Sex Roles

, Volume 10, Issue 7–8, pp 587–599 | Cite as

The balance of power in lesbian relationships

  • Mayta A. Caldwell
  • Letitia Anne Peplau


A questionnaire study investigated the balance of power in lesbian relationships and factors that affect it. Seventy-seven lesbian women currently in a romantic/sexual relationship participated. Although lesbians strongly endorsed an egalitarian ideal of equal power in love relationships, nearly 40% reported an unequal balance of power in their relationship. As social exchange theory predicts, the partner who was relatively less dependent on the relationship and who had greater personal resources tended to have greater power. Compared to women in equal power relationships, women in unequal power relationships reported less satisfaction and anticipated more problems in their relationships. No evidence of butch-femme role playing was found. It is suggested that the determinants of the balance of power go beyond attitudes and reflect processes of social exchange that can occur regardless of ideology or sexual orientation.


Social Psychology Sexual Orientation Role Playing Social Exchange Great Power 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1984

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mayta A. Caldwell
    • 1
  • Letitia Anne Peplau
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of CaliforniaLos Angeles

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