Future Directions in the Study of Close Relationships: Conflict Is Bad (Except When It's Not)


  • Support for the preparation of this manuscript was provided by the US National Institute of Mental Health (MH58116).

Brett Laursen, Department of Psychology, Florida Atlantic University, 2912 College Avenue, Fort Lauderdale FL 33314 USA. Email: laursen@fau.edu


Beneficial and detrimental correlates of interpersonal disagreement have been postulated and documented. The conclusion: conflict is both bad and good. The evidence for these paradoxical effects is summarized. In this article, we argue that the consequences of conflict for individuals depend on its frequency, the way in which it is managed, and the quality of the relationship in which it arises. Non-linear patterns of association are hypothesized such that constructive conflicts, particularly those arising in supportive relationships, should (up to a limit) predict more beneficial and fewer detrimental outcomes. In contrast, coercive conflicts, particularly those arising in unsupportive relationships, should predict more adverse and fewer favorable outcomes.