Three dimensions of relationship commitment, differential effects on the development and maintenance of interorganizational exchange relations

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Hassay, Derek Nicholas
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Relationship marketing is a paradigm shift that has altered the focus of both marketing practice and theory (Morgan and Hunt 1994), and is defined as the set of marketing activities directed at the establishment, development, and maintenance of successful relational exchanges (Morgan and Hunt 1994). The current thesis makes a number of contributions to the study of relationship marketing. First, the thesis introduced Allen and Meyer's (1990) three-dimensional conceptualization of organizational commitment to the study of commitment in marketing relationships. It was believed that the affective (AC), continuance (CC) and normative (NC) dimensions of commitment (Allen and Meyer 1990) represented a substantial improvement over unidimensional measures of commitment. In particular, it was believed that disaggregating the commitment construct would address some of the problems reported in previous studies of commitment (e.g., poor explanatory power). To test this assumption a multi-component model of relationship commitment was developed and tested. Second, the proposed model of relationship commitment was developed from an extensive literature review that incorporated constructs from a variety of disciplines (e.g., loyalty, identification, attachment). Thus, this model attempted to address appeals for a "systematic conceptualization of commitment that can be applied across domains" (Meyer, Allen and Smith 1993). Third, the proposed model of relationship commitment expanded the ' Key Mediating Variable' (KMV) model of relationship commitment (Morgan and Hunt 1994) to include antecedents and consequences specific to AC, CC and NC. Finally, the test of the proposed (multidimensional) and rival models of relationship commitment was conducted in a research context unique to the literature--the independent sales contractors (ISCs) involved in multilevel marketing (MLM). Specifically, the respondent sample was composed of 447 ISCs from five MLM plans. LISREL analysis revealed that the proposed model represented a better fit to the sample data than the rival model demonstrating that the three-dimensional conceptualization of commitment can be extended to the study of interorganizational relationships. However, the thesis also provided insight into the mechanisms responsible for the development and maintenance of exchange relationships. For example, there was evidence to suggest that commitment can be influenced by relationship stage-effects.