Social comparison of romantic relationships: The influence of family, friends, and media
The purpose of these studies was to gain understanding of multiple facets of relationship social comparison. Study 1 (N = 304) utilized a longitudinal survey design to determine 1) the relative importance to one's own relationship of social comparisons to the relationships of family members, friends, and media portrayals of romantic relationships; and 2) the impact of comparisons to relationships of higher or lower quality on outcomes of relationship quality and stability at a follow-up three months later. No differences emerged in the impact of comparisons to family members, friends, or media portrayals on participants' evaluations of their own romantic relationships. Evidence was found for a detrimental effect of upward comparisons, with participants making upward comparisons experiencing lower relationship quality and a higher rate of break-up than those making downward comparisons. Study 2 (N = 221) used an experimental design to explore the effects of a forced upward or downward comparison to media portrayals of relationships on the outcome of perceived relationship quality. No significant differences in relationship quality were found between those assigned to view and evaluate positive versus negative media portrayals of romantic relationships, although participants who judged the media portrayal relationships more negatively did experience a bolstering effect on their own relationship satisfaction.