The Power to Care: Effects of Power in Intimate Relationships

Erez Zverling, PhD
Department of Psychology, The College for Academic Studies, Or Yehuda, Israel
School of Social Work, University of Haifa, Israel

Series: The World of Psychology: Therapeutic, Relational, Teaching
BISAC: PSY017000

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Volume 10

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Special issue: Resilience in breaking the cycle of children’s environmental health disparities
Edited by I Leslie Rubin, Robert J Geller, Abby Mutic, Benjamin A Gitterman, Nathan Mutic, Wayne Garfinkel, Claire D Coles, Kurt Martinuzzi, and Joav Merrick

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What happens when men and women feel powerful in intimate relationships? When does power corrupt and when does it lead to positive consequences, such as increased sensitivity to others’ needs, personal growth, and social responsibility? This book offers anyone interested in such questions a clear and accessible depiction of the effects of social power, based on cutting-edge theory and research.

The book starts with a general discussion on the ways power influences individuals. The role of one’s personality, goals, and culture seem to play a decisive role in whether power leads to benevolent or malevolent consequences. Some effects of power are more intuitively understood (e.g., taking from or contributing to a common resource, or aggressive responses in parents who feel powerless), while other effects regard much more surprising phenomena (e.g., self-fulfilling prophecies, stopping an annoying fan, or forgiveness for a transgression).

Following the description of this social-psychological mechanism, The Power to Care discusses the cultural and developmental circumstances in which power is experienced. Culturally acquired gender-roles, experienced racism, egoistic vs. altruistic motivations, and defensive tendencies – all influence what men and women want in intimate relationships, and the way power can motivate them to attain their goals. These circumstances may explain the gender differences found in the results of three experiments, described in Chapter 4. In these experiments, men and women in long-term, intimate relationships reacted differently to a temporary sense of power, in terms of their tendency to self-focus, take the perspective of others, and objectify their relationship partners.

In the last section, The Power to Care discusses the seemingly contradictory beliefs of professionals and laymen alike, that power corrupts, but that empowerment processes yield positive results. In this section, the role of power and empowerment processes is discussed, mainly in macro-level interventions, in intimate partner violence (for both victims and perpetrators), overcoming addiction, and in policy practice (e.g., in court verdicts regarding cases of post-divorce relocation of custodial parents).
(Imprint: Nova)

Part 1: Benevolent and Malevolent Responses to Power

Chapter 1. What is Social Power
Chapter 2. The Road to Benevolence
Chapter 3. Goals and Motives in Intimate Relationships
Chapter 4. Power and Sensitivity in Intimate Relationships

Part 2: Power, Social Interventions, and Social Policy

Chapter 5. Power in Cases of Intimate Partner Bullying
Chapter 6. Empowerment Processes – A Critical Evaluation
Chapter 7. Power-Related Policy Practice

"Written with wit and elegance, Erez Zverling provides an impressive scholarly overview of the effects power can have on people in various domains, from intimate relationships to society at large. Using beautiful examples, the author shows that power affects us in both negative and sometimes surprisingly positive ways. This book will give the reader a truly deep understanding of what it means to have power, and what it means to lack power. " - Johan Karremans, Professor, Radboud University, Behavioral Science Institute, Nijmegen, Netherlands

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