Examination of relational responsiveness and empathy during conflict in dating relationships
AdvisorBurgoon, Judee K.
MetadataShow full item record
PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractConflict discussions are important events in serious dating relationships. How disagreements are managed can impact the level of satisfaction with the interaction and may eventually or concomitantly affect the overall relationship as satisfying or dissatisfying interactions accumulate. This study investigated the role of conflict in relationships by examining relational responsiveness (i.e., the signed difference between partner's expectations and perceptions of actual behaviors during conflict) and the role of empathy (i.e., perspective taking, empathic concern, and emotional contagion) as a moderator of the association between expectations and perceptions of actual behavior. Couples discussed a recurring conflict with each other and completed questionnaires two weeks prior and immediately following their conflict interaction. Results from this investigation revealed that dating partners consistently expected their partners to demonstrate high levels of intimacy and equality/composure. Moderately low levels of formality and dominance were also expected, but these expectancies showed more variability. The findings also indicated that overall relational responsiveness was positively related to communication satisfaction. Limited support, however, was found for the role of empathy in determining the degree of relational responsiveness that may be perceived by dating partners during conflict. The overall level of responsiveness exhibited by people who were instructed to consider their partner's perspective was not significantly different from people who were told to consider their own viewpoint. Only one subcomponent of responsiveness (i.e., equality/composure) differentiated the levels of perspective taking. Additionally, empathic concern was not a significant predictor of overall relational responsiveness or any of its subcomponents. Emotional contagion, however, did significantly predict overall relational responsiveness and the subcomponent of dominance. As emotional contagion increased, overall relational responsiveness and responsiveness with respect to dominance decreased. A higher order negative relationship between emotional contagion and responsiveness with regard to intimacy was also found. These results suggest that the management of conflict in dating relationships appears to entail being responsive to partners' relational expectations and being relatively unresponsive to partners' emotions.
Degree ProgramGraduate College