Affection Exchange Theory Explained


Introduced in 2001, Kory Floyd suggests through the affection exchange theory that the relationships people form is a method of communication. A man’s affection toward his son is due to reproductive probability and becomes a predictor for the affection shown. This affection, when present or not present, has both short-term and long-term effects that can alter how people communicate with one another.

The theoretical components of the affection exchange theory by Floyd are as follows.

  • Affection is a method of communication which encourages adaptive behaviors, contributing to humanity’s ability to have procreative success and long-term viability as a species.
  • It promotes bonding as a form of communication, allowing for individuals to have access to a greater set of resources that would not be available to them without such a bond.
  • Exchanging affection is an indication that an individual is ready for parenthood and makes for a good bonding prospect.

There is a generational component to affection exchange theory as well. Floyd suggests that when parents communicate affection to their children, then those children are more likely to reproduce successfully when they are ready. The genetics of affection are then passed down to another generation, while being able to support relationships at every generational level simultaneously.

Expectations of Communication Within the Affection Exchange Theory

One of the more unique components of the affection exchange theory that Floyd suggest is that humans have an “expectation’ to receive this type of communication. Although affection can be an adaptive behavior which benefits the long-term survival of humanity and gives people access to greater resources, it is sought after because of an internal “curiosity.”

Have you ever looked at the relationship of a bonded couple or a parent and their child and either smiled or become jealous of it? In the affection exchange theory, the emotions which were felt occurred because of the communication that was received through an observation of the affection on display.

Someone would smile because what has been communicated to them reminded them of their own bonds. Jealousy would form because that person wants the same kind of bonds that they just observed.

According to Floyd, the various communications of affections to which we are all exposed to every day suggests that a personal affection for an individual will increase as the need to enhance their survival increases.

Affection Exchange Theory and Darwinism

Charles Darwin suggested that life evolves based on the concept of the “survival of the fittest.” Animals who are the most dominant tend to pass on their genetics to the next generation. Floyd suggests that the foundations of affection within humanity provide a similar method of interaction between individuals.

The ultimate role of every human is based on a desire to pass their genes onto the next generation. Individuals would intentionally and unintentionally do whatever they could to make sure this event occurred. Showing more affection to a child is an attempt to make sure that the child will want to one day have the same relationship with their own children.

Floyd suggests that because certain individuals may not be interested in having children one day because of their genetics or sexual preferences, that changes how affection is communicated from parent to child. Through his research, Floyd suggests that fathers show less affection toward their children because they identify as part of the LGBTQIA+ community.

This affection may be excused as a “religious” behavior or some other outside influence, but the core of change to the behavior exhibited by a father has to do with the recognition that their genetics are less likely to be passed down to another generation after their son.

Floyd also suggests that the communication of affection between a father and a son may encourage non-reproductive behaviors or preferences in the child as they age. Fathers who may be uninterested in having their genes passed to future generations would alter their communication of affection so that their sons would be less willing to having their own children at a later time.

Why the Affection Exchange Theory is Critical to Human Development

The communication that a father shows his son is directly correlated with the amount of affection that their son will communicate with their own children.

What is unique about this type of relationship is how step-parenting is involved. There is an affection preference for biological parents in this communication. Step-parents can have a positive or negative influence on the future potential affection of a child, but that influence is based on the foundation of what the biological parent has provided.

The next time you say, “I love you,” it may be an expression of your current feelings. It is also a communication for the future of your family line, according to the affection exchange theory.