PSYCHOLOGICAL DIFFERENTIATION AND CONFLICT RESOLUTION AMONG MARRIED COUPLES

DIANE CLAUDIA DORMAN, Fordham University

Abstract

The study investigated the relationship between the psychological differentiation of marital partners and their behavior during a conflict resolution task. Previous research suggested that differences in psychological differentiation are associated with differences on various measures of verbal communication in dyadic interactions (Doob, 1958; Jennings, 1968; Marcus, 1970). A previous study by Oltman (1975) demonstrated a relationship between psychological differentiation and conflict resolution. However, none of these studies focused on married couples.^ Subjects included sixty couples married for periods ranging from 3 to 43 years. Husbands and wives completed the Group Embedded Figures Test, and scores on this test were used to classify each couple as consisting of two field dependent partners (FD/FD), two field independent partners (FI/FI), or one field dependent and one field independent partner (FD/FI). Each couple participated in discussion of an issue on which they disagreed. This discussion had three possible outcomes: (1) continued disagreement; (2) resolution through the acquiescence of one spouse; and (3) compromise. It was anticipated that FI/FI dyads would be less likely to achieve resolution through acquiescence or compromise than other dyads. This hypothesis was not confirmed. It was also hypothesized that FD/FD dyads would express greater satisfaction with the outcome of the discussion than other dyads. This hypothesis was not confirmed.^ Discussions were tape recorded and coded according to the Marital Interaction Coding Scheme (Klier, 1978). Communication ratings were factor analyzed yielding five factors representing non-productive hostility, discussion of responsibility, avoidance, complaints and faulting, and problem discussion versus problem solution. Analysis of factor scores showed that dyads who achieved compromise spent more time discussing possible solutions to the problem and less time defining and describing the problem. Additional analyses showed that FD wives demonstrated more problem description communications than FI wives. FD and FI husbands did not differ on the communication factors, but wives of FI husbands demonstrated significantly less hostility and significantly fewer complaints than the wives of FD husbands.^ Results were discussed in terms of the theory of psychological differentiation, the methodology of investigating marital communication, and implications for marital counseling. ^

Subject Area

Educational psychology

Recommended Citation

DORMAN, DIANE CLAUDIA, "PSYCHOLOGICAL DIFFERENTIATION AND CONFLICT RESOLUTION AMONG MARRIED COUPLES" (1987). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI8715796.
http://fordham.bepress.com/dissertations/AAI8715796

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