Conflict & Dissolution, Communication I
Conflict & Dissolution

I.     Structural factors in conflict and dissolution

    A.     Gender differences

    1.  Differences in perceptions of relationship problems

          a.      Women report more problems in heterosexual relationships

          b.      Female dissatisfaction predicts dissolution better than male unhappiness

    2.  Women are more likely than men to initiate marital separation and divorce

    3.  Possible explanations

          a.       Women have more of a relational orientation than men

        b.       Men and women have different relationship expectations and desires, and heterosexual relationships better serve
                    to fulfill those of men

    B.     Relationship duration

       1.  General trends

            a.  Time that partners knew each other prior à more marital satisfaction

            b.  Relationship duration à more partner blame for negative events

            c.  Time spent together à more marital happiness
       2.  Possible explanations

          a.  The “best fit” hypothesis – a linear decline in marital satisfaction, because:
             1.  Inevitable fading of passionate ‘high’ in early stages, before marriage

             2.  People marry for a “best fit”; changes will then reduce compatibility

          b.      U-shaped pattern

             1.  Initial decline of marital satisfaction followed by an increase

             2.  Closely associated with the arrival and departure of children

       C.  Presence of children

              1.  Negative correlation with marital satisfaction
              2.  Positive association with marital duration
        D.  Role strain
      1.  General trends
          a.      More women in the workforce

          b.      Traditional division of household labor has remained

          c.      Both partners are needed to support each other’s multiple roles

        2.  Demands of work and family cause gender roles to be more complex and less clearly defined than in the past

        3.  Leads to disagreements over responsibilities for task completion and decision-making
        4.  Possible outcomes

          a.      Scarcity hypothesis
                     1.  More roles = more stress
                     2.  Time and energy are scarce
          b.  Enhancement hypothesis
                           1.  More roles = less stress
                           2.  Disappointments in one area are compensated by success in another
                           3.  Research favors this by showing: more roles à increased well-being

II.     The attributional process during conflict and dissolution

        A.  The process of conflict and dissolution

         1.  Spouses trying to juggle the demands of multiple roles are more likely to find themselves with incompatible goals
         2.  Role of thoughts and beliefs in the process of conflict

         3.  3 causal attributions

           a.  Attributional processes are more active during conflict than at other times

           b.  Self-serving bias

           c.  Disagreement about motives – who did what to whom

         B.  Negative attributional spiral

               1.  Attributions can produce differences in satisfaction

         C.  Differences between happy and unhappy couples

                1.  Relationship-enhancing attributions

                2.  Distress-maintaining attributions
       D.  Volatility

                1.  Definition

                2.  Volatility can create an opportunity for unhappy partners to break out of the trap of distressing maintaining

III.     Responses to relationship conflict and dissatisfaction

         A.  4 basic responses

              1.  Voice  –  actively trying to improve the relationship
              2.  Loyalty  –  passively waiting for things to improve
              3.  Neglect  –  passively allowing things to get worse

              4.  Exit  –  leaving the relationship

       B.  2 dimensions

             1.  CONSTRUCTIVE   ààààààà   DESTRUCTIVE
                     (voice, loyalty)                                        (exit, neglect)
             2.  ACTIVE   ààààààà   PASSIVE
                (voice, exit)                          (loyalty, neglect)
        C.  “Good manners” model

              1.  More important to avoid destructive acts than to maximize constructive acts
              2.  Distressed couples: more negative communication, affect, and behavior