Conflict in Intimate Relationships  book cover
1st Edition

Conflict in Intimate Relationships

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ISBN 9780898629828
Published November 16, 1992 by Guilford Press
148 Pages

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Book Description

Why is the potential for conflict so great for intimate partners? This volume integrates research from psychology, sociology, communications, and family studies to provide a comprehensive, practical synthesis of findings concerning conflict in close personal relationships. Combining discussion of both theory and practice, the volume illuminates why conflict occurs frequently between friends, romantic partners, distressed couples, and divorcing spouses, and also offers professionals a framework for understanding conflict as they try to help defuse strife.

The book establishes conflict as a process that lies dormant in any mutually dependent relationship. Depending on the partners' strategies in conflict, the potential for disagreement can quickly become a real obstacle between them and can even threaten to end the relationship. To better determine the source of stress, three different research paradigms are presented to explain the conflict process and why it occurs, as well as to suggest what can be done to help partners manage conflict and preserve intimacy.

The systems-interactionists' approach is presented first. This section discusses methods used to characterize destructive and constructive communication behavior patterns and strategies for dispute resolution. Next, the rules-interventionist approach examines ways in which a mediator can help divorcing couples end one relationship and begin another. Finally, the cognitive-exchange approach is considered. Methods used to determine the antecedent conditions which influence partners' reactions during conflict are presented and approaches for helping them modify destructive communication strategies are discussed. Throughout, terminology and measurements are made to correspond across disciplines so that the work is accessible to all.

In addition to relating particular studies and research programs to their appropriate research approaches, the book shows how conflict is uniquely handled when distressed partners engage in problem solving, when disputing partners engage in mediation, and when same and opposite sex partners participate in developing relationships. Comparison and contrast emphasize the role played by conflict communication behavior, rules, and strategies found in developing intimate relationships, the destructive conflict characteristic of emotionally distressed couples, and the bargaining/negotiation characteristic of formal mediation.

Drawing together the wide array of research on the topic in a user-friendly format, this book is an ideal resource for any investigator interested in distressed relationships. Offering practical methodology firmly founded in theory, it is invaluable reading for clinicians working with people in conflict. The book also serves as a text for advanced undergraduate and graduate students of conflict in interpersonal relationships, and as supplementary reading for a variety of courses where conflict is a focus of study.



Dudley D. Cahn, Ph.D., is a professor of communication at the State University of New York, College at New Paltz. He is certified by the state of New York as a mediator at the Ulster County community mediation center in New Paltz and at the Family Court in Kingston, NY. The author of Letting Go: A Practical Theory of Relationship Disengagement and Reengagement, he is coauthor of Communication in Interpersonal Relationships, and editor of Intimates in Conflict: A Communication Perspective. Named a distinguished lecturer at an international communication convention in Norwich, England and a distinguished scholar by the Yugoslav Center for Post Graduate Studies in Dubrovnik, Dr. Cahn received recognition as a Fulbright Scholar in 1987. He is a member of the International Association for Conflict Management and the International Network on Personal Relationships.


"This book will be greeted enthusiastically by readers seeking an overview of conflict in intimate relationships. The breadth of coverage and the interdisciplinary framework used to review the field are rare and provide a welcome antidote to disciplinary myopia. CONFLICT IN INTIMATE RELATIONSHIPS will appeal equally to readers from different intellectual backgrounds and should prove to be a useful text for courses in a variety of disciplines, including communication studies, psychology, psychiatry, and family studies." --Frank Fincham, Ph.D., University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

"Organized by major paradigmatic orientations, this book offers valuable insight into the genesis of research and theory on interpersonal conflict. This format also provides a useful conceptual tool for comprehending the broad array of scholarship in this broad field. Cahn's work is a novel and important contribution." --Denise Cloven, Assistant Professor of Communications, University of Wisconsin, Madison

"Professor Cahn's important work fills a void in the conflict literature. In recent years, research on intimate conflict has proliferated to the extend that it has become increasingly difficult to manage. Critical work is published in outlets that are scattered across academic disciplines and fields such that some of it is unknown to scholars.

In a well-written and organized fashion, Professor Cahn has synthesized and critiqued conflict research falling into three dominant perspectives: system-interactionist, rules-interventionist, and cognitive-exchange. He articulates their respective assumptions, research, and most importantly, measurement techniques. The focus on operationalizations in and of itself makes this volume essential for the bookshelf of scholars and students interested in intimate conflict." --Michael Roloff, Ph.D., Northwestern University