Knapp's Model of Interaction Stages

Knapp's Model of Interaction Stages
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  • 0:01 Knapp's Relationship Model
  • 0:50 Relationship Escalation Model
  • 3:42 Knapp's Relationship…
  • 6:12 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jade Mazarin

Jade is a board certified Christian counselor with an MA in Marriage and Family Therapy, and a certification in Natural Health. She is also a freelance writer on emotional health and spirituality.

All relationships have a similar framework in how they develop and end. Professor Mark Knapp studied this pattern and outlined ten stages that explain it.

Knapp's Relationship Model

We have all different types of relationships in our lives: friendships, romantic relationships, family relationships, and those we have with our coworkers. While each of these relationships have varied features, they also have a basic framework in common. Specifically, each of these relationships follow a similar pattern in how they are formed, how they are maintained, and then how they end, for those that do.

Mark Knapp, a professor at the University of Texas, studied the pattern of relationships and outlined ten steps to describe it. Five of these steps refer to the creation of relationships and five refer to its ending. This theory of relationship development and dissolution is referred to as both Knapp's relationship model and Knapp's model of interaction.

Relationship Escalation Model

Knapp described five stages that people progress through as they develop any kind relationship, whether it be a romantic or friend-based one. These five stages make up the first half of his theory, the relationship escalation model. The stages include initiation, experimentation, intensifying, integration, and bonding.

Meet Bill and Rosie. Let's follow them as they proceed to move through Knapp's five stages of relationship development and then through his five stages of termination.


Rosie has just shown up at a restaurant to meet her blind date, Bill. They greet each other, observe each other's appearance, and spend the next two hours talking about their jobs, families, and interests. This initial period of meeting and getting to know one another is referred to as initiation. According to Knapp, the focus of this stage is meeting and making a positive impression. Both Bill and Rosie put a great deal of effort into looking nice. As they spoke, they tried to present themselves as successful, funny, and kind people.


Rosie and Bill continue to see each other. They've been getting together sometime each week, going out to dinner and going to events together. They are learning more about each other's personality and seeing if they share enough interests and values. Bill and Rosie are in the experimentation stage, which means they are taking time to get to know each other in order to see if they should move forward in their relationship.


Rosie and Bill have just entered a committed relationship. They are intentionally nurturing their relationship and have decided to not see anyone else. They have been sharing more personal information with each other like details about their family issues and past mistakes. This stage is called intensifying and describes the beginning of relational and emotional investment.


It is clear that Rosie and Bill are in love with each other and interested in their future together. They are with each other every day and they are discussing plans for marriage and family. Bill is secretly planning on proposing to Rosie next month. During this stage of integration, the couple has reached a deep level of commitment and emotional investment.


It's Rosie and Bill's wedding day. They have developed the utmost closeness and are committing to each other in front of friends and family in a connection that is not easily broken. This is the time in their relationship that displays bonding, or a public display of legal commitment that can only be broken by a formal agreement.

Knapp's Relationship Termination Model

The rest of Bill and Rosie's story describes the second half of Knapp's model of interaction, the relationship termination model. Just as he proposed five stages of relationship development, he also outlined five stages of relationship dissolution, when the relationship breaks down. These stages include differentiating, circumscribing, stagnation, avoidance, and terminating.


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