The Development of Trust and Commitment among Sexual Partners in Tanzania: The Roles of Social Exchange and Identity

Megan Klein Hattori, Brown University

How do young adults form trusting and committed relationships when the potential costs of a partner breaking one’s trust and commitment include the possibility of HIV infection along with the emotional and psychological costs? In sub-Saharan Africa, individuals must manage their risk of infection, along with the emotional and psychological risks, while they search for a spouse. This paper begins by recognizing the contribution of exchange theories in explaining sexual relations, yet suggests that additional insight can be found by diversifying the theoretical models used. I use data from a household-based survey of 816 youth in relationships in Tanzania to test the fit of three theoretical models—equity, investment and identity— in explaining the development of trust and commitment. While all three theories offer insight into sexual relationships, the data are most consistent with the identity theory model for the development of trust and commitment among young adults in Tanzania.

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Presented in Session 9: Sexual and Romantic Relationships