Elucidating the Effect of Perceived Power on Destructive Responses during Romantic Conflicts
MetadataShow full item record
Cambridge Univ Press
Close relationshipsConflict resolutionConflict seriousnessInclusion of the other in the selfPower
Alonso-Ferres, M., Valor-Segura, I., & Expósito, F. (2021). Elucidating the effect of perceived power on destructive responses during romantic conflicts. The Spanish Journal of Psychology, 24. e21. [Doi:10.1017/SJP.2021.15]
SponsorshipSpanish Government FPU16/03023; Spanish Ministerio de Industria, Economía y Competitividad [MINECO/AEI/FEDER/UE] PSI-2017-83966-R PSI2017-84703-R
Prior research has indicated that the people one loves the most, such as their romantic partners, ironically, are also the people toward whom they often direct destructive behaviors in times of conflict, and such destructive responses become one of the most challenging relationship problems. Identifying the conditions that promote destructive (vs. constructive) conflict-resolution strategies is a crucial gap requiring study to help individuals build healthier and happier relationships. Across three studies (total N = 728), we examined whether (a) power is related to direct destructive (vs. constructive) responses during romantic conflicts; (b) this effect was moderated by the seriousness of the conflict and the relationship’s inclusiveness. In Study 1, participants involved in romantic relationships completed scales assessing interpersonal power, the conflict’s seriousness, their relationship’s inclusiveness, and conflict-resolution responses. In Studies 2-3, the participants were randomly assigned to complete an essay in which the conflict’s seriousness and power were experimentally manipulated. Findings from hierarchical regression analyses consistently showed that power led to destructive (and lower constructive) responses. However, this only occurred when the participants faced severe conflicts and their partner was not central to their self-concept. An internal meta-analysis of the studies confirmed the reliability and significance of these relationships; |r’s| =.13-37. Together, these results support the proposition that power asymmetries can threaten relationships by driving destructive responses during romantic conflicts, and untangle the conditions under which this happens. The conflict’s seriousness and the inclusiveness of the relationship may be considered to provide skills that help individuals navigate their relationships’ life challenges.