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3 Conflict Beliefs, Goals, and Behavior in Romantic Relationships During Late Adolescence

3 Conflict Beliefs, Goals, and Behavior in Romantic Relationships During Late Adolescence

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EMPIRICAL RESEARCH Conflict Beliefs, Goals, and Behavior in Romantic Relationships During Late Adolescence Valerie A. Simon Æ Sarah J. Kobielski Æ Sarah Martin Received: 15 October 2007 / Accepted: 5 December 2007 / Published online: 4 January 2008 Ó Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008 Abstract Little is known about social cognition regard- ing conflict in romantic relationships during late adolescence. The current study examined beliefs, social goals, and behavioral strategies for conflict in romantic relationships and their associations with relationship qual- ity among a sample of 494 college students. Two dimensions of conflict beliefs, constructive and destructive, were identified. Constructive conflict beliefs were associ- ated with relationship-oriented conflict goals and negotiation strategies during romantic conflict. Destructive conflict beliefs were associated with conflict goals focused on revenge or individual needs (self or partner) and with destructive conflict behavior (aggression and compliance). Conflict goals partially mediated links between general conflict beliefs and specific conflict strategies. Conflict beliefs, goals, and behavior also uniquely predicted the degree of conflict and intimacy in romantic relationships. Keywords Romantic relationships Á Conflict Á Social information processing Á Conflict resolution Á Intimacy Á Adolescence Á Emerging adulthood Introduction Increases in intimacy and conflict characterize the course of romantic development during adolescence (Chen et al. 2006 ; Furman and Buhrmester 1992 ; Laursen et al. 2001 ). These normative changes in the nature of romantic rela- tionships are accompanied by a growing preference for compromise and negotiation to resolve conflict with romantic partners (Laursen et al. 2001 ). This shift in con- flict behavior is presumed to reflect a growing awareness that some conflict is expectable as well as an underlying goal orientation that favors relationship needs over indi- vidual domination. Yet research to support these assumptions is notably absent. We actually know very little about individuals’ beliefs regarding the meaning of conflict in romantic relationships. Equally scant is information about the particular goals individuals pursue during romantic relationship conflict and their links to conflict behavior. In the current study, we draw upon social information processing theory (Crick and Dodge 1994 ; Huesmann 1988 ) to examine how beliefs about conflict in romantic relationships are associated with social goals for conflict, conflict behavior, and romantic relationship qual- ity during late adolescence. Beliefs About Romantic Conflict Social information processing theory posits that general knowledge about social behavior affects how individuals process and respond to social situations (Crick and Dodge 1994 ; Huesmann 1988 ). Research supports a model in which latent knowledge structures guide social informa- tion processing which, in turn, influences behavioral responses. Various types of knowledge structures have V. A. Simon ( & )
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