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Conflict between couples rarely changes after marriage, according to new study

Date:23 AUG 2011

By Edward Wheatley

Couple arguingA new academic study has found that conflict between couples rarely changes after marriage. The survey, which followed nearly 1,000 couples from 1980 to 2000, found that differences over time were generally small although there were larger decreases in conflict towards the final years of the study.

Conducted by the Ohio State University, the study measured how much the respondents disagreed with their spouse. These results were separated into high, middle and low conflict marriages.

The researchers found that people in low-conflict marriages were more likely than others to say they shared decision-making with their spouses.

Lead researcher, Kamp Dush, said: "That's interesting because you might think that making decisions jointly would create more opportunities for conflict, but that's not what we found.

"It may be that if both spouses have a say in decision making, they are more satisfied with their relationship and are less likely to fight."

People in the low conflict group were also more likely than those who reported high levels of conflict to say that they believed in traditional, life-long marriage. This category were also deemed more likely to let disagreements go.

The researchers also used psychologists to develop a classification system classifying marriages as: volatile, validator, hostile and avoider.

Fifty four percent of couples were deemed to be validators; marriages in which decision making is equal, happiness is at a middle to high level, and conflict is no higher than at middle level. These couples are engaged with each other and share housework as well as decision making.

About 20 percent of those surveyed were in volatile marriages - high conflict and high or middle levels of happiness. The remaining participants were in hostile marriages, which were the most likely to divorce.

Six percent of couples had avoider marriages; traditional relationships in which the husband takes little part in the housework and both spouses believe in long-term marriage.

Kamp Dush concluded that: "Avoiding conflict could lead couples to avoid other types of engagement.

"A healthy marriage needs to have both spouses engaged and invested in the relationship."