Conflict Resolution Styles in Gay, Lesbian, Heterosexual Nonparent, and Heterosexual Parent Couples

Article excerpt

Preliminary psychometric data are presented for two inventories that assess conflict in couples. The Ineffective Arguing Inventory (IAI) is a self-report measure that assesses a dysfunctional style of couple conflict resolution. The Conflict Resolution Style Inventory (CRSI) has complementary self-report and partner-report versions that assess four personal conflict resolution styles for each member of the couple. Subjects were both partners of 75 gay, 51 lesbian, 108 married non-parent, and 99 married parent couples. Findings for each inventory are presented regarding the factor structure of items, the internal consistency of composite scores, the 1-year stability of composite scores, the relation between couple members' composite scores, and the link between composite scores and relationship satisfaction, change in satisfaction, and relationship dissolution. Generally, results warrant further examination of the IAI and CRSI as measures of conflict for couples.

All couples have to deal with conflict. Further, how that conflict is managed is linked to relationship satisfaction, change in relationship satisfaction, and relationship stability (Gottman, 1994; Heavey, Layne, & Christensen, 1993; Markman, Renick, Floyd, Stanley, & Clements, 1993; Noller & White, 1990). To date, perhaps the most productive method for studying relationship conflict has been to code videotapes of partner conversations for small samples of couples in a laboratory setting (e.g., Gottman, 1994). Without denying the value of these behavioral observations--in particular, for assessing sequences of couples' interactional styles during conflict--the present study is based on the premise that self-report and partner-report methodologies are also valuable ways to study couple conflict and may complement observational methodologies.

One of the major limitations of observational studies of couple conflict is that they utilize very small, nonrepresentative samples. In fact, some of the inconsistent findings in observational studies regarding the types of conflict resolution strategies that are linked to declines in relationship satisfaction over time have been attributed to biased samples (Gottman, 1993). The availability of psychometrically sound self-report and partner-report measures of conflict resolution would help address this limitation by providing researchers with one method by which the link between conflict resolution and both relationship maintenance and relationship dissolution could be studied in large, representative samples.

Some measures of couple conflict are available, including self-report measures of couple conflict resolution patterns (e.g., the Problem-Solving Communication scale of the Marital Satisfaction Inventory; Snyder, 1981), self-report measures of individual conflict resolution styles (e.g., the Marital Coping Inventory, Bowman, 1990), and self-report and partner-report measures of each partner's conflict resolution styles (e.g., the Interpersonal Communication Skills Inventory; Boyd & Roach, 1977) as well as sequences of partners' conflict resolution styles (e.g., the Communication Patterns Questionnaire; Christensen, 1988). However, no measure of couple conflict resolution could be found that was brief, was based on a coherent conceptual framework, and had comprehensively documented psychometric properties. Documenting psychometric properties include validating the measure against the major relationship outcomes used in behavioral observations in this area of study--relationship satisfaction, change in relationship satisfaction, and relationship stability (Gottman, 1994; Gottman & Krokoff, 1989; Markman et al., 1993).

Accordingly, the purpose of this article is to present such preliminary psychometric data for two brief nonobservational measures of couple conflict. The first measure--the Ineffective Arguing Inventory (IAI)--assesses how the couple handles conflict, whereas the second measure the Conflict Resolution Styles Inventory (CRSI)--assesses each partner's individual style of handling conflict. …