1. (sociology) A theory influential in the 1970s that the continuing poverty, social deprivation, and political instability in many poor countries was a result of their economic dependence on capitalist countries. Some argued that this was reinforced by the ideological role of television. The adequacy of dependency theory was challenged by rapid industrialization and economic growth in some so-called Third World countries.
2. (media system dependency theory) A structural approach to the mass media that presents it as an information system with two-way dependency relationships between its various parts that relate to goals versus resources (DeFleur and Ball-Rokeach). On the macro level, the parts include: the ‘media system’, consisting of different media industries (such as television, radio, newspapers, and magazines) and cross-media organizations (such as news agencies, advertisers, and unions); and other social systems, such as the political system. Media-political relations are argued to be structural dependency relations based on fairly symmetrical patterns of interdependence, involving four interacting elements: the social system, the media system, audiences, and (potential) effects (see effects). At the micro level, this theory posits that individuals have come to depend on knowledge derived from the mass media. Here, dependency relationships exist between individuals (or groups) and the media (based on media functions, both personal and social). It is argued that the degree of audience dependency (and hence potential effects) depends on the degree of social stability and the extent to which audiences are functionally dependent on the mass media, particularly as an information source.
3. (psychological media dependency) The popular view that individuals, groups, or society as a whole have become dependent upon the media, or some medium in particular.