2011). Behav-
iors in romantic relationships that have been identified as being
prompted by feelings of commitment include accommodation
(Rusbult, Verette, Whitney, Slovik, & Lipkus, 19 91; Weiselquist
et al., 1999), sacrifice (Van Lange et al., 1997), and forgiveness
(Braithwate, Selby, & Fincham, 2011; Weiselquist, 2009; Fin-
cham, Hall, & Beach, 2006; Finkel, Rusbult, Kumashiro, &
Accommodation has been defined as an individual’s will-
ingness to inhibit potentially harmful tendencies and instead
engage in constructive behaviors when the individual’s partner
has behaved in a potentially damaging manner. For example,
although it irritates Adam when Beth makes plans for the both
of them without consulting him, he tries to discuss his irritation
in a calm manner instead of refusing to go along with her plans
(Rusbult et al., 1991). Rusbult et al. (1991) conducted six stud-
ies that expanded upon previous literature and identified four
main ways that individuals accommodate to a partner’s trans-
gressions: (a) exit—not accommodating and actively terminat-
ing the relationship; (b) voice—actively attempting to improve
B. EBERLY ET AL.
the situation through talking about the problem; (c) loyalty—
passively waiting for things to get better while maintaining an
optimistic outlook; (d) neglect—passively allowing the rela-
tionship to dissolve. Results of the studies revealed that indi-
viduals in relationships with high interdependence, regardless
of the type of relationship, were more likely to engage in con-
structive accommodation like voice and loyalty behaviors, and
less likely to engage in exit and neglect behaviors. In a separate
study, Menzies-Toman and Lyndon (2005) discovered that in-
dividuals who were dependent upon their partner and subse-
quently committed to the persistence of the given relationship
were more likely to engage in benign appraisals of a partner’s
transgressions. Thus, accommodation should be predicted by
the level of commitment that an individual feels for a given re-
Sacrifice refers to choosing to forego a particular activity to
be able to spend time with one’s partner. Throughout the course
of any relationship, it is inevitable that there will come times
where the interests and desires of two people do not completely
match, thus necessitating sacrifice on the part of one or both
partners to maintain the relationship. Van Lange et al. (1997)
conducted six separate studies (three cross-sectional surveys,
one simulation experiment and two longitudinal studies) to in-
vestigate the role of commitment in sacrificing behavior. Re-
sults of all six studies revealed positive associations between
levels of commitment and willingness to sacrifice. Other stud-
ies have confirmed this association in romantic relationships
(e.g., Etcheverry & Le, 2005; Stanley, Whitton, Sadberry, Cle-
ments, & Markman, 2006), but we were unable to identify any
studies of these factors in non-romantic relationships.
Defining forgiveness is a more difficult task, due to the dif-
ference between scholarly definitions of forgiveness and the
layperson’s definition (Fincham et al., 2006; Kearns & Fin-
cham, 2004). For the sake of the present research, forgiveness
will be defined as, “a change whereby one becomes less moti-
vated to think, feel and behave negatively (e.g., retaliate, with-
draw) in regard to the offended” (Fincham et al., 2006: p. 4).
What this means is that, instead of measuring forgiveness by
how much an individual is able to forget about the transgres-
sion, forgiveness is instead viewed as the conscious absence of
retaliatory or withdrawal behaviors as well as the gradual relief
of negative affect that a person has towards that transgressor. In
addition to this distinction, it is important to highlight how this
construct differs from accommodation. Accommodation (as de-
fined above) is a person’s response to immediate points of con-
flict (e.g., being critical or rude), whereas forgiveness involves
reactions to situations in which the person’s trust in the other is
violated by an action or behavior that contradicts the spoken or
unspoken rules of that relationship. For example, accommoda-
tion would be used to assess how likely Adam would be to dis-
cuss problems with Beth when she is rude to him. On the other
hand, a forgiveness measure would be used to measure how
likely it is that Adam will feel negatively towards Beth if she
were to expose a secret of his. In short, accommodation involv-
es immediate responses, whereas forgiveness applies to long
term behaviors and affects. Using this definition of forgiveness,
multiple studies have confirmed a positive association between
level of commitment and willingness to forgive in both roman-
tic relationships (e.g., Finkel et al., 2002) and non-romantic re-
lationships (e.g., Karremans & Smith, 2010).
Based on this research, there is a good deal of support for the
associations of commitment with these primary relationship
maintenance behaviors in romantic relationships, with more li-
mited support for these associations in friendships (e.g., Martz
et al., 1998). However, much less is known about how consis-
tent these behaviors (and their associations with commitment)
are across relationships in individuals’ lives. The limited re-
search available suggests that in fact, the behaviors are some-
what consistent within individuals. For instance, although they
did not explicitly compare behaviors across relationships, Pe-
runovic and Holmes (2008) found that certain personality types
are more prone towards accommodation in general. In a more
complex study, McCullough and Hoyt (2002) assessed under-
graduate students’ likelihood to engage in avoidance, benevo-
lence, and revenge when faced with transgressions by their ro-
mantic partne r, their close same sex friend, and their mother or
father. The students’ preferences for revenge were more consis-
tent across all relationships than their preferences for benevo-
lence and avoidance, providing mixed evidence regarding con-
sistency of behaviors across relationships. Correlations between
responses to parents and other relationships also were examined
in a 3-year longitudinal study of Dutch adolescents and their
parents and friends (Van Doorn, Branje, Vander Valk, De Ge-
ode, & Meeus, 2011). The researchers found that, in early and
middle adolescence, the adolescents’ style of problem solving
and engagement in conflict with parents had a strong effect on
their conflict style with friends, but not vice versa. In contrast,
when the same adolescents were assessed 3 years later in the
later stages of adolescence, results suggested that problem solv-
ing styles used with friends began to have an impact upon the
style used with parents.
This latter study is of particular interest not only because it
highlights the consistency of behaviors across relationships, but
it begins to suggest that some relationships may be more influ-
ential than others at different times of life. From an interdepen-
dence perspective, the ways in which an individual perceives
his or her actions and the actions of another individual are par-
tially influenced by their own experiences as well as their social
comparisons (Rusbult & Van Lange, 2008, 2003; Kelley & Thi-
baut, 1978). A possible implication is that the behaviors experi-
enced in earlier relationships (e.g., with parents) may influence
the individual’s behaviors in subsequent relationships with
friends and romantic partners. A first step in examining this is-
sue is to more explicitly examine the consistency of behaviors
across relationships, as was recently done by Van Doorn and
colleagues (2011). The current study attempted to extend this
initial work by focusing on three primary aims.
First, we aimed to examine the consistency of commitment
and the relationship maintenance behaviors of accommodation,
sacrifice, and forgiveness across relationships with parents,
friends, and romantic partners. Second, we aimed to examine
the associations of commitment with these behaviors across
these three relationships, to determine whether associations are
present in all types of relationships. Finally, we examined whe-
ther the association between commitment and all three relation-
ship maintenance behavior s remained consistent across the types
With regard to the first aim, we hypothesized that mean lev-
els of commitment, accommodation, sacrifice, and forgiveness
would not differ for the three types of relationships, and that the
level of these behaviors would be positive correlated across all
sets of relationships. With regard to the second aim, we hypo-
thesized that each relationship maintenance behavior would be
positively associated with commitment for all relationship types.
Open Access 851
B. EBERLY ET AL.
Finally, with regard to the third aim, we hypothesized that the
associations of commitment with each type of relationship
maintenance behavior would not differ across the three types of
College students, 34 males and 234 females, who were at
least18 years of age, and involved in a romantic relationship,
were recruited. Romantic relationships were defined as any in-
terpersonal dyad involving sexually oriented acts of intimacy,
such as kissing, close touching, and other sexually motivated
acts of intimacy, which had persisted for a minimum of one
month. All procedures were approved by the IRB of the univer-
sity, and participants were awarded one participation credit
upon completion of the study. No participants who began the
survey failed to complete it. Perhaps this was because it was
one of the easiest ways to earn the participation credit required
in their course.
The students averaged 22.57 years of age (SD = 7.19) and
23.1% were freshmen, 15.3% sopho mores, 27.6% junior s, 30.2%
seniors, and 3.7% graduate students or non-credit students. The
primary language of the participants was English (88.3%), fol-
lowed by Spanish (2.6%), Arabic (1.5%), and other (7.6%).
They reported living with parents (36.9%), in a campus dormi-
tory (34.7%), off campus with roommates (11.9%), off campus
without roommates 3.4%), or in some other living condition
The students were asked to describe the people upon whom
who the relationship questionnaires were based. The average
age of parents (68 fathers; 198 mothers) was 51.56 (SD = 8.51).
The average age for friends (66 male, 198 female) was 23.19
(SD = 8.19). Participants reported friendships to have lasted
44.85 months (SD = 30.48), and spending an average of 13.11
hours per week (SD = 19.83) with this friend. The average age
of romantic partners was 24.18 (SD = 8.16), and mean length of
romantic relationships was 24.98 months (SD = 24.76).
Commitment Scale. This is a 15-item measure taken from
the investment model scale (Rusbult et al., 1998) used to meas-
ure the future goals and orientations of an individual for a given
relationship (e.g. I spend a lot of time thinking about the future
of our relationship). Responses on this 9-point scale range from
0 (Do not agree at all) to 8 (Completely agree). A score is at-
tained by adding all items together and calculating the average.
For the parent and friend versions of this measure, item 11 was
Accommodation Scale. This is a 16-item scale (Rusbult,
Verette, Whitney, Slovik, & Lipkus, 1991) that examines the
way that a person responds to particular conflict situations (e.g.
When my partner says something really mean I threaten to
leave him or her). Responses on this 9-point scale range from 0
(would never do this) to 8 (constantly does this). This measure
has four subscales: exit, voice, loyalty, and neglect. It is scored
by summing all items, while reverse scoring all exit and neglect
Sacrifice Scale. This is a 4-item scale (Van Lange, et al.,
1997) that examines the willingness of a person to sacrifice
specific activities that are important to him or her for the sake
of maintaining the relationship. Respondents are asked to list
four activities in order of importance that they hold in the indi-
vidual’s life. They then answer the following question: “Imag-
ine that it was not possible for you to engage in Activity #1 and
maintain your relationship (impossible for reasons that are not
your partner’s fault). To what extent would you consider giving
up activity (fill in the blank)?” Participants rate their willing-
ness to sacrifice the specific activity on a 9-point scale ranging
from 0 (I definitely would not give up this activity) to 8 (I defi-
nitely would not give up this activity). Their score is their aver-
age for all items.
Forgiveness Scale. This measure is a 16-item scale (Finkel
et al., 2002) that examines “The way that I behave when my
partner breaks the rules.” This can include any violation of the
expectations that the individual has for how a partner should
behave in a romantic relationship. Answers are scored on a 9-
point scale, ranging from 0 (would never do this) to 8 (con-
stantly does this). This measure has four subscales: exit, voice,
loyalty, and neglect. A score is attained by averaging all items,
after reverse scoring all exit and loyalty items.
Relationship Assessment Scale (RAS). This is a 7-item
scale (Hendrick, 1988) used to assess subjective satisfaction
with a given relationship (i.e., how well does your partner meet
your needs?). Answers are rated on a 5-point Likert scale, rang-
ing from 1 (not well), to 5 (very well). The respondent’s aver-
age score is obtained after reverse scoring items 4 and 7. Al-
though this scale was originally created to assess romantic rela-
tionships, Renshaw, McKnight, Kaska, and Blais (2011) creat-
ed a generic version that they found to be sufficiently reliable:
Cronbach’s α = .89 for parents, .87 for friends, and .90 for ro-
Participants were directed to a link connecting them to Sur-
vey Monkey, an online survey provider, and asked to complete
the questionnaires above. All participants were given the study
description and consent information. The questionnaires were
given three times, once for each relationship being studied.
Each was given with slight modifications and rewording for
each relationship. For example, the accommodation item (when
my partner says something really mean, I threaten to leave him
or her) became (when my parent/friend says something really
mean, I threaten to leave him or her). Similarly, pronoun and
noun changes were made for each questionnaire so that the
questions were directed at a specific relationship. Before an-
swering the questionnaires for each type of interpersonal rela-
tionship (parent-child, romantic, friendship) participants were
instructed explicitly that the following questions pertain to that
specific relationship, and all answers should be given with that
relationship in mind. In particular, for the parent-child rela-
tionship questions, participants were asked to answer questions
with a particular parent in mind and were explicitly instructed
not to switch in their mind from one parent to the other half
way through the questionnaire. Similarly, before answering
questions about their friendship participants were explicitly in-
structed to answer the questions about a CLOSE friend, and not
just a friendly acquaintance. Also, as with the parent-child que-
stions, participants were reminded to answer the questions with
the SAME friend in mind for all of the friendship questions.
B. EBERLY ET AL.
Open Access 853
Planned comparison with Bonferroni corrected p-values were
used to compare mean scores for commitment, accommodation,
sacrifice, forgiveness, and relationship satisfaction across ro-
mantic relationships, friendships, and parent-child relationships
as well as find the correlations of each measure across the dif-
ferent relationship types. Next, the relative strength of correla-
tions of commitment with all three behaviors plus relationship
satisfaction within any given relationship was examined. To
compare whether or not the strength of those correlations was
significantly different from one relationship to another, a pro-
cedure recommended by Hays (1988), provides a Z-score,
which can then be evaluated for significance. A significant re-
sult indicates that the magnitudes of the two correlations being
compared are si g ni fi cantly different.
Mean Differences in Pro-Relationship Behaviors
As can be seen in Table 1, participants reported significantly
higher commitment for a romantic partner and a parent than for
a friend. The difference between commitment for romantic par-
tners and commitment for parents was not significant. This in-
dicates that only mean levels of commitment for a parent and a
romantic partner are similar to one another.
Accommodation for a romantic partner was not significantly
different than accommodation for a friend (see Table 1); both
were significantly greater than accommodation for a parent.
Thus, although participants were as likely to accommodate a ro-
mantic partner as they would a friend, they were much less
likely to accommodate a parent.
Table 1 also indicates that sacrifice for a romantic partner
was greater than sacrifice for a friend, but less than sacrifice for
Similar to the findings for accommodation and sacrifice, the
mean levels for forgiveness, seen in Table 1, were not consis-
tent from one relationship to another. Forgiveness for a friend
was significantly greater than forgiveness for a romantic partner,
but not significantly different from forgiveness for a parent.
Forgiveness for a parent was not significantly greater than for-
giveness for a romantic partner; i.e., it was intermediate.
Finally, the means for satisfaction showed that there were
significant mean differences from one relationship to another.
As can be seen in Table 1, the mean level of satisfaction for ro-
mantic partners was significantly lower than both satisfaction
with friends and satisfaction with parents. The latter two did not
differ. In short, participants were less likely to be satisfied with
their romantic partner than with either their parent or their
In sum, the null hypotheses were disproven for each measure,
and the pattern of the pro-relationship behaviors was different
for each of the three types of relationships.
Behaviors across Relationships
Commitment for a parent was significantly correlated with
commitment for friends; r(231) = .18, p = .005, while commit-
ment in romantic relationships was not significantly correlated
with either commitment in friendships, r(228) = .11, p = .09 or
with parents, r(229) = .10, p = .13. All three correlations were
low, with low effect sizes.
Accommodation in all three relationships were significantly
correlated with one another such that, accommodation for a
romantic part ner was significantly correl ated with accommoda-
tion for a friend; r(206) = .49, p = .001, and with accommoda-
tion for a parent; r(201) = .49, p = .001. Accommodation for a
friend was also significantly correlated with accommodation for
a parent; r(203) = .43, p = 000. In other words, accommodation
in any given relationship type was related to accommodation in
both of the other two relationships, and to very nearly the same
degree. These are medium effect sizes.
Sacrifice was also found to be correlated from one relation-
ship type to another, such that sacrifice for romantic partners
was correlated with sacrifice for a friend; r(253) = .37, p = .001,
and with sacrifice for a parent; r(251) = .36, p = .001, which
were both correlated with one another; r(256) = .39, p = .001.
This indicates that the level of sacrifice expressed in one rela-
tionship will be related with the level of sacrifice expressed in
any of the other two relationship types, and to nearly the same
degree. Again, effect sizes are medium.
The pattern was essentially the same for forgiveness. For-
giveness in each relationship type was correlated with forgive-
ness in the other two relationship types, such that forgiveness
for romantic partners was significantly correlated with forgive-
ness for a friend; r(206) = .32, p = .001, and with forgiveness
for a parent; r(215) = .41, p = .001, which were also correlated
with one another; r(220) = .46, p = .001. This indicates that a
person’s level of forgiveness in any given relationship is related
to the level of forgiveness that person exhibits in both of the
other two relationship types. Effect sizes are medium.
Satisfaction for friends, was slightly correlated with satisfac-
Means, standard deviations, and mean comparisons for commitment, accommodation, sacrifice, forgiveness, and satisfaction in relationships with a
parent, friend, and roma ntic partner.
Means (Standard Deviations) Mean Comparisons: t
Romantic Partner sFriends Parents Romantic Par tners vs.
Friends Friends vs. Parents Parents vs. Romantic
Commitment 7.143 (1.69) 6.61 (1.56) 6.97 (1.48) 3.83*** 3.01** 1.10
Accommodation 5.217 (1.14) 5.25 (1.03) 4.63 (2.04) .17 4.98*** 4.46***
Sacrifice 4.164 (2.19) 3.47 (1.96) 4.90 (.99) 4.81*** 8.32*** 2.97**
Forgiveness 4.675 (1.03) 4.89 (1.24) 4.79 (1.26) 3.13** .77 1.91
Satisfaction 4.129 (.87 ) 4.27 (.66) 4.27 (.83) 2.34* .03 2.04*
Note: *p < .05. **p < .01. ***p < .001.
B. EBERLY ET AL.
tion for both parents; r(244) = .17, p = .009, and romantic part-
ners; r(241) = .20, p = .002. These are small effect sizes. Satis-
faction for romantic partners, however, was not significantly
correlated with satisfaction for parents; r(238) = .09, p = .13. In
other words, satisfaction for a friend was shown to be related
with satisfaction reported in the other two relationships, but sa-
tisfaction for a romantic partner was not related with satisfac-
tion for a parent.
Commitmen t a nd Behavior s
The final analyses involved examining correlations of com-
mitment with each relationship behavior as well as satisfaction.
Then the strengths of correlations of commitment with each of
the other variables across relationships were compared. All cor-
relations for measures for relationships with a romantic partner
are displayed in Table 2. The correlations for relationships with
friend are shown in Table 3, and those for relationships with a
parent in Table 4. Commitment and accommodation. Com-
mitment was significantly correlated with accommodation in all
three relationship types. Correlations from each type of rela-
tionship were compared using the procedure recommended by
Hays (1988), which provides a z-score that indicates whether or
not the difference in the magnitude of any two correlations is
significant. Using this procedure revealed that the correlation of
commitment with accommodation in romantic partners was not
significantly different than the correlation found in friendships;
z = .25, p = .80, or the correlation in relationships with a parent;
z = .79, p = .43. The correlation of commitment with accom-
modation in friendships was also not significantly different than
Intercorrelations of measures of relationship with parents, friends, and
Patents 1 2 3 4
1. Commitment --
2. Sacrifice .29*** --
3. Accommodation .42*** .07 --
4. Forgiveness .48*** .12 .66*** --
5. Satisfactio n .74*** .28 .41*** .54***
Friends 1 2 3 4
1. Commitment --
2. Sacrifice .28*** --
3. Accommodation .33*** .07 --
4. Forgiveness .18** .03 .66*** --
5. Satisfactio n .47*** .09 .53*** .49***
Romantic Partners 1 2 3 4
1. Commitment --
2. Sacrifice .45*** --
3. Accommodation .35*** .06 --
4. Forgiveness .29*** .14* .78*** --
5. Satisfactio n .65*** .24*** .51*** .44***
Note: *p < .05. **p < .01. ***p < .001.
Intercorrelations of me as ures of relationship with friends.
1 2 3 4
1. Commitm ent --
2. Sacrifice .28*** --
3. Accommodation.33*** .07 --
4. Forgiveness .18** .03 .66*** --
5. Satisfactio n .47*** .09 .53*** .49***
Note: *p < .05. **p < .01. ***p < .001.
Intercorrelations of m eas ures of relationship with romantic partners.
1 2 3 4
1. Commitment --
2. Sacrifice .45*** --
3. Accommodation.35*** .06 --
4. Forgiveness .29*** .14* .78*** --
5. Satisfactio n .65*** .24*** .51*** .44***
Note: *p < .05. **p < .01. ***p < .001.
the correlation of commitment with accommodation for a par-
ent; z = 1.05, p = .30. Hence, commitment was similarly asso-
ciated with accommodation across all three relationship types.
Commitment and satisfaction. The correlations for commit-
ment with sacrifice for romantic partners (shown in Table 2),
friends (Table 3) and parents (Table 4) show that commitment
was significantly correlated with sacrifice for all three relation-
ship types. Analysis of these correlations indicates that the
strength of the association of commitment with sacrifice for ro-
mantic partners was significantly greater than the association of
commitment with sacrifice for friends; z = 1.98, p = .05, and
parents; z = 2.11, p = .03, while the correlation of commi tment
with sacrifice for friendships was not significantly different
from that in relationships with a parent; z = 1.05, p = .92. Thus,
sacrifice was more strongly tied with commitment in romantic
relationships than in either friendships, or relationships with a
Commitment and forgiveness. Similar to what the findings
from Finkel et al. (2002), Commitment was found to be signifi-
cantly associated with forgiveness in all three relationship types.
All correlations can be found in Table 2 (for romantic partners),
Table 3 (for friends), and Table 4 (for parents). The strength of
the correlation of commitment with forgiveness for a parent wa s
significantly greater than the correlation of commitment with
forgiveness for a friend; z = 3.58, p = .001, and also significant-
ly greater than the correlation in romantic relationships; z =
2.24, p = .025. The strength of the correlation of commitment
with forgiveness was also not significantly different across ro-
mantic relationships and friendships; z = 1.31, p = .19). In short,
forgiveness is most strongly tied to commitment in relation-
ships with a parent, the strength of the correlation with roman-
tic partners is intermediate between relationships with a parent,
and relationships with a friend.
Commitment and satisfaction. Lastly, the correlations be-
B. EBERLY ET AL.
tween commitment and relationship satisfaction across relation-
ships with a parent, a friend, and a romantic partner, were ana-
lyzed and compared. Values for the correlation of commitment
with satisfaction can be seen in Table 2 (for romantic partners),
Table 3 (for friends), and Table 4 (for friends). The correlation
of commitment with satisfaction for a parent was not signifi-
cantly different from the correlation within romantic relation-
ships; z = 1.77, p = .08, but the correlations in both of these re-
lationships were significantly greater than the association with-
in friendships; z = 4.76, p = .000; z = 2.96, p = .003, respective-
ly. This shows that the satisfaction is more strongly tied to com-
mitment in relationships with a romantic partner and a parent,
than in friends h ips.
This comprehensive study was designed to examine within
the same sample and with the same measures whether relation-
ship behaviors are relatively consistent from one relationship to
another. To accomplish this, mean levels of commitment, ac-
commodation, sacrifice, forgiveness, and satisfaction were com-
pared for relationships for a parent, a friend, and a romantic
partner. Additionally, this study attempted to build upon previ-
ous research with romantic partners (Weiselquist et al., 1999) to
determine whether commitment is a significant predictor of ac-
commodation, sacrifice, and forgiveness in other relationships.
There were differences in accommodation, forgiveness, and
satisfaction across relationship types. Sacrifice for parents was
greater than for either friends or romantic partners. Also, al-
though commitment was correlated with all pro-relationship be-
haviors and with satisfaction, the strength of those associations
differed from one type of one relationship to another. This in-
dicates that there are some fundamental differences in the ways
that people behave in different types of relationships.
Commitment in Relationships
Consistent with previous studies, accommodation (Rusbult et
al., 1991; Finkel & Campbell, 2001), sacrifice (Van Lange et al.,
1997; Weiselquist et al., 1999), and forgiveness (Finkel et al.,
2002; Fincham, Hall, & Beach, 2006) were correlated with
commitment in romantic relationships. Satisfaction was also
strongly correlated with commitment in romantic relationships,
which is consistent with the investment model of commitment
(Rusbult, 1980). That model states that satisfaction is one of
three primary predictors of commitment.
Forgiveness and commitment. Although the association
between forgiveness and commitment was statistically signify-
cant in romantic relationships, it was not very strong. This in-
dicates that even when people are committed to their romantic
relationship, they may still have a hard time forgiving the ro-
mantic partner for perceived transgressions. This could be due
to the types of expectations that people have for their romantic
partners. This is consistent with a recent study by Felmlee,
Sweet, and Sinclaire (2012) who found that the type of relation-
ship impacts the e xpectations a person has for that relationship,
which in turn impact how that person perceives the other per-
Sacrifice and commitment. Of the three relationship main-
tenance behaviors associated with commitment in romantic re-
lationships, sacrifice was most strongly tied to commitment.
This indicates that in romantic relationships, the level of com-
mitment that a person feels impacts his or her willingness to
sacrifice more than it influences other behaviors. Sacrifice was
more closely tied with commitment in romantic relationships
than to the other two types of relationships. People who are
committed to their romantic partner are more willing to sacri-
fice than people who are equally committed to parents or
Friendship and commitment. For friendships, all three re-
lationship behaviors were correlated with commitment. Ac-
commodation was the relationship behavior most correlated
with commitment, while the correlation of forgiveness with
commitment, even though statistically significant, was very
small This indicates that for friends, the level of commitment
felt impacts the likelihood that a person will be accommodative
more strongly than it impacts forgiveness, while the impact on
sacrifice is intermediate. The associations of accommodation,
sacrifice, and forgiveness with commitment in friendships are
also weaker than the same associations in the other two rela-
tionship types. In short, this indicates that even though a person
might be committed to a friendship, it is not as likely that he or
she will be as accommodating, forgiving, or satisfied, as he or
she might be in a relationship with a parent or romantic partner
to whom he or she was equally committed.
The mean scores across the different relationship types show
that the students were least committed to relationships with
friends, and least willing to sacrifice for them, but were most
willing to accommodate or forgive them. An explanation for
why people are less committed to their friends than to their
other relationships is likely to be the types of expectations that
people have for different types of relationships. For instance,
college students may have the expectation that friends come
and go, and there isn’t too much that can be done about holding
onto friendships. An expectation or belief like this would ex-
plain the lower levels of commitment and sacrifice that partici-
pants reported for friends, which is consistent with previous
research (Felmlee, Sweet, & Sinclaire, 2012). In sum, this study
indicates that there is something about the friendships of col-
lege students that leads them to behave differently than they
would in another type of relationship to which they were equal-
ly committed. To address this issue, future studies examining
friendships, relationship expectations, and relationship behav-
iors need to be conducted with different populations.
Parents and commitment. In relationships with a parent, all
three relationship behaviors and satisfaction were correlated
with commitmen t. Although the c orrelation of sacr ifice and com-
mitment was statistically significant, it was much smaller than
the correlations of accommodation and forgiveness with com-
mitment to a parent. This may be due to the nature of relation-
ships with parents, which are more permanent than the other
types of relationships, and also to the wording of the sacrifice
measure which uses extreme language to ascertain whether or
not a person would be willing to sacrifice (i.e., if giving up this
important activity were the only way for the relationship to per-
sist, would you be willing to give it up). Since it is not as likely
for a relationship with a parent to end as a result of a person’s
failure to give up an activity as it is for a romantic relationship
or friendship to end for that reason, the threat implied in the
sacrifice scale is not as realistic for the parental relationship.
In contrast, the correlations of accommodation and forgive-
ness with commitment to parents were greater than the same
associations in the other two relationship types. This indicates
that even though sacrifice is not as strongly tied to commitment
in relationships with a parent, commitment is more likely to
Open Access 855
B. EBERLY ET AL.
impact a person’s willingness to accommodate and forgive a
parent than either a romantic partner or a friend.
The mean levels of behaviors across relationship types mod-
ify the picture given by the correlations of behaviors with
commitment. In this context, it is important to remember that
correlation coefficients are not affected by the absolute values
of scores, and so correlations with commitment do not reflect
the actual levels of accommodation, sacrifice, and accommoda-
tion expressed. When those levels are compared, the college
students were least likely to accommodate their parents, but at
the same time were most likely to sacrifice for them. It is possi-
ble that the relatively permanent nature of the parent-child rela-
tionship makes the thought of losing that relationship very
poignant and produces a willingness to sacrifice if that is nec-
essary to maintain it. At the same time, because the thought of
losing one’s parent due to behavioral issues is not a regular
concern, people may be less accommodating to their parents as
opposed to with friends or romantic partners, because, for most
people, there is little chance of losing their parents until many
years have passed.
Even though there were significant differences between the
level of certain behaviors in relationships with a parent, friend,
or romantic partner, it is clear from the many significant corre-
lations found that how individuals behave in one relationship is
related to how they act in another relationship. This indicates
that the behaviors learned and developed early in life impact the
likelihood that people will use similar behaviors in other rela-
tionships, later in life. Just as problem solving styles spill over
from children’s relationships with parents to their relationships
with their friends (Van Doorn et al., 2011) these same behave-
iors may in turn spillover into their romantic relationships.
Kelley and Thibaut (1978) argued that the satisfaction a per-
son feels for a given situation is influenced by expectations or
comparisons with similar situations. Hence, a person’s expecta-
tions for a certain type of relationship may influence how he or
she will react in a given situation. Will they be forgiving, will
they be accommodating, or not? Felmlee, Sweet, and Sinclair
(2012) found significant differences in the types of expectations
that men and women had for friends of different sexes, which
then impacted how they evaluated friends within a specific
situation. Thus, differences in expectations impact how a per-
son evaluates the other person in a relationship. This is likely to
be true for parent-child and romantic relationships as well as
friendships, and the differences in evaluations would produce
In conclusion, this study highlighted that there are some dis-
tinct aspects of particular relationships that lead people to be-
have differently within them. At the same time, it also showed
that relationship maintenance behaviors were usually correlated
for relationships with romantic partners, friends, and parents,
indicating that some type of spill over is occurring. Lastly, and
most importantly, this study indicates that there is so much yet
to be learned about how people engage in different pro-rela-
A major limitation of this research is that the population was
college students, in a single university in one of the mid Atlan-
tic stats of the USA. Different results might emerge with older
or younger individuals, with non-students, or with students or
non-students from different locales. We also note that except
for the RAS, there is no psychometric information on the scales
employed in this research. Different measures might also yield
differences in results. Hence this paper yields useful informa-
tion, but its applications are limited to the type of individuals
surveyed and the measures employed.
In order to gain a deeper understanding of how pro-relation-
ship behaviors develop, in what contexts, and at what stage of
development, future studies should compare effects across a va-
riety of relationships at multiple stages of development. Addi-
tionally, it would be valuable to understand the beliefs and ex-
pectations that people have for a given type of relationship, and
how expectations impact the behaviors in which people engage.
Aron, A., & Aron, E. N. (1986). Love as the expansion of self: Under-
standing attraction and satisfaction. New York: Hemisphere.
Aron, A., Aron, E. N., & Smollen, D. (1992). Inclusion of Other in the
Self Scale and the structure of interpersonal closeness. Journal of
Personality and Social Psychology, 63, 596-612.
Agnew, C. R., Rusbult, C. E., Van Lange, P. A. M., & Langston, C. A.
(1998). Cognitive interdependence: mental representation of close re-
lationships. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 74, 1373-
Bowlby, J. (1977). The making and breaking of affectional bonds. I.
Aetiology and psychopathology in the light of attachment theory. An
expanded version of the Fiftieth Maudsley Lecture, delivered before
the Royal College of Psychiatrists, 19 November 1976. The British
Journal of Psychiatry, 130, 201-210.
Braithwaite, S. R., Selby, E. A., & Fincham, F. D. (2011). Forgiveness
and Relationship Satisfaction: Mediating Mechanisms. Journal of
Family Psychology, 25, 551-559. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/a0024526
Bui, K. V. T., Peplau, L. A., & Hill, C. T. (1996). Testing the rusbult
model of relationship commitment and stability in a 15-year study of
heterosexual couples. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 22,
Drigotas, S. M., Rusbult, C. E., & Verette, J. (1999). Level of commit-
ment, mutuality of commitment, and couple wellbeing. Personal Re-
lationships, 6, 389-409.
Felmlee, D., Sweet, E., & Sinclair, H. (2012). Gender rules: Same- and
cross-gender friendships norms. Sex Roles, 66, 518-529 .
Fincham, F. D., Hall, J., & Beach, S. R. H. (2006). Forgiveness in mar-
riage: Current status and future directions. Family Relations, 55,
Finkel, E. J., & Campbell, W. K. (2001). Self-control and accommoda-
tion in close relationships: An interdependence analysis. Journal of
Personality and Social Psychology, 81, 263.
Finkel, E. J., Rusbult, C. E., Kumashiro, M., & Hannon, P. A. (2002).
Dealing with betrayal in close relationships: Does commitment pro-
mote forgiveness? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 82,
Hartup, W. W. (1992). Having friends, making friends, and keeping
friends: Relationships as educational contexts. ERIC Digest.
Hartup, W. W., Laursen, B., Stewart, M. I., & Eastenson, A. (1988). Con-
B. EBERLY ET AL.
Open Access 857
flict and the friendship relations of young children. Child Develop-
ment, 59, 1590-1600. http://dx.doi.org/10.2307/1130673
Hays, W. L. (1988). Statistics (4th ed.). Fort Worth, TX: Holt, Reinhart,
& Winston, Inc.
Hendricks, S. S. (1988). A generic measure of relationship satisfaction.
Journal of Marriage and the Family, 50, 93-98.
Hoyt, W. T., Fincham, F. D., McCullough, M. E., Maio, G., & Davila, J.
(2005). Responses to interpersonal transgressions in families: For-
givingness, forgivability, and relationship-specific effects. Journal of
Personality and Social Psychology, 89, 375-394.
John, O. P., Naumann, L. P., & Soto, C. J. (2008). Paradigm shift to the
integrative big-five trait taxonomy: history, measurement, and con-
ceptual issues. In O. P. John, R. W. Robins, & L. A. Pervin (Eds.),
Handbook of personality: Theory and research (pp. 114-158). New
York, NY: Guilford Press.
Kearns, J. N., & Fincham, F. D. (2004). A Prototype analysis of for-
giveness. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 30, 838-835.
Kelley, H. H., & Thibaut, J. (1978). Interpersonal relations: A theory of
interdependence. New York: Wiley.
Kubacka, K. E., Finkenauer, C., Rusbult, C. E., & Keijsers, L. (2011).
Maintaining close relationships: Gratitude as a motivator and a de-
tector of maintenance behavior. Personality and Social Psychology
Bulletin, 37, 1362-1375.
Kumashiro, M., Finkel, E. J., & Rusbult, C. E. (2002). Self-respect and
pro-relationship behavior in marital relationships. Journal of Person-
ality, 70, 1009-1050. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/1467-6494.05030
Martz, J. M., Verette, J., Arriaga, X. B., Slovik, L. F., Cox, C. L., &
Rusbult, C. E. (1998). Positive illusions in close relationships. Per-
sonal Relationships, 5, 150-181.
McCullough, M. E., Rachal, K. C., Sandage, S. J., Worthington Jr., E.
L., Brown, S. W., & Hight, T. L. (1998). Interpersonal forgiving in
close relationships: II. Theoretical elaboration and measurement.
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 75, 1586 -1603.
McCullough, M. E., & Hoyt, W. T. (2002). Transgression-related mo-
tivational dispositions: Personality substrates of forgiveness and their
links to the big five. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 28,
Menzies-Toman, D. A., & Lydon, J. E. (2005). Commitment-motivated
benign appraisals of partner transgressions: Do they facilitate accom-
modation? Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 22, 111-
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,
Murray, S. L., Holmes, J. G., & Griffin, D. W. (1996). The Self-ful-
filling nature of positive illusions in romantic relationships: Love is
not blind, but prescient. Journal of Personality and Social Psychol-
ogy, 71, 1155-1180. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/0022-35188.8.131.525
Murray, S. L. (1999). The quest for conviction: Motivated cognition in
romantic relationships. Psychological Inquiry, 10, 23-34.
Murray, S. L., Holmes, J. G., & Collins, N. L. (2006). Optimizing as-
surance: The risk regulation system in relationships. Psychological
Bulletin, 132, 641-666.
Renshaw, K. D., McKnight, P., Caska, C. M., & Blais, R. K. (2011).
The utility of the relationship assessment scale in multiple types of
relationships. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 28, 435-
Rusbult, C. E. (1980). Commitment and satisfaction in romantic asso-
ciations: A test of the investment model. Journal of Experimental
Social Psychology, 16, 172-186.
Rusbult, C. E. (1983). A longitudinal test of the investment model: The
development (and deterioration) of satisfaction and commitment in
heterosexual involvements. Journal of Personality and Social Psy-
chology, 45, 101-117. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/0022-35184.108.40.206
Rusbult, C. E., Verette, J., Whitney, G. A., Slovik, L. F., & Lipkus, I.
(1991). Accommodation processes in close relationships: Theory and
preliminary empirical evidence. Journal of Personality and Social
Psychology, 60, 53-78. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/0022-35220.127.116.11
Rusbult, C. E., & Buunk, B. P. (1993). Commitment processes in close
relationships: An interdependence analysis. Journal of Social and
Personal Relationships, 10, 175-204.
Rusbult, C. E., & Van Lange, P. A. M. (1996). Interdependence proc-
esses. In E. T. Higgins, & A. Kruglanski (Eds.), Social psychology:
Handbook of basic principles (pp. 564-596). N ew Y ork: Guilford.
Rusbult, C. E., Martz, J. M., & Agnew, C. R. (1998). The investment
model scale: Measuring commitment level, satisfaction level, quality
of alternatives, and investment size. Personal Relationships, 5,
Rusbult, C. E., & Van Lange, P. A. M. (2003). Interdependence, inter-
action, and relationships. Annual Review of Psychology, 54, 351-375.
Rusbult, C. E., & Van Lange, P. A. M. (2008). Why we need interde-
pendence theory. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 2,
Taylor, D. A., Altman, I., & Sorrentino, R. (1969). Interpersonal ex-
change as a function of rewards and costs and situational factors:
Expectancy, confirmation-disconfirmation. Journal of Experimental
Social Psychology, 5, 324-339.
VanderDrift, L. E., Lewandowski, G. W., & Agnew, C. R. (2010).
Reduced self-expansion in current romance and interest in relation-
ship alternatives. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 28,
Van Lange, P. A. M., Drigotas, S. M., Rusbult, C. E., Arriaga, X. B.,
Witcher, B. S., & Cox, C. L. (1997). Willingness to sacrifice in close
relationships. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 72,
Van Doorn, M. D., Branje, S. J. T., VanderValk, I. E., De Goede, I. H.
A., & Meeus, W. H. J. (2011). Longitudinal spillover effects of con-
flict resolution styles between adolescent-parent relationships and
adolescent friendships. Journal of Family Psychology, 25, 157-161.
Wieselquist, J., Rusbult, C. E., Foster, C. A., & Agnew, C. R. (1999).
Interpersonal relationships and group processes: Commitment, pro-
relationship behavior, and trust in close relationships. Journal of
Personality and Social Psychology, 77, 942-966.
Wieselquist, J. (2009). Interpersonal forgiveness, trust, and the invest-
ment model of commitment. Journal of Social and Personal Rela-
tionship, 26, 531-548. http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0265407509347931