An exploration of conflict roles and communication patterns within the American family



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Although numerous studies have examined family conflict, few have described emergent family member roles during conflict, the behaviors associated with these roles, and if or how these conflict roles and behaviors are related to family communication. Through a program of research, this study analyzed respondents’ perceptions of a "typical" family conflict (N = 90) for emergent role themes and behaviors using open coding; using grounded theory, this study also examined the relationship between emergent roles, behaviors, and reports of family communication (N = 469) as operationalized by Ritchie and Fitzpatrick’s (1990) Revised Family Communication Patterns (RFCP) instrument. Initial results found that six different conflict roles and 36 conflict behaviors emerged; however, statistical analysis of the data using t-tests, Pearson product correlations, exploratory and confirmatory factor analysis, and ANOVA tests revealed that only four of these six roles and 12 of these 36 behaviors were reliable and could be understood in terms of factors (constructs). Further, several strong relationships were discovered between the Victim, Enforcer, Avoider, and Mediator roles and reports of family communication. Possible conclusions for the emergence of these themes were drawn, and implications for future research were also discussed.



Family, Conflict, Revised family communication patterns