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Maintenance behaviors play an important role in sustaining relational states, especially within committed romantic relationships. Limited research, however, has considered media portrayals of these behaviors. From the framework of social cognitive theory, this content analysis examined relational maintenance behaviors portrayed by committed romantic couples (heterosexual, gay, and lesbian) on prime-time network television. The frequency of maintenance behaviors (positivity, understanding, self-disclosure, assurances, relationships talks, tasks, and networks) varied by type, valence, program genre, and couple type (married=civil union or cohabitating). Results indicated that comedies featured more frequent relationship maintenance behaviors than dramas. In addition, comedies exhibited more frequent negative maintenance behaviors than dramas. Differences also existed between couple regarding the types of maintenance behavior exhibited. No sex differences in maintenance behaviors were observed between male and female characters.


Originally published in Mass Communication and Society, Volume 17, 2014 - Issue 5.