chapter  6
Complaint Expression in Close Relationships: A Dependence Power Perspective
ByTimothy R. Worley
Pages 16

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.