Study Identifies Couples’ Underlying Concerns During a Fight

A new study by Baylor University published in the American Psychological Association’s journal, Psychological Assessment, revealed two concerns when partners in a committed relationship fight.

Baylor University reported:

Sanford and his research have identified the first type of underlying concern as perceived threat, which involves a perception that one’s partner is being hostile, critical, blaming or controlling.

The second type of concern is called perceived neglect, which involves a perception that one’s partner is failing to make a desired contribution or failing to demonstrate an ideal level of commitment or investment in the relationship.

These concerns were associated with specific emotions and perceptions:

“When people have underlying concerns about a perceived threat or perceived neglect, they may be likely to engage in reflexive, emotionally charged behavior that can initially serve to escalate the conflict,” Sanford said. “This means that perceived threat and neglect should correlate with how couples communicate during conflict. Each type of concern is associated with a specific and distinct set of emotions and perceptions.”

Another result, Sanford believes, is that concerns regarding perceived neglect may be best resolved when a person receives an apology and then decides to forgive. In contrast, a person concerned about a perceived threat may be more interested in receiving demonstrations of deference, expressions of appreciation, and reductions in hostility.

In addition, Sanford and his team created a questionnaire that measured the concerns and supported the validity of the study.

Source: Baylor University.

Journal Reference:
Sanford et al. Perceived threat and perceived neglect: Couples’ underlying concerns during conflict.. Psychological Assessment, 2010; 22 (2): 288 DOI: 10.1037/a0018706

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