Relationship Conflict Resolution Impacted by Childhood Development

Summary
A recent study done in Minneapolis evaluated the role attachment in infancy plays in recovering from conflicts in romantic relations. The study involved deliberately creating conflicts between romantic couples and then assessing their capacity to resolve the conflict. Later, the attachment of the participants to their parents was assessed. There was a clear-cut association between conflict recovery capacity and attachment in early childhood. “Individuals who were rated as securely attached more times in infancy recovered from conflict better, as did their romantic partner.”

Introduction
Conflicts are common in any romantic relationship. To maintain the relationship for a longer time and also for better quality of the relationship, it is important to resolve periodic conflicts. But very few studies have been conducted to explore possible factors that determine the capacity to resolve conflicts in romantic relationships. Conflict recovery is the capacity to put aside and limit interpersonal conflict in order to pay attention to other matters in the relationship. If factors determining conflict recovery capacity are understood, it may help in preventing break-ups. In the present study, researchers examined the effect of love and care that is given to a person in infancy and how it can be related to resolving the conflicts of adulthood.

Methodology
* Data was collected from 73 heterosexual couples aged 20 and 21 years. They were first interviewed regarding their romantic relationship, and a significant issue in their relationship was identified. Their attachment with their parents in infancy was also noted.
* Each couple was asked to resolve the most important problem that they had in their relationship within 10 minutes. This conversation was videotaped. Later, they were asked to perform a “cool-down” activity for four minutes, which constituted as conflict recovery.
* Four skilled observers evaluated the conflict recovery capacity of each couple and then this data was correlated with infant attachment.

Results
* Recovery capacity was similar in both partners of each pair.
* Participants with high infancy attachment scores early in life showed enhanced conflict recovery with their romantic partners directly after the discussion.
* Participants with more early childhood security also had romantic partners with better conflict recovery.
* No significant effects were noted between genders either in conflict recovery or in attachment security in predicting conflict recovery.

Shortcomings/next steps
Although the present study clearly showed a demographic relationship between security in early life and conflict recovery capacity, it could not pinpoint the reason for that. According to the researchers, this could be due to a selection of partners who are better at conflict recovery by participants who had secure childhoods. Studies conducted in the future should look at how conflict recovery capacity develops.

Conclusion
Being capable of resolving the conflicts that arise in romantic relationships is very important to maintain the relationship, and plays a part in the healthy functioning and quality of the relationship. The results of the present study indicate that conflict recovery capacity of an individual can be predicted by the quality of care that the person received early in his or her life. Conflict resolution requires emotional self-regulation. People with a high attachment in infancy are better at handling the clashes that arise in a relationship and are able to maintain a good emotional balance. There is a need to create awareness about better care in early childhood, which would help the person in better maintaining the relationship with a romantic partner in his or her adulthood.

For More Information:
Recovering From Conflict in Romantic Relationships : A Developmental Perspective
Publication Journal: Psychological Science, January 2011
By Jessica Salvatore; Sally I-Chun Kuo; University of Minnesota, Minneapolis

*FYI Living Lab Reports Are Summaries of the Original Research.


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