Understanding Adult Social Relationships: Toni C. Antonucci
The purpose of this chapter is twofold: first, to extend our understanding of adult social relationships by examining them within the life-span and family systems perspectives; second, to consider a commonly studied form of adult social relationships, social support, and to suggest that the overwhelmingly positive and cross-sectional bias of this research has been misguided, inadvertantly obstructing progress towards the goal of understanding adult social relationships. The chapter begins with a consideration of adult social relationships within both intra and interindividual perspectives, applying the life-span development and family systems views to the study of interpersonal relationships. The second half of the chapter argues that previous work, especially under the rubric of social support, has presented a biased picture of both the process and benefits of adult relationships. Five divergent views of the possible outcomes of social support relationships are offered and discussed as illustrative examples. The chapter concludes with a summary and recommendations for future research designed to extend our knowledge of adult social relationships.