The dependency paradox in close relationships: accepting dependence promotes independence

J Pers Soc Psychol. 2007 Feb;92(2):268-85. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.92.2.268.


Using multiple methods, this investigation tested the hypothesis that a close relationship partner's acceptance of dependence when needed (e.g., sensitive responsiveness to distress cues) is associated with less dependence, more autonomous functioning, and more self-sufficiency (as opposed to more dependence) on the part of the supported individual. In two studies, measures of acceptance of dependency needs and independent functioning were obtained through couple member reports, by observing couple members' behaviors during laboratory interactions, by observing responses to experimentally manipulated partner assistance provided during an individual laboratory task, and by following couples over a period of 6 months to examine independent goal striving as a function of prior assessments of dependency acceptance. Results provided converging evidence in support of the proposed hypothesis. Implications of the importance of close relationships for optimal individual functioning are discussed.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Courtship / psychology*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Dependency, Psychological*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Goals
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Object Attachment
  • Pennsylvania
  • Personal Autonomy*
  • Regression Analysis
  • Self Efficacy
  • Social Support*
  • Spouses / psychology*