Academic journal article Argumentation and Advocacy

When Serial Arguments Predict Harm: Examining the Influences of Argument Function, Topic of the Argument, Perceived Resolvability, and Argumentativeness

Academic journal article Argumentation and Advocacy

When Serial Arguments Predict Harm: Examining the Influences of Argument Function, Topic of the Argument, Perceived Resolvability, and Argumentativeness

Article excerpt

Trapp and Hoff (1985) claim most arguments reoccur over time in interpersonal relationships. These types of arguments are called serial arguments. Previous research on serial arguments has illustrated the importance of this interpersonal process to relational quality (K. Johnson & Roloff, 1998, 2000). Malis and Roloff (2006a) also point to the need for an assessment of the psychological well being of relational partners who engage in serial arguments. In addition to supplementing this existing area of research, this study examines the effects the topic of the serial argument has on relationships. This essay examines features of serial arguments that predict whether these arguments lead to perceived relational harm and perceived harm to the arguing individual depending on serial argument topic.

Several studies examining serial arguments have suggested that the perceived resolvability of the argument is a very important factor in determining whether the argument will be related to relational harm (e.g., K. Johnson & Roloff, 1998). Other studies have examined how serial arguments are related to personal outcomes such as physical health including stress, thought avoidance, and hyperarousal (e.g., Malis & Roloff, 2006a, 2006b). However, these studies have not considered the potential impacts the argument topic has on the argument. A. Johnson (2002) argued personal-issue and public-issue arguments have differing relational effects. Considering the relative influence of argument type on resolvability and the results of serial arguing, this study examines how the topic of the argument relates to the perceived resolvability of the argument topic, how the function the argument serves in the relationship relates to perceived harm, and how the argumentativeness of the arguer relates to perceived harm. As such, this essay seeks to further understand which serial arguments are associated with perceived harm for the individuals arguing.

SERIAL ARGUMENTS

K. Johnson and Roloff (1998) defined a serial argument: "A serial argument exists when individuals argue or engage in conflict about the same topic over time, during which they participate in several (at least two) arguments about the topic" (p. 333). Roloff and his colleagues have engaged in a series of studies examining serial arguments. Several themes have emerged from this research. The first is the importance of examining the perceived resolvability of the argument. For example, K. Johnson and Roloff (1998) found that it was the perceived resolvability of the topic rather than the frequency of the serial argument that was positively related to both satisfaction with and commitment to the relationship. A second theme from Roloff's line of research is that perceptions about serial arguments can be tied to mental and physical health. Roloff and his colleagues have examined several variables related to personal health, such as perceived stress after the serial argument, whether individuals report avoiding thoughts about the argument, whether they report feeling hyperaroused by the argument, and whether thoughts about the argument intrude upon their daily lives (Malis & Roloff, 2006a, 2006b). Malis and Roloff found that perceived resolvability was negatively related to stress. They also found that perceived resolvability was associated with thought avoidance and less hyperarousal (Malis & Roloff, 2006a). This essay will further examine the processes that predict whether serial arguments are perceived to cause harm to the relationship or the individual arguing. It clarifies the link between perceived resolvability and harm by examining the topic of the serial argument. It also examines two new variables to the literature on serial argument, the function that the argument plays for the relationship and the argumentativeness level of the individual.

ARGUMENT TYPE AND THE PERCEIVED RESOLVABILITY OF THE SERIAL ARGUMENT

Prior research on serial arguments has not distinguished between public-issue and personal-issue arguments. …

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