McClusky’s Theory of Margin concentrates on how learning interconnects with the life circumstances of an adult. McClusky theorized that adults carry through life what he referred to as “Load”. Load can include work, family, and/or community obligations. Adults also have obtainable resources to enable them to carry these Loads. McClusky referred to these resources as “Power”. The greater the Power in relationship to the Load, the more “Margin”, or ability to deal with Load, will be available.
The Load to Power ratio changes throughout adulthood as the factors change. Margin can be increased by eliminating factors that contribute to Load thereby increasing Power. The more Margin one has, the greater the chance of dealing with the factors contributing to the Load. The less Margin one has the chance of dealing with sources of Load decreases. Internal Load and Power factors are personal while external Load and Power factors are situational.
In order to engage in learning, some margin of power must be available to the adult. For example, if an adult has young children at home with no other available caretaker but him/herself (external factor), the load is greater than the power, and the margin is decreased. As the children grow, the load to power changes. The children become independent and are able to care for themselves. Thus, the margin has also increased and is now better equipped to deal with the load.