Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Relationship Conflict

Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Relationship Conflict

Article excerpt

Relationship Conflict. Daniel J. Canary, William R. Cupach, & Susan J. Messman. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. 1995. 175 pp. Paperback ISBN 0-8039-5130-2. $15.95 paper.

Relationship Conflict gives an overview of contemporary research on conflict in personal relationships. My favorite features of the book are the inclusion of different types of relationships and a developmental perspective on relationship conflict. Daniel Canary, William Cupach, and Susan Messman discuss conflict in parent-child relationships (Chapter 3), friendship (Chapter 4), and intimate relationships (Chapter 5). The authors' purpose is to examine what "conflict look[s] like in various close relationships" (p. ix), focusing mostly on typical conflict issues and management behaviors.

Many issues can be interpreted as age- or relationship-specific arenas where the parties try to negotiate mutually acceptable levels of control and interdependence. For instance, controversial issues in toddler-mother conflicts often ensue over manners, the destruction of objects, and physical space. In contrast, conflicts between adolescent friends revolve around friendship rules, sexual behavior, and abstract ideas. An ever-popular conflict issue is annoying behavior, which bothers friends as much as intimate partners.

The conflict-management behaviors used to deal with these issues vary with age and relationship type, although the underlying interpersonal dynamic seems to be remarkably similar across relationships. For example, 18-month-olds learn to tease a sibling by "removing a desired object (toy or block)"-at a later stage we snatch the remote control from our spouse; by "pulling the sibling's thumb from his or her mouth"-we change channels when the other's favorite soap opera is on; and by "showing a rubber spider known to cause the sibling anxiety" (p. 55)-we mention that we invited Mr. …

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