Sex Roles

, Volume 57, Issue 7–8, pp 483–495 | Cite as

Associations Among Aspects of Interpersonal Power and Relationship Functioning in Adolescent Romantic Couples

  • Charles G. Bentley
  • Renee V. GalliherEmail author
  • Tamara J. Ferguson
Original Article


This study used a multidimensional assessment of interpersonal power to examine associations between indices of relationship power and relationship functioning in 92 adolescent romantic couples recruited from rural communities in the Rocky Mountain region of the USA. Significant differences emerged between girlfriends and boyfriends in their reports of decision making authority, perceptions of humiliating behaviors by the partner, and ratings of themselves giving-in to their partners in a videotaped interaction task. In addition, indices of interpersonal power were associated with dating aggression and relationship satisfaction for both girlfriends and boyfriends, although gender differences emerged in the patterns of association between power and outcomes. Results are discussed in light of current developmental, feminist, and social psychological theories of interpersonal power in romantic relationships.


Adolescent romantic relationships Interpersonal power Relationship functioning 



Portions of this manuscript were presented at the biennial meeting of the Society for Research in Child Development, Atlanta, GA. This research was supported by the National Institute of Mental Health’s B/START Program (grant number R03 MN064689-01A1) and by a Utah State University New Faculty Grant to Renee V. Galliher. Address correspondence to Renee V. Galliher, Ph.D., Dept. of Psychology, 2810 Old Main Hill, Logan, UT 84322.


  1. Aida, Y., & Falbo, T. (1991). Relationships between marital satisfaction, resources, and power strategies. Sex Roles, 24, 1–2.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Babcock, J. C., Waltz, J., & Jacobson, N. S. (1993). Power and violence: The relation between communication patterns, power discrepancies, and domestic violence. Journal of Consulting & Clinical Psychology, 61, 40–50.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Balswick, J. O., & Balswick, J. K. (1995). Gender relations and marital power. In B. B. Ingoldsby & S. Smith (Eds.), Families in multicultural perspective (pp. 297–313). New York: Guilford.Google Scholar
  4. Beach, S. R., & Tesser, A. (1994). Decision making power and marital satisfaction: A Self-Evaluation Maintenance perspective. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 12, 471–494.Google Scholar
  5. Brengden, M., Vitaro, F., Tremblay, R. E., & Lavoie, F. (2004). Reactive and proactive aggression: Predictions to physical violence in different contexts and moderating effects of parental monitoring and caregiving behavior. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 29, 293–304.Google Scholar
  6. Brown, L. M., & Gilligan, C. (1992). Meeting at the crossroads: Women’s psychology and girls’ development. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  7. Bui, K. T., Raven, B. H., & Schwarzwald, J. (1994). Influence strategies in dating relationships: The effects of relationships satisfaction, gender, and perspective. Journal of Social Behavior and Personality, 9, 429–442.Google Scholar
  8. Capaldi, D. M., & Crosby, L. (1997). Observed and reported psychological and physical aggression in young, at-risk couples. Social Development, 6, 184–206.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Carli, L. L. (1999). Gender, interpersonal power, and social influence. Journal of Social Issues, 55, 81–99.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Cate, R. M., Lloyd, S. A., & Henton, J. M. (1985). The effect of equity, equality, and reward level on the stability of students’ premarital relationships. Journal of Social Psychology, 125, 715–721.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Chung, D. (2005). Violence, control, romance and gender equality: Young women and heterosexual relationships. Women’s Studies International Forum, 28, 445–455.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Collins, W. A., & Sroufe, L. A. (1999). Capacity for intimate relationships: A developmental construction. In W. Furman, B. B. Brown, & C. Feiring (Eds.), The development of romantic relationships in adolescence (pp. 125–147). New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  13. Cromwell, R. E., & Olsen, D. H. (1975). Power in families. New York, NY: Sage.Google Scholar
  14. Daddis, C., & Smetana, J. (2005). Middle-class African American families’ expectations for adolescents’ behavioural autonomy. International Journal of Behavioral Development, 29, 371–381.Google Scholar
  15. Dutton, D. G., Starzomski, A., & Lee, R. (1996). Antecedents of abusive personality and abusive behavior in wife assaulters. Journal of Family Violence, 11, 113–132.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Ehrensaft, M. K., Langhinrichsen-Rohling, J., & Heyman, R. E. (1999). Feeling controlled in marriage: A phenomenon specific to physically aggressive couples? Journal of Family Psychology, 13, 20–32.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Ehrensaft, M. K., & Vivian, D. (1999). Is partner aggression related to appraisals of coercive control by a partner? Journal of Family Violence, 14, 251–266.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Falbo, T., & Peplau, L. A. (1980). Power strategies in intimate relationships. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 38, 618–628.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Felmlee, D. H. (1994). Who’s on top? Power in romantic relationships. Sex Roles, 31, 275–295.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Ferguson, T. J., Eyre, H. L., & Ashbaker, M. (2000). Unwanted identities: A key variable in shame-anger links and gender differences in shame. Sex Roles, 42, 133–157.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. French, J. R. P., & Raven, B. H. (1959). The bases of social power. In D. Cartwright (Ed.), Studies in social power (pp. 150–167). Ann Arbor, MI: Institute for Social Research.Google Scholar
  22. Frieze, I. H. (2005). Female violence against intimate partners: An introduction. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 29, 229–237.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Frieze, I. H., & McHugh, M. C. (1992). Power and influence strategies in violent and nonviolent marriages. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 16, 449–465.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Furman, W., & Wehner, E. A. (1994). Romantic views: Toward a theory of adolescent romantic relationships. In R. Montemayor, G. R. Adams, & T. Gollota (Eds.), Personal relationships during adolescence. Advances in adolescent development (pp. 168–195). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  25. Galliher, R. V., Rostosky, S. S., Welsh, D. P., & Kawaguchi, M. (1999). Power and psychological well-being in late adolescent romantic relationships. Sex Roles, 40, 689–710.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Galliher, R. V., Welsh, D. P., Rostosky, S. S., & Kawaguchi, M. C. (2004). Interaction and relationship quality in late adolescent romantic couples. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 21, 203–216.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Gilbert, P. (1998). What is shame? Some core issues and controversies. Shame: Interpersonal behavior, psychopathology, and culture (pp. 3–38). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  28. Giordano, P. C., Manning, W. D., & Longmore, M. A. (2005). Adolescent romantic and sexual relationships: An emerging picture of their nature and developmental significance. In A. C. Crouter & A. Booth (Eds.), Romance and sex in adolescence and emerging adulthood: Risks and opportunities (pp. 127–150). Mahweh, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
  29. Goss, K., Gilbert, P., & Allan, S. (1994). An exploration of shame measures: I: The ‘Other as Shamer’ scale. Personality and Individual Differences, 17, 713–717.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Gray-Little, B., & Burks, N. (1983). Power and satisfaction in marriage: A review and critique. Psychological Bulletin, 93, 513–538.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Halloran, E. C. (1998). The role of marital power in depression and marital distress. The American Journal of Family Therapy, 26, 3–14.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Howard, J. A., Blumstein, P., & Schwartz, P. (1986). Sex, power, and influence tactics in intimate relationships. Journal of Personality & Social Psychology, 51, 102–109.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Johnson, M. P. (2006). Conflict and control: Gender symmetry and asymmetry in domestic violence. In A. Booth, A. C. Crouter, & M. Clements (Eds.), Couples in conflict (pp. 95–104). Malwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
  34. Johnson, M. P., & Leone, J. M. (2005). The differential effects of intimate terrorism and situation couple violence: Findings from the National Violence Against Women Survey. Journal of Family Issues, 26, 322–349.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Kaura, S. A., & Allen, C. M. (2004). Dissatisfaction with relationship power and dating violence perpetration by men and women. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 19, 576–588.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  36. Kelley, H. H., & Thibaut, J. W. (1978). Interpersonal relations: A theory of interdependence. New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  37. Levesque, R. J. (1993). The romantic experience of adolescents in satisfying love relationships. Journal of Youth & Adolescence, 22, 219–251.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Lewis, H. B. (1971). Shame and guilt in neurosis. New York: International Universities Press.Google Scholar
  39. Lewis, S., & Fremouv, W. (2001). Dating violence: A critical view of the literature. Clinical Psychology Review, 21, 105–127.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  40. Mahlstedt, D. L., & Welsh, L. A. (2005). Perceived causes of physical assault in heterosexual dating relationships. Violence Against Women, 11, 447–472.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  41. Mauricio, A. M., & Gormley, B. (2001). Male perpetration of physical violence against female partners. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 16, 1066–1081.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Miller, S. B. (1996). Shame in context. Hillsdale, N.J.: Analytic.Google Scholar
  43. Murnen, S. K., Perot, A., & Byrne, D. (1989). Coping with unwanted sexual activity: Normative responses, situational determinants, and individual differences. The Journal of Sex Research, 26, 85–106.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Negaro, C., Bonanno, G. A., Noll, J. G., Putnam, & Trickett, P. K. (2005). Shame, humiliation, and childhood sexual abuse: Distinct contributions and emotional coherence. Child Maltreatment, 10, 350–363.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Peplau, L. A. (1979). Power in dating relationships. In J. Freeman (Ed.), Women: A feminist perspective (2nd ed., pp. 106–121). Palo Alto, CA: Mayfield.Google Scholar
  46. Rampage, C. (1994). Power, gender, and marital intimacy. Journal of Family Therapy, 16, 125–137.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Retzinger, S. M. (1987). Resentment and laughter: Video studies of the shame-rage spiral. In H. B. Lewis (Ed.), The role of shame in symptom formation (pp. 151–181). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  48. Richards, L., Rollerson, B., & Phillips, J. (1991). Perceptions of submissiveness: Implications for victimization. The Journal of Psychology, 125, 407–411.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  49. Riggs, D. S., Caulfield, M. B., & Street, A. E. (2000). Risk for domestic violence: Factors associated with perpetration and victimization. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 56, 1289–1316.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  50. Rogers, W. S., Bidwell, J., & Wilson, L. (2005). Perceptions of and satisfaction with relationship power, sex, and attachment styles: A couples level analysis. Journal of Family Violence, 20, 241–251.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Ronfeldt, H. M., Kimerling, R., & Arias, I. (1998). Satisfaction with relationship power and the perpetration of dating violence. Journal of Marriage & the Family, 60, 70–78.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Sagrestano, L. M. (1992). Power strategies in interpersonal relationships: The effects of expertise and gender. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 16, 481–495.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Sagrestano, L., Heavey, C. L., & Christensen, A. (1999). Perceived power and physical violence in marital conflict—Social influence and social power: Using theory for understanding social issues. Journal of Social Issues, 55, 65–79.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Salmivalli, C., Kaukiainen, A., Kaistaniemi, L., & Lagerspetz, K. M. J. (1999). Self-evaluated self-esteem, peer-evaluated self-esteem, and defensive egotism as predictors of adolescents’ participation in bullying situations. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 25, 1268–1278.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Sprecher, S. (2001). Equity and social exchange in dating couples: Associations with satisfaction, commitment, and stability. Journal of Marriage & the Family, 63, 599–613.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Sprecher, S., & Felmlee, D. (1997). The balance of power in romantic heterosexual couples over time from “his” and “her” perspectives. Sex Roles, 37, 361–379.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Stamm, B. H. (Ed.). (2003). Rural behavioral health care: An interdisciplinary guide. Washington, DC: APA.Google Scholar
  58. Stapley, J. C., & Haviland, J. M. (1989). Beyond depression: Gender differences in normal adolescents’ emotional experiences. Sex Roles, 20, 295–308.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Steil, J. M. (1997). Marital equality: Its relationship to the well-being of husbands and wives. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  60. Steil, J. M., & Turetsky, B. A. (1987). Is equal better? The relationship between marital equality and psychological symptomatology. Applied Social Psychology Annual, 7, 73–97.Google Scholar
  61. Tangney, J. P., & Dearing, R. L. (2002). Shame and guilt. New York: Guilford.Google Scholar
  62. Taylor, J. M., Gilligan, C., & Sullivan, A. M. (1995). Between voice and silence: Women and girls, race, and relationship. Cambridge, MA, US: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  63. Vanfossen, B. E. (1982). Sex differences in the mental health effects of spouse support and equity. Journal of Health & Social Behavior, 22, 130–143.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Van Willigen, M., & Drentea, P. (2001). Benefits of equitable relationships: The impact of sense of fairness, household division of labor, and decision making power on perceived social support. Sex Roles, 44, 571–597.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Von Salisch, M. (2001). Children’s emotional development: Challenges in their relationships to parents, peers, and friends. International Journal of Behavioural Development, 25, 310–319.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Webster, G. D. (2006). Low self-esteem is related to aggression, but especially when controlling for gender. Representative Research in Social Psychology, 29, 12.Google Scholar
  67. Welsh, D. P., Galliher, R. V., Kawaguchi, M. C., & Rostosky, S. S. (1999). Discrepancies in adolescent romantic couples’ and observers’ perceptions of couple interaction and their relationship to mental health. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 28, 645–665.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. West, C., & Zimmerman, D. H. (1977). Women’s place in everyday talk: Reflections on parent child interaction. Social Problems, 24, 521–529.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Williams, S. L., & Frieze, I. H. (2005). Patterns of violent relationships, psychological distress, and marital satisfaction in a national sample of men and women. Sex Roles, 52, 771–784.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Whisman, M. A., & Jacobson, N. S. (1990). Power, marital satisfaction, and response to marital therapy. Journal of Family Psychology, 4, 202–212.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Wolfe, D. A., Scott, K., Reitzel-Jaffe, D., Wekerle, C., Grasley, C., & Straatman, A. (2001). Development and validation of the conflict in adolescent dating relationships inventory. Psychological Assessment, 13, 277–293.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  72. Yoder, J. D., & Kahn, A. S. (1992). Toward a feminist understanding of women and power. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 16, 381–388.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Zak, A., Collins, C., Harper, L., & Masher, M. (1998). Self-reported control over decision-making and its relationship to intimate relationships. Psychological Reports, 82, 560–562.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Charles G. Bentley
    • 1
  • Renee V. Galliher
    • 1
    Email author
  • Tamara J. Ferguson
    • 1
  1. 1.PsychologyUtah State UniversityLoganUSA

Personalised recommendations