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J Pers Soc Psychol. 2001 Dec;81(6):1042-57.

Substituting the forest for the trees: social networks and the prediction of romantic relationship state and fate.

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  • 1Department of Psychological Sciences, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana 47907-1364, USA.


This research focused on perceptions held by heterosexual couples' friendship network concerning the couple's relationship. In a three-wave longitudinal study, we examined (a) whether these perceptions were similar to the couple's views of the relationship, (b) whether they predicted current relationship state and future fate, and (c) how they compared with the couple's perceptions in predicting fate. Consistent with within-dyad idealization, results from a North American sample indicated that network perceptions of relationship state were significantly more negative than those held by a couple. Although both the couples' and the total networks' perceptions predicted fate, friends of the female couple member were particularly successful at predicting relationship dissolution. An examination of possible mechanisms whereby friends may come to possess particularly predictive perceptions supported the role of couple-disclosure in this process.

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