Power Differences in Relationships

The figure below outlines two types of relationships that young people, encounter in our society as they (consciously and unconsciously) seek to have their developmental needs met. With the onset of puberty the relationships with parents etc that were central in their earlier years often become less central as the desire to be the ‘author of my own life’ is strong. Young people then want people to relate to them in a way that allows them to have some authority over what happens to them.

Relationship Types pic


The relationship outlined on the left of the figure fits within a dependence framework and is characterised by power/weakness and illustrates the experiences that can occur for people using and encountering this model. The person on the receiving end of power will feel a sense of weakness and in turn will want to have power. This is cyclic as both parties seek not to feel weak and which ultimately destroys the relationship. This is also a very dependent relationship and does not allow growth or development.

In contrast, the relationship on the right is characterised by independence and interdependence. To gain independence one has the mandate to be the author of one’s life, this gives the impetus and drive to be an authority on one’s own life. For this to occur, the relationships that surround the young person need to be reciprocal in nature ie. each gives the other authority. The reciprocal authority relationship comes from the premise that we give each other authority and the relationship that goes with that is one of respect and honouring of each other. This is somewhat different to a friendship relationship where the energy can be one way.


Hurt People, Hurt People.

Native American Proverb.

   Go back