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J Pers Soc Psychol. 1990 Jul;59(1):73-81.

Gender and social structure in the demand/withdraw pattern of marital conflict.

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  • 1University of California, Los Angeles.


This study examined the effects of gender and social structure on the demand/withdraw pattern of marital conflict. In this pattern, the demander, usually the woman, pressures the other through emotional requests, criticism, and complaints, and the withdrawer, usually the man, retreats through defensiveness and passive inaction. In this study, 31 couples were assessed in 2 conflict situations: 1 in which husband wanted a change in wife and 1 in which wife wanted a change in husband. Data from husbands, wives, and observers consistently revealed a significant main effect of gender (wife-demand/husband-withdraw interaction was more likely than husband-demand/wife-withdraw interaction) and a significant interaction of gender and conflict structure (wife-demand/husband-withdraw interaction was more likely than the reverse only when discussing a change the wife wanted). Separate analyses of demand and withdraw behaviors indicated that both husband and wife were more likely to be demanding when discussing a change they wanted and more likely to be withdrawing when discussing a change their partner wanted. However, men were overall more withdrawn than women, but women were not overall more demanding than men.

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