woman leaning on manDependency is a need for others to meet one’s psychological, social, physical, or financial needs.

What Is Dependency?

Any reliance on others can be characterized as a form of dependency, and all people are dependent on others to some extent. Humans are social animals, and without any interactions with others may experience serious psychological consequences. Dependency can be used to characterize an assortment of needs that must be met by others, including:

  • Developmental dependency: The need of children for parents or other caregivers to provide care.
  • Financial dependency: The dependence on another person or entity for financial support.
  • Social or psychological dependency: The reliance on others to meet social or psychological needs.

Dependency in Psychology

Some level of dependency is widely considered normal in human development, however, severe dependency can cause psychological problems. Dependency is sometimes characterized as a personality trait. Some people are more dependent on external forces to meet internal needs than others. Examples of unhealthy degrees of dependency include:

  • Codependence: Commonly used in addiction literature, this term most often refers to the mutual dependence between people with addiction, their loved ones, and people who enable them. Codependence can also be used to characterize an excessively dependent romantic or other interpersonal relationship.
  • Dependent personality: A personality diagnosis that interferes with a person’s ability to be self-sufficient and results in a long-term pattern of dependence on others as well as a chronic fear of being abandoned.

Dependence and Culture

Different cultures have different standards for what constitutes unhealthy dependence. The United States generally encourages independence and self-reliance and adult who lived with his parents might be viewed as abnormal. In some more communal cultures, however, this behavior would be viewed as normal and healthy, and excessive independence might be viewed as unhealthy.


  1. A.D.A.M. Editor Board. (2010, November 18). Dependent personality disorder. PubMed Health. Retrieved from
  2. Dependency. (n.d.). The Internet Encyclopedia of Personal Construct Psychology. Retrieved from

Last Updated: 08-4-2015

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