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RELATIONAL DISENGAGEMENT STRATEGIES AND CONSEQUENCES

by
DEBORAH LEIGH PERRY, B.A.
A THESIS
IN
SPEECH COMMUNICATION

Submitted to the Graduate Faculty


of Texas Tech University in
Partial Fulfillment of
the Requirements for
the Degree of
MASTER OF ARTS

Approved

Accepted
'^í-
'•2f

h\^. :";^ ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

I am very grateful to Dr. Michael J. Cody for his


assistance and guidance in the direction of this thesis and
to other members of my committee, Dr. Margaret L.
McLaughlin-Cody and Dr. William J. Jordan. I would like to
give special thanks to my parents, John and Charlotte Perry
for their continued love and support throughout this
project.

11
TABLE OF CONTENTS

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS ii
*

LIST OF TABLES v

I. INTRODUCTION 1

Statement of Purpose 1

Review of Literature 2

Social Exchange Theory 2

Determinants of Disengagement 6

Disengagement Strategies 9

Typology of Strategies 9

Strategy Selection 12

Trust 16

Dyadic Adjustment 18

Consequences of Relational

Disengagement 19

Hypotheses 24

11. METHODOLOGY 26

Subjects 26

Materials 26

III. RESULTS 29

Factor Analysis of Strategies 29

Interrelationships Among Variables 31

Hypotheses 38

Multiple Regression Analyses 43

111
TABLE OF CONTENTS cont'd

IV. DISCUSSION 45

Strategy Selection 45
Consequences of Disengagement 48
Conclusion 51
REFERENCES 55
APPENDIX 58

IV
LIST OF TABLES

Table
1. Factor Analysis Solution 30
2. Correlations Between All Variables 32
3. Factor Analysis Solution for Intimacy,
Constrained, Unwillingness to Compromise
and Trust 35
4. Correlations Between Relational Variables,
Strategies and Consequences of Disengagement ... 39

V
CHAPTER I

INTRODUCTION
Statement of Purpose
While the initiation and development of pair relation-
ships has long been a topic of interest in interpersonal
communication, much less attention has been given to the
dissolution of pair relationships. It has been argued that
disengagements should be studied in order to understand the •
complete life cycle of relationships (Baxter, 1979) . A
considerable body of research exists concerning marital
separation and divorce, but, as Hill, Rubin and Peplau
(1976) point out, "for every recorded instance of the ending
of a marriage, there are many instances of the ending of a
pre-marital relationship" (p. 148).
Despite the pervasiveness of pre-marital breakups,
exploration into the disengagement of friendship dyads and
dating couples has only recently begun to emerge. To date,
the research has examined various factors associated with
the precipitating causes of a breakup, the communication
strategies used in the process of breaking up and the
effects of the breakup on the individuals involved. Also,
some speculative comparisons have been made relating
pre-marital breakups with marital breakups.
1
The purpose of the present paper is to extend the work
of previous research in an effort to understand more fully
the disengagement of relationships. Utilizing a social
exchange perspective, a review of literature will be
presented which focuses on factors associated with which
partner disengages and how disengagement is achieved. In
an attempt to build upon the research base, additional
variables which have remained unexplored will be discussed
and hypotheses will then be proposed.

Review of Literature
Social Exchange Theory
Within social exchange theory, human interaction is
viewed as a voluntary exchange of mutually rewarding
objects or activities. Levinger (1979a) notes that although
critics claim this approach is too materialistic to apply
to close interpersonal relationships, social exchange
theory is indeed useful in examining phenomena that occur
in close relationships because exchanges can be interpreted
in either concrete or symbolic terms. Therefore, abstract
concepts such as love and affection are not discounted,
but reinterpreted within an exchange orientation. Five
perspectives of social exchange theory are reviewed in
Roloff (1981): Homans• operant psychology approach (1974);
Blau's economic approach (1964); Thibaut and Kelley's
theory of interdependence (1978); Foa and Foa's resource
theory (1974); and Walster, Berscheid and Walster's equity
theory (1978). Though each perspective approaches social
exchange in a slightly different manner, there is agreement
concerning the major constructs.
The basic constructs of social exchange theory are
rewards, costs, comparison level, comparison level for
alternatives, distributive justice and reciprocity. The
first important concept is that of resources (rewards and
costs) which constitute what is exchanged. Foa and Foa
(1974) posit six types of resources: love, status, services,
goods, information and money. Love involves the expression
of affection and warmth and is considered a particularistic
resource as the value attached to love is largely dependent
upon the particular person who provides it. Status is the
communication of regard or esteem. Services and goods are
more concrete resources since they usually deal with
observable exchanges such as fixing someone's car or
delivering a newspaper. Information takes the form of
advice, opinions or instructions. Money is coin or
currency assigned a standard value within a social system.
Since it is unaffected by the person who provides it, money
is considered a universal resource (Roloff, 1981).
Resources are not equally valued: some people desire
certain resources over others. Preferred resources may be
thought of as rewards or "the pleasures, satisfactions
and gratifications a person enjoys" (Thibaut and Kelley,
1959, p. 12). Also, the value a person attributes to a
resource may vary. For example, if an individual has
accumulated a great deal of one resource, it will become
less valued (Roloff, 1981). Blau (1964) posits that some
rewards may emerge spontaneously such as personal
attraction, social approval and respect, while others are
open to negotiation such as acceptance into a group,
instrumental services and compliance. These types of
social rewards may be distinguished by whether they are
intrinsic or external to the relationship. Extrinsic
rewards (personal attraction, social approval and instru-
mental services), though conveyed within the relationships
exist independent of the relationship. Respect and
compliance are internal, unilateral rewards in that when
one complies with another, it is implicit that superiority
is granted to one at the expense of the other's power.

When an individual loses or is denied a preferred


resource, it is considered a cost. A cost may be incurred
as a function of foregoing rewards available elsewhere, or
as the result of receiving an aversive stimulation (Roloff
1981) . Supposedly, a rewarding relationship will continue
A costly relationship will eventually be terminated.
The comparison level refers to one's subjective
standard of satisfaction or to the attraction that the
relationship holds for a member in terms of the rewards
and costs a person feels should be received. Attraction to
the relationship is determined by comparing outcomes of the
current relationship with the comparison level which may
represent a level of relational rewards received in
previous associations. Comparison level for alternatives
represents the current outcomes compared to outcomes
expected from an available alternative. The comparison
level for alternatives indicates a stability component
within the relationship (Kelley and Thibaut, 1978; Levinger.
1979a; Roloff, 1981).

By utilizing the constructs of comparison level and


comparison level for alternatives, an idea as to how stable
and attractive a relationship is can be obtained.
According to Levinger (1979a), when a relationship's level
of outcomes is below the comparison level of one member and
below outcomes available elsewhere (comparison level for
alternatives), the relationship is in a state of
unattractive instability. The relationship is therefore
perceived as a costly one and will probably be terminated.
Distributive justice and reciprocity are both norms
which serve to equalize outcomes and ensure fair exchange.
It is assumed that participants within a relationship
attempt to achieve equity or balance. If one member
violates the norm of fair exchange, social disapproval may
be expected. Within the social exchange perspective, the
declining attraction of the present relationship, the rising
attraction of alternative relationships and the erosion
of normative restraints which serve to contain the
relationship are viewed as probable determinants of pair
dissolution.

Determinants of Disengagement
Simpson (1981a) synthesized social exchange theory with
symbolic interactionism to create a framework for examining
the development and/or decay of intimate relationships.
Symbolic interactionism focuses on the analysis of shared
meaning and the role of social interactions in the
development of self (Kimmel, 1979; Simpson, 1981a). The
integration of social exchange theory and symbolic
interactionism—symbolic exchange—has as a central concern
the exchange of symbolic meaning in the development of a
"relationship world view." The relationship world view
consists of a couple's common assumptions of life and
perceptions of the degree of importance these assumptions
hold for the couple. The extent to which a couple has
constructed a shared view of the world is the level of
symbolic interdependence. The relationship world view is
especially applicable to highly intimate couples and
married partners who have supposedly spent a great deal of
time developing shared assumptions and values. Simpson
7

(1981a) found a couple's level of symbolic interdependence


to be correlated positively with the degree of commitment
and the level of satisfaction.

In a study of pre-marital breakups, Simpson (1981a)


used the concept of symbolic interdependence as a predictor
of relational disengagement. His findings supported the
prediction that couples with high levels of symbolic
interdependence would be less likely to break up. However,
the correlation was only -.13, and further analyses
revealed that the portion of variance accounted for by
symbolic interdependence was also accounted for by other
predictors such as relational commitment and satisfaction.
Many of the subjects had only dated for a short time (one
week), which may explain the low correlation. Inherent in
the concept of relationship world view is the fact that it
takes time to develop.

Numerous studies examining marital disruption have


considered the level of relationship satisfaction and/or
commitment as determinants of pair progress or dissolution
(Fitzpatrick and Winke, 1979; Levinger, 1979b; Snyder, 1979).
However, the major emphasis has been on how certain
variables affect satisfaction under the assumption that
satisfaction is the primary predictor of relational change.
Particular concern has been given to the effects of children
and child-rearing practices on satisfaction (Miller, 19^6;
8
Ryder, 1973; Thornton, 1977). These attempts to determine
the underlying dimensions of marital satisfaction are
problematic because global measures of marital satisfaction
seem to lack reliability, appropriateness and validity
(Snyder, 1979). Despite the methodological problems,
researchers agree that the role of satisfaction in the
progress and/or decay of relationships is extremely
important.

Hill, Rubin and Peplau (1976) conducted a longitudinal


investigation of breakups before marriage. This study
represents a first attempt in examining relational disen-
gagement of dating couples rather than married couples. The
authors argue that an understanding of pre-marital breakups
would greatly facilitate the understanding of divorce.
Despite the different social contexts in which the two
events occur, the psychological bonds of attachment created
in intimate dating couples resemble the bonds of attachment
within married dyads and "thus, the requirements and diffi-
culties of 'uncoupling' in the two cases may show simi-
larities" (Hill et a_l. , 1976, p. 148). The results of H i U
et aj,. (1976) revealed several factors associated with
breakups before marriage. Included were unequal involvement
in the relationship, geographic vicinity, pressure from
parents, boredom and the desire for independence. Other
variables correlated with breaking up were differences in
intelligence, backgrounds and interests, conflicting ideas
about marriage and sex, and age discrepancy. These factors
can be considered costs within social exchange theory. For
example, if one's relational partner lives sixty miles
away, the cost of driving the distance to see the partner
may outweigh the pleasure derived from the partner's
company. If a comparable alternative is available without
the cost of distance, the relationship is likely to be
terminated.

Disengagement Strategies
Recently, there has em.erged an interest in studying the
actual process of disengagement. The communication
strategies and variables that affect the use of these
strategies have been the focus of investigations. Further,
while Hill et a_l. (1976) reported some findings concerning
the consequences of thé parties of the breakup (e.g., who
stayed friends), it is clear that how people break up
influences subsequent feelings and orientations.

Typology of strategies. Baxter (1979b) developed a


typology of disengagement strategies in a study involving
responses indicating the likelihood that subjects would use
35 strategies. Four primary clusters emerged: withdraw/
avoidance (strategy of indirectness), Machiavellian
(intentional manipulation of the other), positive tone
(concern for the other's feelings) and openness (concern
with honesty and openness of communication).
10
In another study, Baxter and Philpott (1980) examined
disengagement as a process rather than an event which occurs
at a single point in time. Subjects were asked to complete
a hypothetical story concerning the ending of a relationship
by providing step-by-step dynamics of what occurred between
the interactants. Results suggest a pattern of tactics
which oscillate between approach/avoidance extremes. For
example, a disengager might express verbally his/her desire
to end the relationship, but the other party is unwilling to
let go making further encounters necessary to complete the
disengagement. In this case, Baxter and Philpott (1980)
reported a tendency for the disengager to avoid further
interactions. Likewise, when the disengager initially
withdrew, the other party's reactions of hurt, anger or
confusion usually forced the disengager to confront the
other party. Baxter (1979a) also examined the verbal
strategy of self-disclosure as a potential disengagement
strategy. The findings showed an avoidance of discussion
of the state of the relationship and an avoidance of direct
confrontation. Furthermore, as hypothesized, an effort tc
disengage was accompanied by less willingness to disclose
on the part of the disengager.
Another typology of disengagement strategies was
developed by Cody (1981). Whereas Baxter (1979b) focused on
the disengagement of friendship dyads, Cody (1981) developei
a typology generalizable to more intimate dyads, reasoning
11

that withdraw/avoidance and Machiavellian tactics were less


likely to be used in achieving disengagement from romantic
partnerships. In such a case, "the disengager must at least
recognize that the partner has the right to request an
accounting of changes in the disengager's behavior and that
she/he is obligated to give some type of account" (Cody,
1981, p. 2 ) . The development of emotional attachments, the
disclosing of intimate information, the propensity to make
long term plans and the willingness to sacrifice personal
goals for the good of the relationship are all likely to
increase as intimacy between two people increases.
Therefore, it is reasonable to expect that "disengagers will
feel obligated to report verbally their disengagement
intentions" (Cody, 1981, p. 11).

The five strategies reported by Cody (1981) were:


(1) behavioral de-escalation (withdraw/avoidance); (2)
de-escalation (possible reconciliation, relationship fault);
(3) positive tone (expressed caring, grief about disen-
gagement and desire to be fair); (4) negative identity
management (failure to attend to the partner's needs of
rejection) and (5) justification (provided reasons and
implied consequences). In conjunction with Baxter (1979b),
these five strategies are generalizable from less intimate
to very intimate relationships.
12

Strategy selection. In an effort to determine what


variables might affect the choice of certain disengagement
strategies, Baxter (1979b) investigated the role of
relationship closeness (friendship/very close friendship)
and relational intention (partial versus total disengagement).
The findings showed that very close friends were less likely
to choose withdraw/avoidance and Machiavellian strategies
of disengagement than friends, and the results suggest a
tendency for very close friends to be more concerned with
the other, presumably because people in more intimate
relationships are more likely to feel an obligation to
explain their actions to intimates. The effect of relational
intention was not significant.
Communicator age and sex role orientation also affect
the choice of strategy (Baxter, 1981). Fifth graders and
adults prefer strategies of confrontation (explicit
declaration of the intent to disengage) as opposed to
avoidance tactics (reduced interaction). The basis for this
result is that children "have a relative lack of social
perspective-taking skills" (Baxter, 1981, p. 5) and are not
likely to anticipate the reaction of the other; thus,
children are less motivated to avoid confrontation. Adults
select confrontation tactics because of their broader social
experience and their capability of "realizing the delayed
and hidden costs afforded by an initial avoidance tactic"
(Baxter, 1981, p. 6). A social desirability factor may also
13

explain these results. It is more socially acceptable to


show concern to others; therefore, people may prefer to
indicate on questionnaires the use of more direct tactics of
disengagement. Furthermore, subjects were imagining a
disengagement situation, rather than recalling an actual
event, which might not reflect actual strategy choice.

Confrontation can be viewed as a masculine tactic


because initiative taking and assertiveness are stereo-
typically masculine traits. However, confrontation is also
characterized by concern for the other and attentiveness to
the needs of the other which are stereotypically feminine
traits. Therefore, androgynous persons, who are equally
comfortable with masculine or feminine behaviors, demon-
strate more preference for confrontation strategies than
either masculine sex-typed or feminine sex-typed persons
(Baxter, 1981).
Cody (1981) explored the relationship between intimacy,
reactions to inequity and factors of relational problems
with the selection of disengagement strategies. Intimacy
correlated positively with the use of justification,
de-escalation and positive tone tactics, and negatively with
the use of behavioral de-escalation, indicating that the
use of behavioral de-escalation is not often employed
between intimates. High levels of intimacy imply that
emotional bonds have formed. Therefore, the use of
14

behavioral de-escalation would not be acceptable. Again,


the disengager probably feels obligated to give a verbal
account of intent.
The perceptions of inequity in a relationship deal with
disparities in investments between partners. The "under-
benefited" partner receives fewer gains from the relationshlp
and is more likely to feel angry when realizing that the
partner does not reciprocate at the same level of intensity.
The emotional reaction of anger to perceived inequity
predicted the selection of justification and behavioral
de-escalation strategies, but the results concerning guilt
reactions were not significant. A partial explanation might
be that disengagers wish to feel as if they had done the
right thing and will rationalize away any guilty feelings.
Although the relational problems examined by Cody (1981)
do not represent a comprehensive model of relational
problems, each of the three factors examined (disengager
felt constrained, personal faults of target and target's
failure to compromise) influenced the choice of disengagement
strategies. These types of costs within social exchange
theory may cause the outcomes received in the current
relationship to fall below the comparison level. The factor
labeled "Contrained" dealt with the perception that the
disengager felt "constrained," a "lack of freedom,"
"suffocated" by a partner making "too many contributions"
and by a partner who was "too possessive." Such a factor
15

would appear to deal with a major discrepancy in expec-


tations for the relationship, with the partner perceived as
desiring a more serious or more intense commitment than was
desired by the disengager. In such a relationship (where
the disengager is being pursued), behavioral de-escalation
strategies are not necessarily an effective means by which
to disengage, and disengagers were thus likely to employ
either positive tone, de-escalation, justification or
negative identity management strategies. The "Faults"
factor included such perceptions as: the disengager felt
the partner publicly embarrassed him/her, was "too demanding,"
had "personality problems" and possessed a personality which
was incompatible with the disengager's. Disengagers are not
likely to desire to continue future interactions with
partners who introduce such costs into the relationship.
Thus, disengagers avoided using positive tone and used
justification strategies. The "Failure to Compromise"
factor included perceptions that the partner was "unwilling
to make enough contributions," took the disengager "for
granted" and "no longer behaved romantically toward the
disengager," and the partner was "unwilling to compromise
for the good of the relationship." This orientation
provided the opposite theoretical orientation to that of the
Constrained factor because disengagers who rated their
partners higher on this factor are probably the more inves-
16
partner. Since these disengagers desired a serious
relationship that was not fulfilled, it is unlikely that
they would use negative identity management strategies to
disengage. Disengagers in this situation were more likely
to use de-escalation and justification strategies. To date,
the research does not represent a comprehensive view of the
variables that influence strategy selection; therefore,
further investigations are necessary.

Trust

Interpersonal trust, though an integral feature of


close relationships, has been virtually ignored in research
(Larzelere and Huston, 1980) . Trust increases relational
security, reduces inhibitions and defensiveness, and allows
people the freedom to share feelings (Stinnett and Walters,
1977). The reciprocity of trust occurs more frequently
between partners than either the reciprocity of love or the
depth of self-disclosure (Larzelere and Huston, 1980). The
conceptualization of trust is obviously a pertinent aspect
of human relationships.
According to Larzelere and Huston (1980), trust is
composed of perceptions of benevolence and honesty.
Benevolence is an attribution of motivation: is a partner
genuinely interested in the welfare of the other, or is the
partner motivated to seek individual gains? Honesty is
concerned with sincerity and truthfulness: to what extent
17

can a partner be believed in his/her promises? If a partner


is perceived as benevolent and honest, then the partner is
worthy of trust.

Dyadic trust, or trust referring specifically to the


benevolence and honesty of a significant other, may be a
prerequisite for the development of intimacy. Increased
intimacy may cause feelings of vulnerability which can be
counterbalanced if the partner is trusted. However, the
feelings of vulnerability may inhibit the growth of trust if
it is not previously established.

Dyadic trust is associated with characteristics of


relational intimacy such as love, self-disclosure and
commitment (Larzelere and Huston, 1980). Altman and Taylor
(1973) suggest that trust is necessary for self-disclosure
because reciprocity of disclosure must be based on
reciprocity of trust. Trust may be a prerequisite for
commitment: higher levels of trust are necessary for higher
levels of commitment. However, it has been noted that it
"takes time to develop high levels of trust prior to an
initial commitment" (Larzelere and Huston, 1980, p. 602).
When considering the role trust plays in the selection
of disengagement strategies, it is important to note the
process of breaking up involves a deterioration of dyadic
trust (Larzelere and Huston, 1980). It is not known whether
the decaying of trust takes place before or after the
breakup, but it diminishes regardless of the prior level of
18

intimacy. This deterioration may be explained by the


assumption that the development of trust is accompanied by
self-disclosure. Therefore, subsequent to breaking up, the
ex-partner still has the information that was disclosed in
the relationship. Uncertainty as to if or how the ex-partner
may use that knowledge may cause deterioration of trust.

It seems fair to assume that relationships characterized


by high levels of trust are probably characterized by high
levels of self-disclosure, commitment and intimacy as well.
In such cases, the partner who wishes to disengage will
likely feel obligated to account for this desire as was
previously reported for intimate couples. If a partner is
viewed as sincere and honest, it would precipitate a concern
for the other's feelings. Therefore, it seems reasonable
to expect that highly trusting couples would not utilize
disengagement strategies that were indirect or manipulative.

Dyadic Adjustment
Dyadic adjustment is a prominent concept in the study of
marital relationships but has only recently been generalized
to unmarried couples (Spanier, 1976). The concept is
utilized in an effort to obtain an evaluation of the
characteristics and interactions of a relationship. Dyadic
adjustment is comprised of four empirically verified
components: dyadic satisfaction, dyadic consensus (the
extent to which a couple agrees on matters important to
19

dyadic functioning), dyadic cohesion (the extent a couple

engages together in various activities) and affection (the

verbal or physical expression of caring).

Evaluating the quality of a relationship may be useful


in predicting relational growth or decay. Dyadic adjustment
measures should also be predictive of how a couple will
disengage. The components of dyadic adjustment are related
to intimacy and commitment in relationships. Although it
may be argued that the components are redundant, Spanier
(1976) justified the use of the separate components in
obtaining a total dyadic adjustment score. Dyadic
adjustment may also be related in some aspects to the
"relationship world view" (Simpson, 1981a) because couples
who are more cohesive may have more opportunity to develop
shared assumptions and values.

It seems reasonable to expect that the more adjusted a


couple is, the more likely a partner wishing to disengage
would use strategies which show concern for the other and
avoid the use of manipulative strategies. The concept of
adjustment implies that time is required to adjust.
Therefore, increases in trust, self-disclosure and commitment
are also likely to occur.

Consequences of Relational Disengagement


As with the antecedents of disruption, the study of ^he

effects of disengagement has focused on the effects of


20

marital breakup. It is well documented that divorce is a


stressful event. Individuals must readjust to a different
lifestyle (Newman and Langer, 1981; Spanier and Lachman,
1980) . Some research suggests that ex-partners often find
the readjustment period too difficult and consequently seek
or require mental health care (Bloom, Asher and White, 1978).
Disruption has been shown to affect sleeping, health, work
efficiency, memory and loneliness (Nye and Berardo, 1973).
Also, conflict concerning child custody and financial
matters can lead to greater dissatisfaction with the breakup
as well as continued hostility between ex-partners (Levinger,
1979b) .

It is difficult to assess the similarities that might


exist between breakups before and after marriage due to the
fundamental differences in the social contexts. However,
in order to determine intrinsic features that may charac-
terize the ending of close relationships in general, it is
necessary to study breakups before marriage and the effects
on the members of the relationship.
Hill et al. (1976) suggested that pre-marital breakups
are generally less stressful than marital disruption, but
Simpson (1982) reported major impacts in the areas of
psychological effects and the effect on self-opinion.
Another area affected by pre-marital breakups was social
life. Often, partners establish mutual friendships and
construct their social lives around a common network of
21
friends. Following a disruption, one or both of the
members may experience stress when facing the task of
restructuring their social lives, which often entails
forming new friendships. Hill et aj.. (1976) reported that
feelings of depression, loneliness and freedom are experi-
enced following a breakup. Furthermore, some sex differences
were noted. For example, when the man precipitated the
disengagement, the couple was more likely to remain friends
than when the woman initiated the breakup. Also, men
reported more feelings of depression and rejection than
did women (Hill et. a2.. , 1976) .

The available literature concerning the consequences of


breaking up indicate that similarities do exist between
pre-marital and marital disruption. Hill et aj^. (1976)
reported several similarities between pre-marital breakups
and divorce. Although there are exceptions, breaking up
is characterized by two-sidedness. "It is very rare for
any sort of breakup to be entirely mutual" (Hill et al.,
1976, p. 165). Consequently, one will rarely find two
people who have the same perceptions of their breakup.
There is also the possibility that sex differences in
orientations to breakups are similar before and after
marriage. Women cite more reasons for ending dating
relationships and are more likely to initiate the disen-
gagement of dating relationships, just as women cite more
marital complaints when divorcing and seem to be more likely
22

to first suggest getting a divorce (Hill et aj^. , 1976).


The feelings of failure, guilt and anxiety that often follow
marital disruption may also occur in pre-marital breakups
(Weiss, 1975) where men often find it more difficult to "let
go" and are usually unwilling to withdraw from the relation-
ship (Hilletal., 1976).

However, the effects of the disengagement strategies


on the feelings following a breakup have not been examined.
Guilt and depression are often experienced following a
breakup (Simpson, 1982) . Guilt may result when one uses an
avoidance strategy when the target deserved an account.
Of course, the relational problems precipitating the breakup
are important. For example, if an "underbenefited" partner
grows angry and uses strategies such as behavioral de-
escalation or negative identity management, depression may
occur because the partner may still desire rewards from the
relationship. The use of negative identity management may
be an attempt to regain "face." If the cause of the
relational problem was the disengager's feelings of con-
strainment, less positive strategies may be used in an effort
to dissolve the bonds. However, if the "overbenefited"
partner feels guilty, positive tone may be employed to lessen
the guilt.- In any case, feelings of freedom are likely to
be experienced because the disengager is no longer con-
strained.
23

The distress experienced when restructuring one's


social life may be lessened if strategies which increase
the likelihood of future contact are employed. If the ex-
partners remain friends, it would be more probable that the
mutual friendships formed during the relationship could be
maintained. Showing concern for the other should facilitate
the relationships ending on a positive note and should be
conducive to the partners' remaining friends.

The effect of variables on strategy selection and the


effect of strategies on the consequences of disengagement
warrant further attention. Based on this review of research,
it is apparent that breaking up affects feelings of
depression, guilt and freedom, but the effects of relational
problems (i.e., constrained) and strategy selection on these
variables remain undetermined. Also, whether or not the
couple maintains contact (remains friends) should be
affected by the manner in which the couple disengages. These
four consequences (depression, guilt, freedom, staying
friends) will be examined in the present study.
In sum, it seems fair to assume that the use of positive
tone and de-escalation strategies w i U facilitate the likeli-
hood of future contact and lead to reductions in feelings of
guilt, whereas the use of behavioral de-escalation, negative
identity management and justification strategies will reduce
the likelihood of future interaction and lead to increases
24

in guilt feelings. In cases where the relationship is


characterized by greater trust and adjustment, one would
expect a disengager to select positive tone, justification
and de-escalation strategies because the disengager might
feel obligated to account for the disengagement. Also, the
more the partner is perceived as unwilling to compromise,
the more likely the disengager will feel depressed, whereas
the more the disengager feels constrained, the more likely
the disengager will feel free.

Hypotheses
Replicating Cody (1981), the following hypotheses are

advanced:
H,: As intimacy increases, the selection of justification,
positive tone, de-escalation and negative identity
management strategies will increase, while the selection
of behavioral de-escalation strategies will decrease.
H^: The more the partner is perceived as unwilling to
compromise, the more likely the disengager will be to
select behavioral de-escalation, justification and
negative identity management strategies.
H^: The more the disengager feels that the partner was
personally responsible for the disengagement by
introducing personality problems (i.e., Faults) into
the relationship, the more likely the disengager will
select justification and de-escalation strategies.
25

H^: The more the disengager feels constrained by the

partner, the more likely the disengager will be to

select behavioral de-escalation, positive tone and

de-escalation strategies.

In expandinq the work of Baxter (1979a,b; 1980; 1981) and

Cody (1981), the foUowing hypotheses are offered based on

the review of literature:

H^: As trust and dyadic adjustment increase, the selection

of justification, positive tone and de-escalation

strategies will increase and the selection of negative

identity management and behavioral de-escalation

strategies will decrease.

H^: The use of positive tone and de-escalation strategies

will lead to "increases in the likelihood of future

contact and will be negatively associated with guilt.

H-,: The use of behavioral de-escalation, negative identity

management and justification strategies will lead to

decreases in the likelihood of future contact and

increases in the feelings of guilt.

HQ: The more the partner is perceived as unwilling to


o
compromise, the more likely the disengager will feel

depressed.

Hp.: The more the disengager feels constrained, the more


9
likely the disengager will feel "free."
CHAPTER II

METHODOLOGY
Subjects

Subjects were 333 undergraduates enrolled in freshman,


sophomore and junior level Speech Communication courses
at Texas Tech University. One hundred forty-five males
and 188 females received extra credit for voluntary
participation. The average length of reported relationships
was 62.10 weeks, ranging from one week to 312 weeks.

Materials
A copy of the questionnaire is included in the Appendix.
The questionnaire consisted of four parts: perceptions of
the relationship, causes precipitating the breakup, how the
breakup was executed and consequences of the breakup.
Part I (perceptions of the relationship) included
questions concerning intimacy, trust and dyadic adjustment.
Items 1-5 were used to measure perceived intimacy. These
items were previously used in Cody (1981). Items 17-22
were used to measure perceived trust. These items
constitute six of the eight items developed by Larzelere
and Huston (1980). Subjects were asked to indicate the
extent to which each item applied to the relationship they
26
27

recalled using a 7-point scale ranging from Strongly Agree


to Strongly Disagree. Dyadic adjustment consisted of four
components: consensus (items 23-34), satisfaction (items
35-41), cohesion (items 42-46) and affection (items 47-50).
The items measuring consensus, satisfaction and cohesion
were developed by Spanier (1976). The items dealing with
affection were developed by the author to index the
expression of affection. Consensus was measured on a 7-
point scale ranging from Always Disagreed to Always Agreed.
The remaining components were scored using a 7-point scale
ranging from All the Time to Never.

Part II (causes precipitating the breakup) included


items concerning the relational problems investigated by
Cody (1981): faults, unwilling to compromise and constrained.
The faults factor was measured by items 1,5,9,13 and 17.
The unwilling to compromise factor was measured by items
2,6,10,14 and 18. The constrained factor was measured by
items 3,7,11,15 and 19. Subjects were asked to respond to
the items according to how important each item was in the
decision to break up.
Part III (how the breakup was executed) included
statements concerning verbal strategies or actions that
could be used when breaking off a relationship. Subjects
were asked to rate the degree to which they used these
strategies on a 7-point scale ranging from "I never did/saití
this" to "I definitely did/said this." Items 1-15
28

represent the statements concerning disengagement strategies.


These items were previously used in Cody (1981).

Part IV (consequences of the breakup) included


statements developed by the author to index subsequent
feelings of guilt, depression, freedom and the amount of
future contact. Items 1,6 and 11 measured guilt; items
2,7 and 12 measured depression; items 4,9 and 14 measured
freedom; items 5,10 and 15 measured the amount of future
contact. (Refer to the Appendix for detailed items).
Correlations were computed to test the hypotheses.
Multiple regression analyses were also performed.
CHAPTER III

RESULTS
This chapter presents the results of analyses
conducted to confirm the existence of the five proposed
methods of disengaging and to assess the internal consis-
tency and interrelationships among the independent and
dependent variables. Since the preliminary analyses
indicated fairly high correlations between the independent
variables (i.e., the Faults factor correlated with all other
independent variables except Intimacy), a series of factor
analyses was conducted in order to identify items that were
pure loading items so that more independent indices could
be constructed. The solutions of the factor analyses are
presented. The results of analyses conducted to test the
nine hypotheses are then presented.

Factor Analysis of Strategies


Table 1 presents the results of a Principle Components
(with Varimax rotation) factor analysis of the 15 items
employed to measure the five methods of disengaging. Factor
one (withdraw/avoidance) was defined by"didn't say anything,"
"avoided future meetings" and "discouraged seeing each
other." This factor accounted for 29.9% of the variance.
29
30

TABLE 1

FACTOR ANALYSIS SOLUTION

FACTOR FACTOR FACTOR FACTOR FACTOR


ITEMS 1 2 3 4 5
Didn't Say
Anything .74 -.08 -.15 -.13 -.21
Avoided
Future
Meetings .71 .02 -.13 -.05 -.11
Discouraged
Seeing
Each Other .75 -.09 -.19 -.06 -.18
Going to
Date Others -.22 .63 .05 .15 .13
Life is
too short .11 .56 .14 .12 .06
Wanted to
be happy -.06 .80 .24 .19 -.03
Fully
Explained -.27 .09 .70 .10 .06
Both should
be happy -.17 .12 .72 .11 .07
Changing
inside -.03 .27 .58 .18 .01
May get back
together -.12 .06 .21 .62 . 12
Break off
for awhile -.05 .20 .15 .70 .16
Call quits
for now -.07 .28 .03 .63 .08
Very Sorry -.24 .12 .10 .11 .66
Regretted .87
Very Much -.16 .07 .01 .16
Cared Very .36
Much -.33 -.05 .06 .30
Eigen values 4.48 2.09 1.56 1.22 1.03
% of variance 29.9 13.9 10.4 8.1 6.8
Alphas .81 .73 .75 .74 .7'^
31
The alpha was .81. Factor two (negative identity
management) accounted for 13.9% of the variance and was
defined by "going to date others," "life is too short" and
"want to be happy." The alpha was .73. Factor three
(justification) accounted for 10.4% of the variance and
was defined by "fully explained," "both should be happy"
and "changing inside." The alpha was .75. Factor four
(de-escalation) was defined by "may get back together
"break off for awhile" and "call quits for now." This
factor accounted for 8.1% of the variance. The alpha was
.74. Factor five (positive tone) was defined by "very
sorry,""regretted very much" and "cared very much." This
factor accounted for 6.8% of the variance. The alpha was
.79.

Interrelationships Among Variables


Table 2 presents the correlations among all variables
included in this study. The alpha coefficients are also
presented. Several problems can be noted. First, the
items written to measure the Faults construct correlated
with all other variables except the Intimacy construct
(r; = .05). Second, the Dyadic Adjustment measure correlated
with all other variables except the Unwillingness to
Compromise variable (r = -.16). Third, the Trust measure
correlated very highly with both the Unwillingness to
Compromise construct (r = .56) and with the Faults construct
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33

(r = -.45). Subjects felt that partners who had faults and


who would not reciprocate investments could not be trusted.
Fourth, the assessment of internal consistency for the Guilt
items was low (.54) indicating that these items poorly
measured the construct. For the purpose of this study,
however, the Gui-lt variable was retained in order to test
hypotheses six and seven. It is conceded that better items
should be employed to measure Guilt.

Since many of these independent variables were inter-


correlated, there was a problem of multicolinearity.
Factor analyses were conducted to explore whether deleting
some items and/or combining some factors would result in
the construction of more orthogonal indices for subsequent
analyses. These analyses revealed that each of the five
items written to measure the Faults construct correlated
with the items of other variables. Thus, it was not
possible to select fewer items as pure loading items
measuring Faults. In fact, a multiple regression analysis
revealed that 40% of the variance in Faults was accounted
for by Dyadic Adjustment, Trust, Constrained and Unwilling
to Compromise. Thus, the Faults variable was eliminated
from subsequent analyses. It should be noted, however,
that Faults did correlate .25 with the use of justification
strategies, but only -.02 with the use of de-escalation
strategies, thus providing qualified support for hypothesis
three. Faults also correlated -.24 with the use of positive
34

tone strategies and .19 with the use of avoidance tactics

indicating that when the faults of the partner were

perceived as the cause of the breakup, disengagers used

justification and avoidance tactics and avoided using

positive tone strategies.

Further factor analyses revealed that only two Trust


items ("My partner was perfectly honest and truthful with
me" and "I felt that I could trust my partner completely")
were identified as pure loading items, distinct from the
Intimacy and Unwilling to Compromise variables. However,
even when these two items were averaged together to form a
new Trust variable, this Trust variable correlated -.41 with
the Unwilling to Compromise variable. Subsequently, a
scree line test was employed in a factor analysis of the
Intimacy, Unwilling to Compromise, Constramed and Trust
items. (Dyadic Adjustment was not included because the
Dyadic Adjustment measure is itself multi-dimensional,
See Spanier, 1976) The purpose of the analysis was to
provide a means for purifying the Intimacy, Unwilling to
Compromise, Constrained and Trust items.

The three factor solution is presented in Table 3.


The analysis revealed that the following items were pure
loading items measuring both Trust and UnwiUing to
Compromise: "My partner was perfectly honest and truthful
with me," "I felt that I could trust my partner completely,"
TABLE 3

FACTOR ANALYSIS SOLUTLON, FOR


IJSITIMACY/ CONSTRMNED, _UNWILLJNGNESS TO COMPROMISE AND TRUST

FACTOR FACTOR FACTOR


ITEMS 1 2 3
Honest and
Truthful .64 .02 .05
Could be
Trusted .63 .13 -.02
Truly
Sincere .74 .10 .04
Fair and
Just .75 .01 -.02
Unwilling to
Contribute .70 -.13 .10
Took Me
for granted .68 -.10 -.03
I made more
investments .61 .23 -.22
Do not show
consideration .60 .10 -.07

Very -.07
Intimate -.03 .86
Disclosed
intimate
-.02 .84 -.09
information
Exclusive -.19
Dating -.07 .71

Emotionally -.16
Attached -.10 .86
.22 -.13 .65
Suffocated
Too -.03 .68
Demanding -.18
Too -.04 .76
Possessive -.05
.21 .24 .65
Wanted More
5.59 3.45 2. 18
Eigen Value 11.5
% of variance 29.4 18.1
36

"My partner was truly sincere in his/her promises," "I felt


that my partner did not show me enough consideration,"
"My partner treated me fairly and justly/' "I realized he/
she was unwilling to make enough contributions into the
relationship," "l felt that he/she took me for granted," and
"I made many more investments to the relationship than my
partner." This factor accounted for 29.4% of the variance
in the solution. The alpha was .86. The factor will be
referred to as Trust for the remainder of the study. Since
the original Trust and Unwilling to Compromise constructs
were inversely related, the Unwilling to Compromise items
were recoded so that the new Trust construct measured
perceived trust and willingness to compromise. The second
factor in the solution contained four of the original
Intimacy items and accounted for 18.1% of the variance.
The alpha was .89. The third factor accounted for 11.5% of
the variance and included four of the Constrained items. The
alpha was .73. The pure loading items identified above were
averaged together to form the indices of Trust, Intimacy
and Constrained.

Finally, the preliminary analyses revealed that the


four affection items written for this study as part of the
Dyadic Adjustment measure correlated highly with the
Intimacy items, as did the following three items: consensus
agreement on "aims, goals and things beleived important,"
consensus agreement on "making major decisions" and the
cohesion item which dealt with "engaging in outside
interests together." Eliminating these items reduced
the interrelationship between Intimacy and Dyadic
Adjustment (r_ = .25). The Dyadic Adjustment measure
correlated .36 with the new Trust construct. The alpha
for Dyadic Adjustment was .87.

The descriptive statistics for the four independent


variables measuring aspects of the relationships were as
follows: Intimacy, mean = 2.31, median = 1.756, standard
deviation = 1.52; Constrained, mean = 4.10, median = 4.00,
standard deviation = 1.66; Trust, mean = 3.42, median =
3.185, standard deviation = 1.570; Dyadic Adjustment,
mean = 3.351, median = 3.327, standard deviation = .843.
The descriptive statistics for the five disengagement
strategies were as follows: Positive Tone, mean = 4.035,
median = 3.898, standard deviation = 2.043; Justification,
mean = 3.914, median = 3.675, standard deviation = 1.759;
Negative Identity Management, mean = 4.499, median = 2.946,
standard deviation = 1.716; Avoidance, mean = 5.027,
median = 5.474, standard deviation = 1.900; De-escalation,
mean = 4.225, median = 1.785, standard deviation = 4.053.
38

Hypotheses

Table 4 presents the correlations between the


relational variables and strategies (hypotheses 1-5),
between strategies and the consequences of disengagement
(hypotheses 6 and 7) and between relational variables and
the consequences of disengagement (hypotheses 8 and 9 ) .
Hypothesis one predicted that as Intimacy increased,
disengagers would be more likely to employ positive tone,
justification, de-escalation and negative identity
management strategies and less likely to employ avoidance
tactics. Although the correlations were smaller than
anticipated, significant support was obtained for the
first hypothesis with the exception of the correlation
between intimacy and negative identity management (£ = .02).
Intimacy was negatively associated with avoidance (r = -.24,
p < .001) and positively associated with positive tone
{r = .16, p < .01), de-escalation (r = .17, p < .01) and
justification (£ = .19, p < .001).

Hypothesis two predicted that the more a partner was


perceived as unwilling to compromise, the more likely the
the disengager would be to select avoidance, justification
and negative identity management strategies. As noted
earlier the original Unwilling to Compromise and Trust
variables were subjected to factor analysis in order to
distinguish pure loading items. The resulting construct
(Trust) measured perceived trust and willingness to
39
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40
compromise and was used to test the second hypothesis. The
new construct correlated -.21 with the use of justification
strategies. That is, trust and willingness to compromise
were negatively related to justification. This result
provides indirect support for the prediction that
Unwillingness to Compromise and justification would be
positively associated. The correlations with negative
identity management and avoidance were not significant
(r = .06, -.05, respectively).
Hypothesis three dealt with the Faults variable which
was not included in the final analysis because the variable
was not independent of other predictor variables.
Hypothesis four predicted that the more the disengager felt
constrained by the partner, the more likely the disengager
would be to select avoidance, positive tone and
de-escalation strategies. The Constrained variable
correlated positively with de-escalation [r = .12, p < .05).
The correlations with positive tone and avoidance were not
significant (r = -.03, .01, respectively). Significant
correlations were obtained between Constrained and
justification [r = .15) and between Constrained and negative
identity management (£ = .26).
Hypothesis five predicted that as Trust and Dyadic
Adjustment increased, the disengager would be more likely to
employ justification, positive tone and de-escalation
strategies and less likely to employ negative identity
41
management and avoidance tactics. As Trust increased,
disengagers were more likely to select positive tone (x =
.22, p < .001) and de-escalation (r = .12, p < .05). A
negative correlation was obtained between Trust and
justification (r = -.21). The correlations with negative
identity management and avoidance were not significant
(X = .06, -.05, respectively). As Dyadic Adjustment
increased, disengagers were more likely to select positive
tone (r; = .15, p < .01). Significant negative associations
were obtained between Dyadic Adjustment and justification
(£ = -,19), negative identity management (r = -.11) and
avoidance {r = -.15). The correlation with de-escalation
was not significant (jr = .10), though in the predicted
direction.
Hypothesis six predicted that the use of positive tone
and de-escalation strategies would increase the likelihood
that partners would remain friends. A negative association
between positive tone and de-escalation and guilt was also
predicted. Significant support was obtained for the first
part of the hypothesis six. Positive tone correlated
positively with "staying friends" {_r = .16, p <• .01);
de-escalation correlated positively with "staying frier.ds"
(r = .27, p < .001). The second part of hypothesis six
was not supported. Positive tone and de-escala^ion both
correlated .25 with guilt.
42

Hypothesis seven predicted that the selection of


avoidance, negative identity management and justification
strategies would lead to decreases in the likelihood of
partners remaining friends and increases in feelings of
guilt. Partial support was obtained for the first part of
hypothesis seven. Avoidance was negatively associated with
"staying friends" {r_ = -.17, p < .01). Justification
correlated -.07 with "staying friends". Negative identity
management was positively associated with "staying friends"
{r_ = .12). The second part of hypothesis seven was not
supported though the correlations between negative identity
management and guilt and between avoidance and guilt were
in the predicted direction (£ = .05, .004, respectively).
Justification correlated -.04 with guilt.
Hypothesis eight predicted that the more the partner
was perceived as unwilling to compromise, the more likely
the disengager would be to feel depressed. The new Trust
construct (perceptions of willingness to compromise)
correlated -.07 with depression. Willingness to compromise
correlated more strongly with subsequent feelings of guilt
(£ = .26, p < .001) and "staying friends" (r = .23,p<.001).
Hypothesis nine predicted that the more the disengager
felt constrained by the partner, the more likely the
disengager would be to feel free. Strong support was found
for this hypothesis. The Constrained factor correlated .46
with "feeling free" (p<.001). Also, disengagers who felt
43
constrained by their partners were less likely to experience
subsequent feelings of depression (r = -.27).

Multiple Reqression Analyses


Multiple regression analyses were performed to test
the predictive power of the independent variables to the
dependent variables. Regression onto the strategies of
disengagement revealed that 14% of the variance in the
selection of justification strategies was accounted for on
the basis of the combination of four variables: Trust,
Constrained, Intimacy and Dyadic Adjustment. Intimacy and
Constrained accounted for six percent of the variance in
the selection of de-escalation strategies and eight percent
of the variance in the selection of negative identity
management strategies. Trust and Intimacy accounted for
eight percent of the variance in the selection of positive
tone strategies, whereas Intimacy, Dyadic Adjustment and
Constrained accounted for seven percent of the variance in
the selection of avoidance strategies. Although the
portions of variance accounted for in the regression
analysis were small, they were significant at the .05 level.
Regression onto the consequences of disengagement
revealed that 23% of the variance in subsequent feelings of
depression was accounted for by Intimacy and Constrained.
Twenty one percent of the variances in feelings of freedom
was accounted for by Constrained and Dyadic Adjustment.
44
Trust and Dyadic Adjustment accounted for eight percent
of the variance in "staying friends." Trust and Intimacy
accounted for eight percent of the variance in feelings
of guilt. Again, these were significant at the .05 level.
CHAPTER IV

DISCUSSION
Strateqy Selection

The results of the present study provided support for


several of the hypotheses concerning variables which affect
the choice of disengagement strategies. Replicating the
findings of Cody (1981), intimacy correlated positively
with the use of justification, de-escalation and positive
tone and negatively with the use of avoidance strategies.
When intimate bonds have been formed, disengagers probably
feel obligated to account for the disengagement.
Furthermore, trust correlated positively with the use of
positive tone and de-escalation tactics as predicted. Trust
is associated with characteristics of intimacy; therefore,
when higher levels of trust were present, disengagers
selected strategies which showed concern for the partners'
feelings. The results concerning dyadic adjustment were
also consistent with expectations. Dyadic adjustment
correlated positively with the use of positive tone tactics
and negatively with the use of avoidance and negative
identity management strategies. Again, when a couple is
more adjusted, it is more probable that trust and mtimacy
have developed; therefore, disengagers selected strategies
which showed concern for their partners.
45
46

The factors of relational problems (constrained and


unwilling to compromise) influenced strategy selection.
When the disengager felt that the partner did not contribute
to the relationship (unwilling to compromise), justification
strategies were employed. In such a case, the disengager is
the more invested partner and it would be difficult to
merely withdraw from the relationship. The use of justi-
fication strategies provided reasons for the termination.
When disengagers felt constrained, de-escalation strategies
were employed. Disengagers who feel constrained usually
receive more benefits from partners who desire a more
serious relationship. The disengager may wish to continue
to receive rewards without feeling as if he/she were taking
advantage of the partner. Therefore, de-escalation tactics,
which show concern for the partner while lessening the
amount of present contact were employed.
Some of the expectations were not confirmed. For
example, intimacy was not correlated with the use of
negative identity management. It was originally expected
that an individual would not manipulate his/her partner's
image were they not intimate with one another (Cody, 1981),
However, when terminating an intimate relationship, the
disengager may feel obligated to show concern for the target
or to at least account verbally for the disengagement without
managing a negative image of the partner. Contrary to
expectations, justification correlated negatively with trust
47

and dyadic adjustment (r = -.21, -.19, respectively).


When higher levels of trust and dyadic adjustment are
present, it is probable that the disengager feels that
target deserves more than a mere explanation. Whereas
justification strategies often assign blame for the
disengagement (disengager or partner) and request a full
termination, positive tone and de-escalation strategies
show concern for the other and enhance the probability of
remaining friends. (Though the correlation between dyadic
adjustment and de-escalation was smaller than anticipated,
r = .10, it approached significance in the predicted
direction.) Consequently, disengagers would avoid the use
of justification strategies which might indicate an
unwillingness to discuss the partner's perceptions and
reactions. The trust construct, derived to measure trust
and willingness to compromise, did not correlate signif-
icantly with negative identity management or avoidance
tactics. Dyadic adjustment was more strongly correlated
with both strategies.
Contrary to expectations, disengagers who felt
constrained selected negative identity management and
justification strategies. It was expected that when
disengagers felt constrained, they would be motivated to
justify their intentions in a positive manner because they
were receiving more benefits without contributing to the
relationship and would be likely to feel guilty.
48
However, it is probable that overbenefited individuals who
felt bored and suffocated attempted to lessen the intense
feelings of the other by using less positive strategies.
The desire to terminate the relationship, and therefore
eliminate continued guilt feelings, may be greater than
the desire to continue to receive rewards from the partner.
In this case, the benefits are no longer perceived as
rewards since guilt feelings accompany them because the
disengager cannot reciprocate at the same level of intensity.
Therefore, less attention is given to the needs of the
partner.

Consequences of Disengagement
Several of the expectations concerning the consequences
of disengagement were confirmed. When disengagers used
positive tone and de-escalation strategies, the couple was
more likely to remain friends. Positive tone and
de-escalation strategies express caring for the partner
and express possibilities for future reconciliation. The
likelihood of maintaining a friendship is enhanced. When
disengagers used avoidance and justification strategies,
the couple was less likely to remain friends. Avoidance
tactics leave the partner with no reason or explanation for
the disengagment and are likely to cause confusion, hurt
and anger. Justification provides an explanation, but does
not express concern for the rejection needs of the partner.
49
Thus, avoidance and justification tactics do not ensure the
continuation of friendship.

The expectation that disengagers who felt constrained


would experience subsequent feelings of freedom was strongly
confirmed. Disengagers who felt suffocated and tied down
in the relationship felt freer after the disengagement than
disengagers who did not feel constrained in the relationship.
It is interesting to note that disengagers who felt
constrained were less likely to experience subsequent
depression (r = -.27). it seems probable that the cost of
remaining in a relationship which is constraining is greater
than the cost of foregoing the relationship, especially if
the disengager has an available alternative.
The results concerning guilt were unexpected. It was
predicted that the use of positive tone and the
de-escalation strategies would be negatively associated
with guilt because the disengager would feel as if he/she
had attended to the needs of the partner. However, the use
of positive tone and de-escalation tactics correlated
positively with guilt indicating that when these strategies
were used, greater feelings of guilt were experienced
subsequent to the breakup. It is probable that some
positive tone and de-escalation strategies are used because
they are prosocial in nature: "I really care for you, but..
../' "maybe we'll get back together..." The disengager may
not have sincere intentions of maintaining a friendship in
50
which case he/she may experience guilt due to the lack of
honesty. However, it is also probable that the disengager
has sincere concern for the partner but feels guilty
because he/she is responsible for terminating the relation-
ship and thereby hurting the other because the desire to
disengage is discrepant with the partner's desire to
continue the relationship. The subsequent feelings of
guilt may partially explain why the use of positive tone
and de-escalation strategies is correlated positively with
staying friends. The disengager may be motivated initially
by guilt to maintain the friendship, regardless of the
sincerity of the disengagement attempt.

The trust construct correlated positively with staying


friends and guilt, indicating that when a partner was
perceived as trustworthy and willing to compromise for the
good of the relationship the couple was more likely to stay
friends and the disengager was more likely to feel guilty.
When the partner is perceived as willing to invest in the
relationship, the disengager may feel guilty because he/she
did not desire to contribute further to the relationship.
However, the trust variable did not correlate significantly
with depression. Feelings of depression may be more
dependent upon levels of intimacy and the degree of love in
the relationship than upon perceptions of a partner's
willingness to compromise.
51

Contrary to expectations, the use of negative identity


management strategies correlated positively with staying
friends. It was originally expected that attempts to
negatively altercast the partner would hinder any possi-
bilities of continuing the relationship on a friendship
level. However, as noted earlier, disengagers who felt
constrained were more likely to use negative identity
management strategies. It seems probable that the sense
of freedom following the disengagement from a constraining
relationship would allow the disengager to maintain the
relationship at a lesser level of intensity provided the
partner is also willing.

Conclusion
The present study provides support for the claim that
relational variables influence disengagement strategy
selection. Although some of the correlations were smaller
than anticipated, the majority were in the predicted
directions. Generally, when a relationship is characterized
by higher levels of intimacy, trust and dyadic adjustment,
disengagers will select strategies which show concern for
the partner, offer possible reconciliation and provide
reasons for the disengagement. When the partner was
perceived as unwilling to compromise, disengagers selecfed
justification strategies, whereas when disengagers felt
constrained by the partner, they selected de-escalation,
52

justification and negative identity management strategies.


Relational variables also affect subsequent feelings.
Disengagers who felt constrained experienced greater
feelings of freedom and were less likely to experience
depression. When partners were perceived as willing to
compromise, the couple was more likely to remain friends
and the disengager was more likely to feel guilty.

The results also supported the claim that the choice


of disengagement strategy influenced subsequent feelings.
Positive tone and de-escalation strategies were positively
associated with staying friends and feelings of guilt.
Negative identity management correlated positively with
staying friends whereas justification correlated negatively
with staying friends.
The multiple regression analyses revealed that signi-
ficant portions of the variance in strategy selection were
accounted for by various combinations of trust, intimacy,
dyadic adjustment and the constrained construct. Also,
significant portions of the variance in the consequences of
disengagement were accounted for by the same relational
variables. The multiple regression analyses were performed
to determine if one or more linear combinations of the
independent variables significantly predicted the variance
in the dependent variables. However, the portions of
variance accounted for were small indicating that
53
other variables need to be investigated in order to
increase predictive abilities.

The measures of trust, unwillingness to compromise and


guilt used in the present study were problematic. It was
difficult to assess the effects of trust and unwillingness
to compromise because the variables were not independent
of each other. Furthermore, the items used to measure the'
consequences of disengagement may actually have measured
what the subjects felt during the disengagement process
rather than after the disengagement was complete (with the
exception of the amount of future contact). This may
account for the low correlations with depression which is
likely to be a long lasting effect.
We must concede that this study was based on recalled
instances of disengaging. Recall of how the breakup
occurred may be painted in ways which make the disengager
look better than he/she actually is by overestimating the
use of positive tone strategies. Ideally, future research
with sufficient time and resources may wish to employ a
longitudinal design that studies the growth, deterioration
and disengagement as a communication process. (See Hill,
Rubin and Peplau, 1976 and Simpson, 1982.)
Future research should investigate personality
variables which might affect strategy usage and subsequent
consequences. For example, a person with high self-esteem
might not use manipulative strategies because it woulc be
54

inconsistent with his/her self-image. Further, variables


such as locus of control, Machiavellianism and cognitive
complexity have been shown to influence communication
strategies (Cody, 1981) . Also, this study did not address
issues such as physical attraction and dominance within the
relationship. Although theoretically sound constructs from
social exchange were utilized, the constructs of comparison
level and comparison level for alternatives were not
assessed. It would also be interesting to determine how
the integrated social networks (mutual friendships) of
relational partners might affect strategy selection and
consequences.
Future consideration might be given to cultural
differences, as well as socio-economic and educational
differences. For example, an individual from a high socio-
economic background might be expected to select more
prosocial strategies than an individual from a low socio-
economic 'background who may not place as high a priority
on appearing socially adept. Finally, it would be more
conducive to accurate research if the perceptions of both
partners could be obtained. Because relational breakups
are characterized by two-sidedness, it would be interesting
to compare the reactions of the disengager with those of
the partner.
REFERENCES

Altman, I. and Taylor, D. A. Social penetration: the


development of interpersonal relationships. New York:
Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1973.

Baxter, L. A. Self-disclosure as a relationship


disengagement strategy: an exploratory investigation.
Human Communication Research, 1979, 5^, 215-222.
Baxter, L. A. Relationship closeness, relational intention
and disengagement strategies. Paper presented to
S.C.A., San Antonio, Texas, November, 19 79.
Baxter, L. A. and Philpott, J. Relational disengagement: a
process view. Paper presented to S.C.A., San Antonio,
Texas, November, 1980.
Baxter, L. A. and Philpott, J. Communicator age and sex
role orientation differences is preferred relationship
termination strategies. Paper presented to S.C.A.,
Anaheim, California, November, 1981.
Blau, P. Exchanqe and power in social life. New York:
John Wiley, 1964.
Bloom, B., Asher, S., and White, S. Marital disruption
stressor: a review and analysis. Psychological
Bulletin, 1978, 8_5, 867-894.
Cody, M. A typology of disengagement strategies and an
examination of the role intimacy, reactions to inequity
and relational problems play in strategy selection.
Paper presented to S.C.A., Ãnaheim, California,
November, 1981.
Fitzpatrick, M. A. and Winke, J. You always hurt the one
you love: strategies and tactics in interpersonal
conflict. Communication Quarterly, 1979, 3-11.
Foa, E. and Foa, V. Resource theory of social exchange, in
M.E. Roloff, Interpersonal communiation: the social
exchange approach. Beverly Hills: Sage Publications,
1981, pp. 52-56.
Hill, C. T., Rubin, Z. and Peplau, L. A. Breakups before
marriage: the end of 103 affairs. Journal of Social
Issues, 1976, 3^, 147-168.
55
56

Homans, G. Social behavior: Its elementary forms. New


York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1974.

Kelley, H. and Thibaut, J. Interpersonal relations: a


theory of interdependence. New York: John Wiley, 1978.
Kimmel, D. Relationship initiation and development: a
life span developmental approach, in R. L. Burgess and
T. L. Huston (Eds.) Social exchange in developing
relationships. New York: Academic Press, 1979,
pp. 351-377.

Larzelere, R. E. and Huston, T. L. The dyadic trust scale:


toward understanding interpersonal trust in close
relationships. Journal of Marriage and the Family,
1980, 595-605.

Levinger, G. A social exchange view on the dissolution of


pair relationships, in R. L. Burgess and T. L. Huston
(Eds.) Social exchange in developing relationships.
New York: Academic Press, 1979, pp. 169-191.
Levinger, G. Toward the analysis of close relationships.
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 1980, 16,
510-544.
Miller, B. C. A multivariate developmental model of marital
satisfaction. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 1976,
643-657.
Newman, H. M. and Langer, J. Post-divorce adaptationsand the
attribution of responsibility. Sex Roles, 1981, 1_,
223-232.
Roloff, M. E. Interpersonal communication: the social
exchange approach. Eeverly Hills: Sage Publications,
1981.
Ryder, R. G. Longitudinal data relating marriage
satisfaction and having a child. Journal of Marriage
and the Family, 1973, 604-606.
Simpson, T. A symbolic exchange framework for the develop-
ment of intimate relationships. Paper presented to
S.C.A., Anaheim, California, November, 1981.
Simpson, T. Premarital breakups and post-breakup adjustment:
a longitudinal study. Unpublished manuscript,
University of West Virginia, 1982.
57

Snyder, D. Multidimensional assessment of marital


satisfaction. Journal of Marriage and the Family,
1979, 813-823.
Spanier, G. B. Measuring dyadic adjustment: new scales
for assessing the quality of marriage and similar dyads.
Journal of Marriage and the Family, 1976, 15-28.

Spanier G. and Lachman, M. Factors associated with


adjustment to marital separation. Sociological Focus,
1980, n_, 369-381.
Stinnett, N. and Walters, J. Relationships in marriage and
family. New York: MacMillan, 1977.
Thornton, A. Children and marital stability. Journal of
Marriage and the Family, 1977, 531-540.
Walster, E., Walster, G., and Berscheid, E. Eguity: theory
and research. Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1978.
Weiss, R. Marital separation, New York: Basic Books,
1975, cited in T. Simpson, Pre-marital break-ups and
post-break-up adjustment: a longitudinal study.
Unpublished manuscript, University of West Virginia,
1982.
APPENDIX

DO NOT PUT YOUR NAME ON THIS QUESTIONNAIRE.


Dear Participant:
This questionnaire deals with how people "break
off" their dating relationships. Occasionally, due
to incompatibilities, conflicts, different desires
or interests or due to the fact that people move great
distances from each other, people will desire to
break off the relationships they have with person(s)
they date. We would like you to help us come to
understand how people break off relationships by
telling us how you perceived the relationship, why
you decided to break off the relationship, how you
went about breaking off the relationship, and how you
felt after breaking off the relationship.

To help us do this, please recall a relationship that


you were in where you decided to break off the
relationship. You can think of a relationship that
lasted any length of time, from one or several dates to
one that lasted several years.
With this relationship in mind, please answer the
following 4 parts of this questionnaire. All answers
are strictly confidential. Please read the
instructions for each part carefully and MAKE SURE THAT
YOU ANSWER EVERY QUESTION. Even if the relationship
you recall and report on only lasted one date, please
answer every guestion.
Part I. Perceptions of the relationship.
In this part, we will ask a number of quesrions dealing with
how you perceived the relationship. Please write the
appropriate answer in the blank space to the left of the
statement. Use the following numbers to indicate the extent
to which each statement was true for the relationship you
recalled:
If you Stronqly Agree, write 1 in the space provided,
If you Somewhat Agree, write 2 in the space provided,
If you Sliqhtly Aqree, write 3 in the space provided,
If you are Neutral, write 4 in the space provided,
If you Sliqhtly Disaqree, write 5 in the space provided,
If you Somewhat Disagree, write 6 in the space provided,
or If you Stronqly Disagree, write 7 in the space providei.

58
59
Again, make sure that you answer every item. Your honesty
_and coop^era_tioj\_ are very much appreciated.
1- The relationship was a very intimate one.
_2. I disclosed very intimate information about
myself to this partner.

_3. I yielded to the wishes of the partner and


compromised for the good of the relationship.
4. I expressed an interest in exclusively dating
the partner.

_5. I was emotionally attached to this partner.


_6. I made nearly all the decisions concerning the
relationship.
_7. My partner was extremely attractive.
_8. This partner and I shared many of the same
friends.
_9. My partner was extremely popular.
_10. In this relationship, I had nearly all the power.
11. Most of my closest friends knew this partner.
12. I controlled much of the behavior of my partner.
13. My partner was extremely desireable.
14. In this relationship, I found it easy to dominate
my partner.
15. My partner had many positive qualities.
16. This partner and I shared the same set of
acquaintances.
17. There were times when my partner could not be
trusted.
18. My partner was perfectly honest and truthful
with me.
19. I felt that I could trust my partner completely.
60

20. My partner was truly sincere in his/her promises


21. I felt that my partner did not show me enough
consideration.

22. My partner treated me fairly and justly.

Indicate the extent to which you and your partner agreed


or disagreed on:
23. Money matters Always Always
Disagreed IJJJJJJJ Agreed
7 6 5 4 3 2 1

24. Matters of Always Always


recreation Disagreed IJJJJJJJ Agreed
7 6 5 4 3 2 1
25. Religious Always Always
matters Disagreed IJJJJJJJ Agreed
7 6 5 4 3 2 1
26. D e m o n s t r a t i o n s of Always Always
Affection D i s a g r e e d /JJJJJJJ Agreed
7 6 5 4 3 2 1

27. Friends Always Always


Disagreed IJ J JJ JJ J Agreed
7 6 5 4 3 2 1

28. Sex relations Always Always


Disagreed IJJJJJJJ Agreed
7 6 5 4 3 2 1

29. Conventionality Always , , , , , , , , ^^"^^^^


(correct or proper Disagreed /JJJJJJJ Agreed
behavior) 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
30. Philosophy of life Always , , , , , , , . ^^""^^^
(mine or his/hers) Disagreed /JJJJJJJ Agreed
7 6 5 4 3 2 1

31. Ways of dealing Alwavs Always


WaVS o r u t í c i J . x i i y rtxwci_/o , , , , , , , ^ j
„ i t h parents Disagreed I I I J J l • I Agreed
7 D b 4 J z i

32. Aims: goals: things Always . . . , . , / / ^^^^^^


believed important Disagreed / / / /J /J ' Agree.
7 6 5 4 J 2 ...
61

33. Amount of time Always Always


spent together Disagreed /JJJJJJJ Agreed
7 6 5 4 3 2 1
34. Making major Always Always
decisions Disagreed /JJJJJJJ Agreed
7 6 5 4 3 2 1
PLEASE MAKE SURE THAT YOU HAVE ANSWERED EVERY ITEM. THANK
YOU.

Use the following scale for the next 16 questions:


Write 7 if your answer to the question is ALL THE TIME.
Write 6 if your answer to the question is VERY
FREQUENTLY.
Write 5 if your answer to the question is FREQUENTLY.
Write 4 if your answer to the question is MUCH OF THE
TIME.
Write 3 if your answer to the question is OCCASIONALLY.
Write 2 if your answer to the question is RARELY.
Write 1 if your answer to the question is NEVER.
35. How often did you consider separation or
terminating the relationship?
36. How often did you or your partner fight?
37. In general, how often did you think things between
you and your partner were going well?
38. Did you confide in your partner?
39. Did you ever regret that you dated?
40. How often did you and your partner quarrel?
41. How often did you and your partner "get on each
other's nerves"?
42. Did you and your partner engage in outside
interests together?
43. Did you and your partner have a stimulating
exchange of ideas?
44. Did you and your partner laugh together?
45. Did you and your partner calmly discuss thmgs?
62
46. Did you and your partner work together on
projects?

47. Did you and your partner kiss each other?

48. Did you express how much you cared for each other'
_49. Did you show how much you liked each other?
50. Did you show affection for each other?

Part II. Causes precipitating the break up.


How important were each of the following reasons in deciding
to break off this relationship? Use the following to
report your answers:
If you Strongly Agree, write 1 in the space provided,
If you Somewhat Agree, write 2 in the space provided,
If you Slighlty Agree, write 3 in the space provided,
If you are Neutral, write 4 in the space provided,
If you Slightly Disagree, write 5 in the space
provided,
If you Somewhat Disagree, write 6 in the space
provided,
If you Strongly Disagree, write 7 in the space
provided.
1. I realized that he/she had too many faults
(personality and/or otherwise).
2. I realized he/she was unwilling to make enough
contributions into the relationship.
3. I simply felt that the relationship was beginning
to constrain me and I felt a lack of freedom.
4. I wanted to date another (others) who had more to
offer.
5. I felt his/her personality was incompatible with
mine.
PLEASE MAKE SURE THAT YOU HAVE ANSWERED EVERY QUESTION.
THANK YOU.
6. I felt that he/she no longer behaved towards me
as romantically as he/she once did.

7. The partner made too many contributions and I


started to feel suffocated.
63
,8. I knew I could never fall "in love" with him/her,
so I wanted to date another (others).

I felt that he/she was too demanding.


10 I felt that he/she took me for granted.

11* I felt that he/she was becoming too possesive of


me.
12. I wanted to start seeing another (others) who
was (were) more desireable.
13. The partner behaved in ways that embarrassed me.
14. I felt that he/she wasn't ready to maké the
necessary commitments to a serious relationship.
15. I felt the partner wanted more out of the
relationship than I wanted to give.
16. I wanted to start seeing another (others) who
was (were) more attractive.
17. The partner's behaviors and/or personality was
more to blame for the break up than anything else
18. I made many more investments to the relationship
than my partner.
19. My partner wanted a more serious relationship
than I did.
20. I wanted to start seeing another (others) who was
(were) more popular.
We have tried to provide a number of reasons that may have
led up to the break up. If you felt there were reasons for
why you broke up that we didn't list, please take the
opportunity to state these reasons in the space provided
for below. Thank you. (Use the back of this page if you
want more space.)
64
Part III. How the break up was executed.

People use a number of ways to break off the relationships


they have. Some people break off relationships by never
seeing the partner again, never returning phone calls,
avoiding the person, etc. Others tell their partners of
their desires to break up or to see less of each other.
Some examples are:

"I'm going to date others and I think you should also," OR


"I'm really changing inside and I don't feel good about
our relationship anymore. I think we'd better stop seeing
so much of each other," OR

"It is unfair on my part and would be unfair to you to


continue this relationship if one of us had to fake it. I
care a great deal about you but I don't feel as strongly
as I used to. I think it would be wise if we stopped
seeing quite so much of each other."

Instructions for this part of the questionnaire continue


to the next page. Thank you!

On occasion, people may use several tactics over a period


of time. For example, you may have decided to break off the
relationship at (say) midterm—at which time you tried to
avoid seeing the partner or reduced contact with the
partner without having said anything to him/her. Later,
you may have said something like:

"Don't you think we are too young for a serious relation-


ship? I think what would be best for me is that we see
other people and date around and then see if we wanted to
be together."
Still later the partner may not have dated others and
continued to call you frequently. Then, as a third tactic
you may have said something like:
"Look, I don't want you to bother me anymore. You annoy me.
We made a decision...."
WE WOULD BE VERY APPRECIATIVE IF YOU REPORTED EACH STEP YOU
USED TO BREAK OFF THE RELATIONSHIP (IF YOU USED MORE THAN
ONE STEP).
65

In the space provided for below, please write, as best as


you can remember, the process you went through to break off
this relationship. TRY TO BE AS ACCURATE AND COMPLETE AS
YOU CAN WHEN REPORTING WHAT YOU DID AND/OR SAID. (NOTE: If
you said nothing to the partner when you broke off the
relationship, simply write that you avoided the partner, or
report how you went about trying to discourage future
interactions. We appreciate your effortl)

Another way to analyze messages people use is to have them


rate the degree to which they used certain message elements
or tactics in the messages they employed. The following
set of questions represent statements that you could have
made when you requested to break off the relationship with
the partner (or used to discourage future interactions with
the partner). For each statement, think about whether you
had made a statement similar to the one in the question'
and mark an X in the appropriate category for the 7-point
scale.
1. I told him/her that I was very, very sorry about
breaking off the relationship.
I never did/said I definitely did/
this / / / / / / / / said this to my
partner
2. I told him/her that I was going to date other people
and that I though he/she should date others also.
I never did/said 1 definitely did/
this / / / / / / / / ^^^^ ^^^^ ^° ^^
partner
3. I fully explained why I felt dissatisfied with the
relationship, that it hasn't been growing and that I
believe we will both be happier if we didn't date
anymore.

I never did/said ^ ^ 1 '^fl^^"''l^ ^^^^


this / / /_/_/_/_/—/ ^^^^ -^^^ ^° "^^
partner
4. I told him/her that there should be mutual love and
understanding in a relationship and that at the moment
I didn't feel as close as I should. I then said that I
66

think we should lay off awhile and see if we wanted to


get back together. If we wanted to get back together,
we wi11.

I never did/said I definitely did/


this / / / / / / / / said this to my
partner
5. I didn't say anything to the partner, I avoided contact
with him/her as much as possible.

I never did/said I definitely did/


this / / / / / / / / said this to my
partner
6. I told him/her that I regretted very much having to
break off the relationship.
I never did/said I definitely did/
this / / / / / / / / said this to my
partner
7. I told him/her that life was too short and that we
should date other people in order to enjoy life.
I never did/said I definitely did/
this / / / / / / / / said this to my
partner
8. Without explaining my intentions to break off the
relationship, I avoided scheduling future meetings with
him/her.
I never did/said I definitely did/
this / / / / / / / / said this to my
partner
9. I told him/her that I cared very, very much for him/her.
I never did/said I definitely did/
this / / / / / / / / said this to my
partner
10. I fully explained how I felt and that I wanted to break
things off. I explained that a relationship was no
good unless it makes both people happy and that I
wasn't happy and that I didn't want to date anymore.
I never did/said I definitely did/
this / / / / / / / / said this to my
partner
PLEASE MAKE SURE THAT YOU HAVE ANSWERED EVERY ITEM. THANK
YOU.
67
11. I said that I was really changing inside and I didn't
quite feel good about our relationship anymore. I
said that we'd better stop seeing each other.

I never did/said I definitely did/


^^^^ I—lU_/_/_/U_/ said this to my
partner
12. I told him/her that I needed to be honest with him/her
and suggested that we break it off for awhile and see
what happens.

I never did/said I definitely did/


^^^2 /—/_/_/_/__/_/_/ said this to my
partner
13. I never verbally said anything to the partner, but I
discouraged our seeing each other again.
I never did/said I definitelv did/
this / /_/ /_/_/_/_/ said this tô my
partner
14. I told him/her that I wanted to be happy and that we
should date other people.

I never did/said I definitely did/


this / / / / / / / / said this to my
partner
15. I told him/her that while I was happy most of the time
I sometimes feltthat I can't do all the things I
wanted to. I then said that we should call it quits
for now and if we still wanted to get back together
we wi11.
I never did/said I definitely did/
this / / / / / / / / said this to my
partner
Part IV. Consequences of the break up.
How did you feel about the break up during the time
immediately after the breakup? For the following 15
questions,
Write 1 in the space provided if you Strongly Agree
with the statement,
Write 2 if you Somewhat Agree,
Write 3 if you Slightly Agree,
Write 4 if you are Neutral or are Undecided,
58
Write 5 if you Slightly Disagree,
Write 6 if you Somewhat Disagree, OR
Write 7 if you Stronqly Disagree.
_1. I felt extremely guilty.
_2. I felt extremely lonely.
_3. I felt extremely angry.
_4. I felt extremely free.

5. My partner and I continued to see each other


frequently.

6. 1 felt very much as if I had done the wrong thing.


7. I felt extremely depressed.
8. I felt verv mad.
9. I felt I could do all the things I want to do, but
couldn't do while dating this partner.
10. My partner and I remained close after the breakup.
11. I felt as if I should have been more honest and
open with the partner.
12. I felt extremely unhappy.
13. I felt very revengeful (wanted revenge).
14. I felt I was no longer tied down or constrained.
15. My partner and I still spent some time together.

Are you a Male or Female (Circle one)


How long did you and this partner date? (Try to answer in
numbers of weeks. If one date, answer "1".)