, Volume 18, Issue 3, pp 239-254

Physiological, affective, and behavioral responses to interpersonal conflict among males from families with different levels of cohesion and adaptability

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To examine the relation between characteristics of a person's family of origin and cardiovascular, behavioral, cognitive, and affective response to interpersonal conflict, responses of 15 young males from families rated as extreme (EXT) on scales of cohesion (enmeshed or disengaged) or adaptability (chaotic or rigid) were compared to those of 25 young males from families rated as balanced (BAL) on measures of cohesion and adaptability. Subjects participated in two interpersonal role-play conflict situations, one with a male confederate and the other with a female confederate. Measures of heart rate (HR), blood pressure, and indices of both positive and negative verbal and nonverbal behaviors were obtained during each scenario and self-reported measures of positive and negative cognitive self-statements and affective response were obtained following each conflict scene. Results showed that, in contrast to BAL males, EXT males exhibited more negative verbal and nonverbal behavior, less positive nonverbal behavior, higher ratings of state anxiousness during conflict, and higher HR responses during the interaction with the male confederate than the female confederate. These findings suggest that exposure to a family environment with extreme levels of cohesion and adaptability impacts how an individual responds to interpersonal conflict in young adulthood.