Coping with problematic events in dating relationships: The influence of dependence power on severity appraisals and decisions to communicate

Jennifer Anne Samp, Denise Haunani Solomon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Inevitably, individuals in dating relationships will at some time behave in a manner that violates mutually understood standards for appropriate behavior. Prior research suggested that when a partner's behavior is problematic, that partner's dependence power exerts a chilling effect on both appraisals of event severity and decisions to communicate with the partner about those actions (Cloven & Roloff, 1993; Roloff & Cloven, 1990; Solomon & Samp, 1998). This investigation examined the influence of dependence power on appraisals and communicative decisions related to an individual's own problematic behavior. Sixty-five individuals reported their commitment to their dating relationship, their partner's commitment, and their dating alternatives. Next, respondents were presented with a set of hypothetical problematic events, from which the most realistic event was selected. We asked participants to rate the severity of the selected event and report the degree to which they would communicate with their partner about the situation. The influence of dependence power on decisions to communicate was indicated by a three-way interaction among respondent's commitment, partner's commitment, and partner's alternatives. In particular, individuals were most likely to withhold communication about problematic events when their partners were not committed, but had few relational alternatives. Moreover, when respondents perceived partners to have relational alternatives, they rated their own problematic behaviors as more serious. Contrary to expectations, perceptions of problematic event severity were not associated with partner's commitment, respondent's commitment, or any interactions among the variables. The discussion highlights how this investigation extends previous work on dependence power and communication within dating relationships. The limitations of the investigation and areas for further research are also identified.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)138-160
Number of pages23
JournalWestern Journal of Communication
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1 2001

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Communication


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