According to exchange theory, which emphasizes decision making, we choose among options after calculating potential rewards against costs and weighing our alternatives (Lamanna, Riedmann & Stewart, 2014). The exchange theory applies an economic perspective to social relationships. The idea of this theory is that when individuals are engaged in social exchanges, they prefer to limit their costs and maximize their rewards. According to this theory, the amount of dependence on another person in a relationship determines how much power a person has over the other individual. For example, the person with less commitment or involvement in the relationship has more power than the person who is extremely emotional dependent on them. Those that have technically more “resources” or “options” in the relationship can use them to take advantage of the individual in the partnership (Lamanna, Riedmann & Stewart, 2014). In these types of relationships, only one person is benefiting but sometimes the power can switch between the two partners. Sometimes this leads to divorces or separations but in extreme cases it can lead to domestic violence.
The conflict and feminist theory also calls attention to unequal power. It explains behavior patterns such as the unequal division of household labor in terms of the distribution of power between husbands and wives (Lamanna, Riedmann & Stewart, 2014). The main focus of this theory is on gender issues. It is not new that there is a male dominance on almost every aspect of our society which has caused the oppression of women for many years. According to the text Maririages, families and relationships, “the mission of feminist theory is to use knowledge to actively confront and end the oppression of women and related patterns of subordination based on social class, race/ethnicity, age, gender identity, or sexual identity/orientation.” For example, this theory wants to bring attention to the fact there is still not equal pay for women. Women working in the White House earn an average salary of 80 cents for every dollar paid to their male colleagues (Ostroff, 2017). I believe both the exchange theory and the conflict and feminist theory applies to families the most because there usually is someone who holds the most power in the family at the time. Whether it is a gender issue where usually females hold less power or a person trying to take advantage of their partner based on the amount of investment. For a family or partnership to have the best chance at succeeding, there must be a balance of power within the individuals.