Date of Award
Program or Major
Doctor of Philosophy
Conflict theory is used to analyze the relationship between marital power structure, the level of marital conflict and the rate of violence in a nationally representative sample of 2,143 American couples. Although previous authors suggest greater conflict in egalitarian relationships, other research demonstrates that there is less violence. Given the strong positive association between conflict and violence, a major question addressed in this research concerns this apparent contradiction.
Two explanations of this contradiction were empirically tested: (1) If the power structure is perceived as legitimate, the level of conflict and rate of violence may decrease, regardless of the actual power structure. (2) The negotiation tactics used to settle disputes may mediate the relation between conflict and violence.
The major findings of this research suggest that unequal marital power structures are the critical factors in explaining the level of conflict and the rate of violence. Egalitarian relationships have the lowest levels of marital conflict, while male dominant have the highest. Consensus over the distribution of power does reduce the level of conflict. However, male dominant relationships continue to have high levels of conflict even when consensus is high, and egalitarian relationships have the lowest levels of conflict even when consensus is low.
The positive association between conflict and violence is reconfirmed in this research. When this relationship is examined for each marital power type, there are dramatic differences in the probability of violence. Egalitarian relationships have the lowest rate of violence even when conflict is high. This is not true for the other power structures, especially the male dominant.
The findings suggest that negotiation tactics play an important role in the relation between conflict and violence. Destructive tactics such as withdrawal and verbal aggression increase the rate of violence, especially when conflict is high. However, the use of reasoning does not appear to be an effective tactic to use to limit violence. If there is high conflict, there will be more violence, irrespective of the use of reasoning. The findings strongly suggest that changing the power structure of marital relationships so that power is equitably distributed is the most fundamental method of limiting conflict and violence.
COLEMAN, DIANE H., "MARITAL POWER, CONFLICT AND VIOLENCE (NEGOTIATION TACTICS, EGALITARIAN)" (1985). Doctoral Dissertations. 1446.