RQ lacks a commonly agreed definition and metric . However, there is some consensus in defining it as the overall strength of a relationship and the extent to which it fits the parties' wants and expectations . In terms of RQ measurements, the current study uses the conceptualizations of RQ developed by Morgan and Hunt  and Crosby et al. . According to Crosby et al. , RQ is a high-order concept with two dimensions: trust and satisfaction. In their commitment-trust hypothesis, Morgan and Hunt  claim that trust and commitment are two primary constructs for gauging RQ. Numerous studies on RQ have integrated these two research viewpoints and conceptualized RQ as a second-order construct with commitment, trust, and satisfaction as dimensions, drawing on these two seminal articles and acknowledging the essential role of trust, commitment, and satisfaction in strengthening RQ [5, 37, 55, 62, 64]. However, according to these authors, the operationalization of RQ as a higher-order construct is intensely impacted by the context of the research.
Given the above investigations, this study conceptualizes RQ, with regard to group lending, as “the general strength of a relationship and the extent to which it meets the needs and expectations of the group members.” Furthermore, it asserts that RQ is a higher-order construct comprised of three independent but linked components: commitment, trust, and satisfaction. This implies that high levels of RQ between group members are reflected by high levels of relationship commitment, trust, and satisfaction. These three dimensions have also been broadly studied and considered as the building blocks of RQ [37, 55, 62, 64]. This conceptualization corresponds well with the most appropriate settings for RQ and its long-term and predominantly interpersonal nature [17, 44]. It is also suitable to the context of group lending in the microfinance industry.
Research model and hypotheses
The research model that was developed and tested in the current study is depicted in Fig. 1. It explains group loan repayment in a group lending context. Based on Crosby et al.  and Morgan and Hunt , conceptualizations of the RQ construct, commitment, trust and satisfaction are the assumed antecedents of RQ in the context of group lending in the microfinance industry. These three dimensions are the most widely used components of RQ in prior studies [58, 62, 64] and have been referred to as the building blocks of relationship quality . Furthermore, as mentioned earlier, group lending involves a high level of interpersonal interaction and social bonds, and relationships between individual group borrowers are considered important for group loan repayment [16, 49, 51]. Accordingly, the research model considers RQ as a second-order construct and its individual dimensions, namely commitment, trust and satisfaction as predictors of group loan repayment. The sub-sections that follow develop the support for these relationships and propose research hypotheses.
Relationship commitment and RQ
Relationship commitment has been defined as an exchange partner believing that a continuing relationship with another is so vital as to demand maximum efforts at preserving it; that is, the committed party believes the relationship is worth working on to ensure that it persists indefinitely . Relationship commitment, according to these authors, is crucial to RQ. According to Berry and Parasuraman , relationships are created on the foundation of mutual commitment. Wisker  and Yeo and Lai  agree that commitment is an important aspect of RQ. One of the most frequently researched primary drivers of RQ is relationship commitment .
Commitment in the context of group lending can be considered as the individual group members' firm and constant motivation to preserve a valued connection with one another. It is the desire to maintain contact with group members in order to achieve similar goals such as group loan repayment and access to future loans. As a result, a committed group member is expected to repay his or her portion of the group loan in order to maintain good relationships with other members of the group. Based on the preceding results and reasoning, it is possible to hypothesize:
Relationship commitment between individual group borrowers is positively related to RQ.
Trust and RQ
Trust exists when one party has faith in an exchange partner's dependability and honesty [44, 56]. These authors argue that trust is important to all relational exchanges because partnerships marked by trust are so highly valued that parties will want to commit to such relationships. Trust is an important component in the establishment, stability, and maintenance of long-term quality relationships, and it is linked to faith in the partner's integrity and dependability [44, 57]. A relationship that lacks trust, according to Muafi , is unlikely to be recognized as high quality. As a result, trust is regarded as an important characteristic of the RQ construct in all sectors and a necessary component of a long-term connection. In trade partnerships, trust is a critical characteristic that improves cooperation while decreasing opportunistic behavior and uncertainty .
In the context of group lending, trust can be considered as the ability and willingness of individual group members to rely on one another's integrity and behavior in order for all group members' long-term expectations to be satisfied. In other words, trust is the readiness of individual group members to be susceptible to one another's activities based on the expectation that each member of the group can be depended on to fulfill his or her commitments, regardless of the ability to monitor or control one another. A trustworthy group member is regarded to be credible, benevolent, and honest, and hence unlikely to do anything damaging to the other members of the group, resulting in a high level of RQ inside the group. Interpersonal trust between individual group members was found to have a good effect on borrowing as a group [32, 49, 51]. Given the preceding research and arguments, the current study considers trust to be vital in the relationships of group members and puts trust as an important concept in measuring RQ. As a result, the following hypothesis is proposed:
Trust between individual group borrowers is positively related to RQ.
Satisfaction and RQ
Satisfaction is a concept that refers to the perceived gap between prior expectations and actual profits (from an economic standpoint) or an emotional reaction to the overall working relationship with the channel partner (from a non-economic standpoint) [17, 56]. It is positively related to the continuity of long-term partnerships and adversely related to relationship disputes . As a result, relationship satisfaction can be considered as a measure of a partnership's success. In the context of joint liability group lending, satisfaction can be defined as a group member's overall assessment of all outcomes of his or her working relationships with other group members, including social and economic outcomes. Individual group members' history of positive interaction is a primary source of relationship pleasure [46, 49], and group members' best assurance of future performance is a continuous history of individualized, error-free engagement . The construct of satisfaction is regarded as an important dimension of RQ in exchange relationships [7, 53, 62, 64], and it is also one of the most widely studied key determinants in RQ studies . As a result, the following hypothesis is proposed:
Relationship satisfaction between individual group members is positively related to RQ.
RQ and group loan repayment
Past investigations have discovered a strong positive relationship between RQ and customer loyalty [5, 6, 42], and financial performance [17, 52]. RQ has also been found to reduce opportunism and conflict inherent in relationships [27, 52]. In other words, opportunism is negatively associated with trust, satisfaction, and commitment . In the context of group lending, opportunistic behavior may include a group member’s failure to perform as per group loan contract specifications by depending on fellow group members to repay the group loan on their behalf, investing in risky projects, or withholding strategic information. These opportunistic behaviors induce moral hazard, which in turn affects negatively group loan repayment . Further, interpersonal trust, one of the building blocks of RQ, has been found to influence positively group loan repayment . Similarly, Cassar et al. , Pellegrina et al. , and Postelnicu et al.  indicate that relational social capital in terms of interpersonal trust between individual group members is more essential for group loan repayment than other elements of social capital. Hence, building and maintaining positive relationships between individual group members may be vital to the success of group lending. Therefore, RQ between individual group members is expected to improve group loan repayment. Accordingly, this study hypothesizes that:
RQ between individual group members is positively related to group loan repayment.
Accordingly, at the dimensional level, it can be hypothesized that:
Relationship commitment between individual group members is positively related to group loan repayment.
Trust between individual group members is positively related to group loan repayment.
Relationship satisfaction between individual group members is positively related to group loan repayment.