Date of Award

2008

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts Honours

School

School of Psychology and Social Sciences

Faculty

Faculty of Computing, Health and Science

First Advisor

Dr Elizabeth Kaczmarek

Second Advisor

Dr Dierdre Drake

Abstract

This paper explores conflict management skill development of young adults. Although conflict management is a life-span issue, conflict management skills are of particular importance to young adults as they develop their identity and explore romantic relationships. The study of conflict management skills is complex and is underpinned by different theoretical approaches. These complexities and theories are presented. Findings from childhood to young adulthood are reviewed and summarised. Marital conflict, parent-child interactions, family-of-origin characteristics and attachment orientation are all factors that influence the development of conflict management skills. The family-of-origin characteristics seem to provide the most meaningful results in relation to young adults in romantic relationships. Additional research is still required to identify specific pathways of conflict management skill development. Quantitative research on conflict management development suggests that different family factors influence how a young adult interacts in a romantic relationship. The research does not examine whether or not identify formation, which is also a critical process in young adulthood, impacts on conflict management development. Using a phenomenological methodology, this study explored 9 young adults' (5 men, 4 women, M= 21.8 years old) perceptions of their conflict management development and the possible influence of identity formation. Three main themes emerged from the data analysis: identity formation, family systems and conflict situation characteristics. The findings suggest that family systems, for this group of participants, is the base influence on conflict management development, but as an individual matures, identity formation becomes influential to the young adult. Conflict situation characteristics (i.e. emotional control, topic) impact conflict management development differently for each participant. Thus, the pathways of development are thought to be quite complex and dynamic. Overall, the findings from this study support existing research and also reveal that identity formation may have an important influence on young adult conflict management skill development.

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