14 Apr 2022


Affection Exchange Theory

Format: MLA

Academic level: College

Paper type: Term Paper

Words: 1776

Pages: 7

Downloads: 0


The affectionate exchange theory was articulated by Kory Floyd who is a communications expert. The human affection theory was created in 2001 and was presented in only two studies as a means of seeking an understanding of interpersonal relationships. According to Floyd, the affection exchange theory represents an adaptive behavior that incorporates affectionate communication that will usually result in procreative success and long-term viability of a human relationship. Affection may also be described as attraction or fondness which will usually be a rare state of mind where the individual associates it to a feeling of love. Affection may be seen as a presentation of such emotion towards friends, family or romantic partners. Through the study of these interpersonal relationships there are five assumptions that were held concerning the nature of affectionate communication, its presentation and the effect on the individuals in question. The following paper will seek to discuss these assumptions and their importance in the foundation of this theory.

Affectionate Communication Fosters Long-term Survival

According to Floyd and Morman (2003), affectionate communication is a strategic means of increasing the long-term survival of human beings. In this case, the Floyd identified that majority of human beings are unable to live fulfilled lives as they are usually stressed. A human is commonly referred to as a social being and it is in this aspect that human beings continue in their quest to search for the ideal partner or friend that will enable them lead a happy life. The interpersonal relationship that an individual will usually encounter in their lifetime demonstrates the affectionate communication that he or she will practice. It is only natural that an individual will seek to here that another person loves them or that has some sort of significant loving emotions towards them. Floyd (2001) indicates that through this open portrayal of emotions the receiver will feel comfort and warmth.

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Nevertheless, this may not always be the case, as has been evident in the experiences of many people in the world. There have been numerous cases of spousal infidelity and various other events that take place in spousal relationships that will usually drive two individuals apart. The person that that has been hurt in that relationship will usually be the individual likely to experience an unstable state of mind. This is a likely factor that may lead to the individual experiencing mental stress, psychological dysfunction and emotional instability. The above are likely causes of causing a short life span in the individual. Canary, Cody & Manusov (2008) indicate that the theory of AET as an adaptive behavior could be a critical factor in the development of in the long-term survival of human life. 

Affectionate Communication Posits Bonding

Another assumption that was brought about through the articulation of Affectionate Exchange Theory is that affectionate communication is an integral factor in the creation of bonds between two individuals. The study conducted by Floyd (2001) on the relationships between fathers and sons is a clear description of the importance of affectionate communication in improving relationships. In this comparative study, the researchers sought to identify the presentation of affection between fathers and their children. The authors indicated that the relationship between a father and a son is one of the most important male-male that either of them will have in their lifetime. The experience of this relationship will have an effect on the two even at the son’s adulthood years. The study focused on 493 adult fathers who had at least one son among their children. It was also important that the participants in question had sons above the age of 12 years old to qualify for the study.

The majority of the participants were noted to have biological sons while the remaining few either had stepsons or adopted children. A similar study was carried out whereby the sons were in their adulthood years. There were a total of 136 men where 68 were fathers and 68 sons. In each study, the pair of father and son completed verbal and nonverbal scale indexes to statistically measure their affectionate communication (Floyd and Morman, 2003). In both studies, US men were noted to have a significantly higher affection towards their biological sons as opposed to the adopted or stepsons. In this case, it was seen that affection from the father was significantly stronger than that portrayed by the son. The two were far likely to demonstrate bonding if they were related biologically as opposed to non-biological relations.

Affectionate Communication Contributes to Procreation

The affectionate exchange theory has been identified to have a significant relation to the possible procreation capabilities of an individual. In human beings, it is identified as an innate need for procreation to take place. Floyd (2001) indicated the possibility of an individual to procreate as a factor in portraying affection. This was yet another study carried out between fathers and their sons. The study included 50 randomly selected participants who were fathers of at least one son. According to the report, there was a 50-50 representation of heterosexual and homosexual or bisexual children as reported by the fathers. In this study, it was required that the participants within this study identify the nature of their relationship through carrying out a survey. Fathers who reported to have heterosexual sons were seen to be the high receivers of affectionate communication from their fathers as opposed to the homosexual or bisexual children.

According to the study, it is clear that US men as seen in tradition demonstrate significant need to ensure that their genes continue to live on through their sons. The homosexuals or bisexual children demonstrated to their fathers that they were less likely to procreate in the future (Seligman, 2011). As a result, the children would receive less affectionate communication from their fathers. Additionally, the same theoretical could be used in the explanation of choice of life partners. Couples will usually assess each other on the basis of whether one could be in future a good parent or not. An individual who shows affectionate communication is likely to be chosen as a marriage couple than the alternative who shows little affectionate communication.

Verbal and Non Verbal Cues of Affection

Affection communication is seen as the interpersonal expression of emotional feeling of either love or friendship between two individuals. It is therefore, important that an individual seeking to demonstrate feelings of affection should identify how to portray this either in verbal or non verbal cues. The nature of the interpersonal relationship is an important factor in considering the choice of affection cue that should be portrayed to one individual from the next. In this case, the interpersonal relationship between an employee and his boss is by far different from that of a son and his father (Floyd, 2008). Therefore, it would be considered inappropriate for the employee to seek out his boss to tell him the words “I love you”. In contrast, this is a common behavior among sons and their fathers. Particularly at their tender age, sons will seek the approval and “love” of their fathers.

Horan and Booth-Butterfield (2010) investigate the importance of affectionate messages both verbal and non verbal as a contributing factor in the development of a healthy and long-term relationship. The portrayal of affection messages has been a critical factor in the communication of positive regard or showing fondness to another person. The individuals who portray affection both in verbal and nonverbal communication are the ones likely to experience a lengthy and healthy relationship. Some of the nonverbal messages include kissing, hugging, holding hands or in some less romantic relationships a pat on the back may portray affection from a mentor. The study by Horan and Booth-Butterfield (2010) utilized 144 participants that was 72 heterosexual couples. The results of the study indicated that these verbal and nonverbal messages were effective relational thermometers in identifying affectionate communication between romantic couples.

Implications of Theory

There are numerous implications that are realized in through the creation of the theory. The affectionate exchange theory is a key factor in discussing some of the controversial issues in the current family set up. For instance, heterosexual families are likely to encounter numerous cases where their sons or daughters are either homosexual or bisexual. Through AET, such families are believed to withhold affection towards the child who is reported to be of these sexual orientations. This may result in significant misunderstanding between homosexuals and bisexuals who may now believe that because of their sexual orientation they do not have the affection of their parents (Mansson, 2013). Though evidence supports this assertion, this may not always be the case for all individuals. As a result, generalizing this will have negative effects of family relationships.

The above theory has been used in identifying the various factors that are associated in an effective inter relationship where one individual demonstrates their affection for the other. The above theory has however only utilized heterosexual couples in identifying the nature of affectionate communication. This may be identified as a biased experiment as these are not the only relationships that are present in the current modern society. The homosexuals and bisexuals are other romantic relationships that may be used in identifying the influence of affectionate communications as a major factor of showing affection in the couple. It is necessary that further research is conducted on this issue to identify how affectionate messages are presented between individuals of different sexual orientations. This will be effective in coming up with conclusive evidence on the presentation of these verbal and non verbal messages as they are observed.

Affectionate Exchange Theory is identified as a foundation for an individual’s emotional intelligence as noted in a study by Elfebein et. al (2010). In the article, the researchers seek to identify an individual’s ability to express their emotions and accurately recognize the emotions that have been conveyed by others. The two are identified to be integral factors in the development of emotional intelligence among individuals (App, McIntosh, Reed & Hertensein, 2011). The study would utilize participants as both perceivers and targets of the affection messages that are sent and received. There were four groups of 24 individuals that would be used in the following study. The results collected would demonstrate the ability to recognize and portray emotions of happiness, surprise, fear, anger, disgust and sadness (Brackett, Mayer, & Warner, 2004). The participants would also be provided with inductions that increase the authenticity of the expresser’s experience. A positive correlation was noted for displaying intentional communication of emotion but there was none for natural displays.


Affectionate Exchange theory is seen as a complex theoretical foundation that has been used in the better understanding of inter personal relationships. Interpersonal relationships are an integral part of the society where it is necessary that an individual communicates with another. The theory has been used in coming up with affection expressers whose use will result in significantly improved relationship between the individual and their partner. It is important that the significant further research is conducted as a means of improving the theory whereby it may identify relationships from a general view that includes all sexual orientations.


Elfenbein, H. A., Der Foo, M., Mandal, M. K., Biswal, R., Eisenkraft, N., Cuifang, A. L. and Sharma, S. (2010) "Individual Differences in Expressing and Perceiving Nonverbal Cues: New Data on an Old Question." SSRN Electronic Journal SSRN Journal , 44: 199-206.

Floyd, K. & Morman, M. T. (2003). "Human Affection Exchange: II. Affectionate Communication in Father-Son Relationships."  The Journal of Social Psychology  143, 5: 599-612.

Floyd, K. (2001) "Human Affection Exchange: I. Reproductive Probability as a Predictor of Men's Affection with Their Sons."  The Journal of Men's Studies  10, 1: 39-50.

Floyd, K. (2008) “Affectionate Communication is Good For You”, Communication Currents , 3, 6: n. page Retrieved from https://www.natcom.org/CommCurrentsArticle.aspx?id=895  

Horan, S. M., and Booth-Butterfield, M. (2010) "Investing in Affection: An Investigation of Affection Exchange Theory and Relational Qualities."  Communication Quarterly  58, 4: 394-413.

Mansson, D. H. (2013) "Testing The Grandchildren's Received Affection Scale Using Affection Exchange Theory 1 ,2." Psychological Reports 112, 2: 553-62.

Brackett, M. A., Mayer, J. D. & Warner, R. B. (2004) “Emotional Intelligence and its Relation to Everyday Behavior”, Personality and Individual Differences , 36: 1387-1402.

App, B., McIntosh, D. N., Reed, C. L. & Hertensein, M. J. (2011) Nonverbal Channel Use in Communication of Emotion: How May Depend on Why”, Emotion , 11, 3: 603-617.

Canary, D, Cody, M., & Manusov, V. (2008). Interpersonal communication: A goals-based approach . Boston, MA: Bedford/St. Martin’s.

Seligman, M. (2011) Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being . New York: Free Press. pp. 48–51

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StudyBounty. (2023, September 15). Affection Exchange Theory.


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