I am working on a project to try and come up with (either by finding it or creating it) a system for categorizing human relationships in a purely descriptive sense.
Previous attempts to classify or categorize human relationships have mostly focused on the personality of the individual, rather than the objective, observable details that make one relationship different from another. (See Bowlby 1969 & 1973, Ainsworth et al. 1978, Bretherton & Waters 1985, Hazan & Shaver 1987). However, some have attempted to address these more descriptive differences. (See Kelley et al. 1983, Hendrick & Hendrick 1986) But those focused solely on romantic or sexual relationships.
One of the best attempts on the subject that I have found is Kayser, Schwinger, & Cohen (1984) which examined loving relationships, friendships, and work relationships separately.
Foa and Foa’s “Resource Theory” developed in the early 1990’s has a lot of promise, and I may start there. (The theory is that we fundamentally exchange 6 types of resources: love, status, service, information, goods, money. These types of resources vary by the degree of their concreteness/abstractness and by the degree of their unversalisticness/particularlisticness. If a type of resource is universalistic, it means that it maintains the same value regardless who the giver is. Likewise, it is considered as particularlistic if its value depends on who gave the resource.)
Many of these relationship models fail to consider a broader view of relationships. While the discussion of the exchange of status and service in the context of a romantic relationship can be easily tweaked to address D/s dynamics, but the question of an open vs closed relationship is somewhat more difficult to address, especially when love is considered a resource/commodotiy, and therefore is finite or zero-sum like goods or money.
Previous research aside, I am bouncing back and forth between how an categorization system should be approached. Should it be taxonomic (like how we organize species of lifeforms) or should it be more like computer specs, with each feature being independent of each other one?
I would be curious to know if any readers have ideas? Either for places to go for research or an idea for how to approach the problem? I’ll probably be working on this for a while.