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Attachment Styles, Conflict Perception, and Adolescents' Strategies of Coping with Interpersonal Conflict

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In this study, we examined the relationships between and among adolescents' attachment styles, conflict perceptions, and strategies for coping with conflicts with their peers. The study participants were 146 pupils at a junior high school who completed self-report questionnaires about their attachment styles (secure, anxious, or avoidant), conflict coping styles (avoiding, dominating, obliging, compromising, and integrating), and conflict perceptions (positive or negative), as well as social and academic status and the frequency with which they and their friends were involved in conflicts.

We found strong, statistically significant correlations between attachment style, coping strategy, and conflict perception. Generally, participants whose secure attachment scores were higher reported that they held more positive attitudes toward conflict, used more cooperative strategies to cope with conflicts, and were involved in conflicts less often; they also seemed to be less obliging and more dominating in their coping strategies. Avoidant attachment adolescents in our study displayed more negative conflict perceptions and made greater use of dominating strategies.

We also found that participants' conflict perceptions mediated the relationship between their attachment styles and coping styles. Because it is generally easier to change attitudes than it is to change attachment styles, which are more fixed, our findings suggest that changing adolescents' conflict perceptions, through school curricula, for example, may be an effective way to improve their ability to cope with conflict.

Keywords: adolescence; attachment styles; conflict perception; conflict resolution; coping strategies

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Bar Ilan University in Ramat–Gan, Israel

Publication date: 2009-01-01

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