Difference Between Interdependence and Dependence

Interdependence vs Dependence

What is the difference between interdependence and dependence? Many of us are acutely aware of the danger in using words that do not really convey the meaning we are trying to express. It is common for us to hear words such as Interdependence and Dependence and be confident that we know the difference. However, when asked to define each word at a given moment we are helpless. In an instant, words we thought we were certain of now appear ambiguous. Rest assured; it is not so much our inability to distinguish the two. Instead, it is mostly due to the fact that the terms Interdependence and Dependence are thrown about loosely or used interchangeably. Hence we often overlook the fact that they are two different terms.

What is Interdependence?

If you have heard the term ‘Globalization’, then you will have no difficulty in understanding the term Interdependence. Globalization refers to the integration of economies, of societies, and implies that countries are becoming increasingly reliant on each other. Thus, Interdependence is defined as a state or condition of being mutually reliant on each other. It refers to a situation in which there is dependence between two or more people, entities, units or things.

The term ‘mutual’ is integral to understanding the meaning of Interdependence. Mutual dependence denotes that reliance is not a one-way street. It is an avenue that benefits both parties. A simple example of this is the foreign trade between two nations. Imagine nation A buys oil from nation B. Nation A is dependent on that import of oil while nation B is dependent on the export earnings it receives as a result of the import. Similarly, nation B might in turn buy a particular good from nation A such as rice because it substantially depends on it. Therefore, there is a state of Interdependence between nation A and B.

Interdependence has also been defined to mean mutual responsibility, which essentially conveys that the people, group, or entities dependent on each other are also responsible to each other. In nature, food web is a good example for interdependence, where plants and animals are mutually dependent on each other for their growth and survival.

Difference Between Interdependence and Dependence - Example for Interdependence

What is Dependence?

Understanding the concept of Interdependence affords a clarity to the meaning of Dependence. There is no mutuality involved in Dependence. In fact, it involves one group, person or entity relying heavily on another. This reliance is often in the form of needing support, help or assistance with something. For example, a person might be dependent on another for financial support, such as a child dependent on his/her parents or a college student dependent on the financial support of a bank.

Difference Between Interdependence and Dependence

“A child is dependent on his/her parents. “

On the other hand, Dependence can also mean being controlled by another person or thing, or the state of being influenced by someone or something. On an international level, think of a country, a developing one, heavily reliant or dependent on the aid or grants provided by the IMF or World Bank. The state of Dependence simply refers to a condition wherein someone or something greatly desires or needs the support or help of someone or something.

What is the difference between Interdependence and Dependence?

• Interdependence occurs between two or more people or things.

• Dependence is one-sided and typically involves one person relying on another person or thing.

• Interdependence is a mutual reliance or mutual dependence.

• In a case of dependence, there is no mutuality.


Images Courtesy:

1. “Soil food web USDA” by USDA via Wikimedia Commons 

2. Child via Pixabay