Encyclopedia of Couple and Family Therapy

2019 Edition
| Editors: Jay L. Lebow, Anthony L. Chambers, Douglas C. Breunlin

Behavior Exchange Theory

  • Kathleen A. EldridgeEmail author
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-49425-8_103

Name of Theory

Behavior exchange theory


Social Exchange Theory


Behavior exchange theory is a set of ideas designed to explain the formation, maintenance, and dissolution of close relationships. The basic principles of behavior exchange theory are that (a) close relationships are characterized by interdependent interpersonal transactions (behavioral exchanges) between people, (b) these exchanges provide rewards and costs for each person, and (c) people weigh the ratio of rewards and costs against alternative relationships to determine whether to continue or dissolve the relationship. Based on these ideas, it follows that satisfying and stable relationships will contain behavioral exchanges marked by favorable reward-cost ratios for each member of the relationship. Although behavior exchange theory has been of interest across multiple disciplines, this entry will emphasize the aspects most pertinent to couple and family therapy.

Prominent Associated Figures


This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. Azrin, N. H., Naster, B. J., & Jones, R. (1973). Reciprocity counseling: A rapid learning-based procedure for marital counseling. Behavior Research and Therapy, 11, 365–382.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Birchler, G. R., Weiss, R. L., & Vincent, J. P. (1975). Multimethod analysis of social reinforcement exchange between martially distressed and nondistressed spouse and stranger dyads. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 31, 349–360.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Blau, P. M. (1964). Exchange and power in social life. New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  4. Epstein, N. B., & Baucom, D. H. (2002). Enhanced cognitive-behavioral therapy for couples. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.Google Scholar
  5. Forgatch, M. S., & Patterson, G. R. (2010). Parent management training – Oregon model: An intervention for antisocial behavior in children and adolescents. In J. R. Weisz & A. E. Kazdin (Eds.), Evidence-based psychotherapies or children and adolescents (2nd ed., pp. 159–177). New York: Guildford Press.Google Scholar
  6. Gergen, K. (1969). The psychology of behavior exchange. Reading: Addison-Wesley.Google Scholar
  7. Gottman, J. M. (1999). The marriage clinic. New York: Norton.Google Scholar
  8. Gottman, J. M. (2011). The science of trust: Emotional attunement for couples. New York: W.W. Norton.Google Scholar
  9. Gottman, J. M., & Levenson, R. W. (1986). Assessing the role of emotion in marriage. Behavioral Assessment, 8, 31–48.Google Scholar
  10. Gottman, J. M., Notarius, C. I., Markman, H. J., Bank, S., Yoppi, B., & Rubin, M. E. (1976). Behavior exchange theory and marital decision-making. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 34, 14–23.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Homans, G. C. (1961). Social behavior: Its elementary forms. New York: Harcourt, Brace & World.Google Scholar
  12. Jacobson, N. D., & Christensen, A. (1998). Acceptance and change in couple therapy. New York: W.W. Norton.Google Scholar
  13. Jacobson, N. D., & Margolin, G. (1979). Marital therapy: Strategies based on social learning and behavior exchange principles. New York: Brunner/Mazel.Google Scholar
  14. Markman, H., Stanley, S., & Blumberg, S. L. (2010). Fighting for your marriage (3rd ed.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
  15. Patterson, G. R., & Reid, J. B. (1970). Reciprocity and coercion: Two facets of social systems. In C. Neuringer & J. L. Michael (Eds.), Behavior modification in clinical psychology (pp. 133–177). New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts.Google Scholar
  16. Stuart, R. (1969). Operant-interpersonal treatment for marital discord. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 33, 675–682.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  17. Stuart, R. (1980). Helping couples change: A social learning approach to marital therapy. Champaign: Research Press.Google Scholar
  18. Thibaut, J. W., & Kelley, H. H. (1959). The social psychology of groups. New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  19. Weiss, R. L., Hops, H., & Patterson, G. R. (1973). A framework for conceptualizing marital conflict, a technology for altering it, some data for evaluating it. In L. A. Hamerlynck, L. C. Handy, & E. J. Mash (Eds.), Behavior change: Methodology, concepts, and practice. Champaign: Research Press.Google Scholar
  20. Wills, T. A., Weiss, R. L., & Patterson, G. R. (1974). Spouse observation checklist. Princeton: Educational Testing Service.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Graduate School of Education and Psychology, Pepperdine UniversityLos AngelesUSA

Section editors and affiliations

  • Brian Baucom
    • 1
  1. 1.University of UtahSalt Lake CityUSA