Academic journal article Journal of Counseling and Development : JCD

Argument Beliefs Mediate Relations between Attachment Style and Conflict Tactics

Academic journal article Journal of Counseling and Development : JCD

Argument Beliefs Mediate Relations between Attachment Style and Conflict Tactics

Article excerpt

Commonsense, naive, or lay beliefs about argument and its role in interpersonal relationships are predictive of the ways in which individuals approach, interpret, and behave during disagreements. For example, individuals with a view of argument as beneficial are more open to the possibility that partners in a disagreement may be making progress in resolving their differences (Ricco & Sierra, 2011) and are less likely to personalize conflicts or to be anxious about communicating with others (Hample, 2005; Infante & Rancer, 1982; Schrodt & Wheeless, 2001). Similarly, individuals espousing positive views of argument seem to be more adaptive and flexible in communicative settings (Martin, Anderson, & Thweatt, 1998) and are more likely to believe that successful relationships result from the mutual efforts of both partners rather than from destiny or luck (Knee, Patrick, & Lonsbary, 2003). In addition, relationship partners who view recurring arguments as potentially resolvable report more relationship satisfaction and greater individual well-being (Bevan & Sparks, 2014; Johnson & Roloff, 1998; Malis & Roloff, 2006). Collectively, these findings suggest that the capacity to view argument as a potentially beneficial interaction is likely to support more enduring and mutually satisfying interpersonal relationships. By contrast, a view of argument as threatening and nonbeneficial would seem to represent a significant obstacle to the prospects of relationship growth and satisfaction.

The origins of individuals' lay beliefs about argument are complex and include societal, cultural, and family value systems as well as personality traits or dispositions. One widely studied dispositional factor that appears to have clear implications for individuals' beliefs about the nature and role of argument is attachment style (Creasey, 2002; Li & Chan, 2012). Attachment refers to an individual's sense of trust in relationship partners and in the self for meeting basic emotional needs. Securely (insecurely) attached individuals have a basic sense of trust (mistrust) in their partner's availability to meet their emotional needs and in their own capabilities for getting these needs met (Pistole & Arricale, 2003). Two common types of insecure attachment are (a) anxious or preoccupied attachment and (b) avoidant or dismissive attachment. Anxious or preoccupied attachment involves a sense that partners are, at best, inconsistently available with respect to one's emotional needs and that one is unworthy or incapable of having such needs met. Anxiously attached individuals fear abandonment and seek greater emotional intimacy than their partner typically prefers (Brassard, Lussier, & Shaver, 2009; Simpson, Rholes, & Phillips, 1996). They adopt affect self-regulation strategies that intensify distress and vulnerability (Mikulincer, Shaver, & Rom, 2011). By contrast, avoidant or dismissive attachment involves a strong sense that partners are rejecting, manipulative, and unresponsive. Avoidantly attached individuals tend to deny their own emotional needs and display an affect self-regulation strategy that focuses on suppressing distress. Typically, they are dismissive of emotional intimacy (Li & Chan, 2012).

Empirical research on the relationship between attachment style and beliefs about argument has been surprisingly limited. The present study sought to confirm and extend findings about the implications of attachment style for beliefs about argument and to demonstrate that individual differences in such beliefs can help explain some of the effects of attachment style on the choice of conflict management tactics in romantic relationships.

Insecure Attachment Styles and Beliefs About Argument

The positive representation of self and other that composes the internal working model of securely attached individuals should support the view that disagreement, when properly managed, carries potential benefits for both partners in an intimate relationship. …

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