Complaint expression in close relationships: A dependence power perspective

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

5 Scopus citations


Power has been identified as one of the defining features of human relationships (Russell, 1938; Kelley & Thibaut, 1978). While power permeates all interpersonal encounters to a greater or lesser degree (Burgoon & Hale, 1984; Dillard et al, 1996), the experience of conflict brings power to the forefront as a factor shaping communicators’ decisions to communicate - or not - about problematic issues. The chilling effect (Roloff & Cloven, 1990) refers to the way in which a partner’s relational power may encourage individuals to avoid communication about sensitive relational topics, such as complaints about a partner’s behavior. When a partner is particularly powerful, individuals may fear that expressing complaints to that partner may lead to negative consequences such as physical or verbal punishment (Cloven & Roloff, 1993). While power may be defined by a partner’s ability to mete out punishment (Cloven & Roloff, 1993), power in intimate relationships may also take more subtle forms. To cast the issue in the form of a popular idiom, relational power consists in both “sticks” (punitive behaviors) and “carrots” (providing a partner with access to valued resources). The potential for coercive behavior gives rise to punitive power, while the ability to withhold valued resources gives rise to dependence power (Lawler & Bacharach, 1987). This chapter considers dependence power arising from relational dependence - that is, partners’ dependence on one another for such resources as affection, belonging, sex, finances, and social opportunities that are available only through continued association with that partner.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationCommunicating Interpersonal Conflict in Close Relationships
Subtitle of host publicationContexts, Challenges, and Opportunities
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages16
ISBN (Electronic)9781317683810
ISBN (Print)9781138774896
StatePublished - Jan 1 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Arts and Humanities(all)
  • Social Sciences(all)


Dive into the research topics of 'Complaint expression in close relationships: A dependence power perspective'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this