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Knapp's relational development model

Knapp's relational development model views relationship development as a ten step process, broken into two phases. According to the Knapp's model, all of the steps must be done one-at-a-time and in order to make sure they are effective. Compared to DeVito's 5 stage model of relational development, Knapp's model is far more prescriptive and detailed, but also presupposes that the relationship will ultimately dissolve as evident in the five "coming apart" stages that make up the second half of the model.

Initiation is the very first stage when the individuals make their first impressions on each other. Physical appearance often plays a big role in this stage when it comes to forming first impressions.

Experimentation is the second stage; this is when individuals begin to engage in self-disclosure to learn information about each other. The individuals use this stage to explore and get a feel for the relationship as well as one another.

During the intensifying stage of Knapp's model, the two individuals will continue experimentations to determine whether there is mutual emotional affection and attachment. Whereas in the previous experimentation phase, conversation focused more on superficial topics such as discovering shared areas of interest and commonalities, in the intensifying stage the level of self-disclosure deepens. The breadth of topics discussed broadens and the depth in which each individual feels comfortable discussing those topics with the other becomes intimate and personal.

In this stage, certain behaviors such as increasing one on one contact through more frequent communication (through face to face encounters, text, or phone calls), doing favors for a partner or offering gifts as tokens of affection, requesting commitment from a partner through direct definitional bid, personalized verbal expressions of affection such as "I love you" or assigning pet names such as "babe," and suggestive actions such as flirtation, gazing, or touching may all emerge as methods of intensifying the connection between the two people.

Essential to the intensifying stage are "secret tests" performed by each individual to ascertain whether his or her overtures are actually helpful in their intensification efforts. These tests most often manifest themselves through:

While all five of these methods are common methods of testing intensification efforts, it's important to note that endurance, separation, and triangle-tests are generally the least constructive, and can even be destructive when it comes to building the relationship.

Once each individual feels confident, through their various intensification efforts, that mutual affection has been confirmed, the couple may begin to transition into the integration stage of their relationship. In addition to bonding, the integration stage makes up maintenance stage of a relationship. During this stage, the couple is fused and elements of their individual social identity, such as friends, belongings, and living spaces are now shared. Additionally, the exclusive commitment each partner has for the other is generally solidified in this stage through even deeper self-disclosure and revealing of secrets, sex, and discussion of future plans.

  • Endurance, in which a partner is placed in an unpleasant, inconvenient, or uncomfortable situation or respond to certain requests to determine his or her commitment to the relationship.
  • Public presentation during which a partner is introduced under a particular label such as "boyfriend" or "girlfriend" to see if they are comfortable with being identified in this manner.
  • Separation, which tests whether communication and feelings of affection will continue despite an inability to physically be together.
  • Third-party questioning, where one partner may attempt to find out the hidden feelings of the interested party indirectly by asking a friend to probe the person of interest for indication as to their depth of feeling and affection.
  • Triangle tests, in which one partner sees if they can elicit jealousy from the other partner when another person expresses interest in the person concocting the test.


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