Conflict resolution in romantic relationships: an examination of adult attachment and early attachment experience

by Lin Shi

Institution: Texas Tech University
Year: 1999
Keywords: Anxiety  – Psychological aspects; Parent and child; Interpersonal relations; Conflict management; Avoidance (Psychology); Attachment behavior
Record ID: 1699446
Full text PDF: http://hdl.handle.net/2346/17156


Conflict is inevitable in intimate relationships, and conflict resolution is an important predictor of relationship satisfaction. Despite thorough understanding of the cognitive-behavioral factors in conflict resolution, very little is known about characteristics individuals bring into their relationships that influence their conflict resolution pattems. The purpose of the study was to explore the individual differences in conflict resolution behaviors using attachment theory as a framework. A total of 448 undergraduate students at a large Southwestem university were assessed on aduit attachment style, conflict resolution behavior, relationship satisfaction, and early attachment experience. These constructs were measured by Multiple-Item Measure of Adult Romantic Attachment (MIMARA, Brennan, Clark, & Shaver, 1998), Rahim Organizational Confhct Inventory-II (ROCI-II, Rahim, 1983), Relationship Assessment Scale (RAS, Hendrick, 1988), and Inventory of Parent-Peer Attachment (IPPA, Armsden & Greenberg, 1987). The results confírmed that the two attachment dimensions, Anxiety and Avoidance, were predictive of conflict resolution behaviors and relationship satisfaction, with participants who scored lower on the two attachment dimensions displaying more positive behaviors and reporting higher relationship satisfaction. Gender had much less influence on these variables than the attachment dimensions. The influence of early attachment experiences with parental figures was limited. Closeness with father figure was moderately related to a lower level of Anxiety and less of the conflict resolution behavior of Dominating. Early separation from a parental figure was associated with greater anxiety in adulthood. The distribution of adult attachment styles varied with relationship status (married, currently in serious relationship, previously in serious relationship), with more participants who were married or currently in relationship falling into the Secure category. This result suggests that relationship and attachment styles influence each other, and that adult attachment style is not static. The study was a first attempt to understand the association between attachment style and conflict resolution behavior using a more comprehensive four-category attachment measure. In general, the results of this study provide support for the association between the two. Future research should examine the influence of childfather relationship on the formation of attachment style and the distribution of the fourcategory attachment style in various populations.