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J Consult Clin Psychol. 1993 Feb;61(1):6-15.

The roles of conflict engagement, escalation, and avoidance in marital interaction: a longitudinal view of five types of couples.

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  • Department of Psychology, University of Washington, Seattle 98195.


Seventy-three couples were studied at 2 time points 4 years apart. A typology of 5 groups of couples is proposed on the basis of observational data of Time 1 resolution of conflict, specific affects, and affect sequences. Over the 4 years, the groups of couples differed significantly in serious considerations of divorce and in the frequency of divorce. There were 3 groups of stable couples: validators, volatiles, and avoiders, who could be distinguished from each other on problem-solving behavior, specific affects, and persuasion attempts. There were 2 groups of unstable couples: hostile and hostile/detached, who could be distinguished from each other on problem-solving behavior and on specific negative and positive affects. A balance theory of marriage is proposed, which explores the idea that 3 distinct adaptations exist for having a stable marriage.

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