LET'S GIVE THEM SOMETHING TO TALK ABOUT: HOW DIFFERENT TOPICS AFFECT CONFLICT COMMUNICATION BEHAVIOR
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Past research suggests it is not what a conflict is about or how much conflict
exists between two people, but rather how the parties interact regarding their conflicting preferences that determines whether the conflict has negative effects on their relationship. The current study examined the degrees to which couples' communication behavior in specific situations in which they discuss a conflict-related topic is influenced by the conflict topic theme that they discuss and by their general communication patterns. Conflict topics were assessed with the Relationship Issues Survey, general communication patterns with the Communication Patterns Questionnaire, and specific communication behavior during discussions with the Marital Interaction Coding System - Global. Findings indicated several significant effects of both content area and general communication style on communication behavior. Post-hoc analyses indicated that couples discussing conflicts regarding basic life values, priorities, and consideration for one's partner exhibited more negative communication behavior than those discussing issues regarding closeness, relationship commitment, emotional connectivity, and expressiveness. Possible implications of the findings are discussed.