Sex Roles

, Volume 47, Issue 9–10, pp 403–417 | Cite as

The Authenticity of Conflict Resolutions Among Adult Couples: Does Women's Other-Oriented Behavior Reflect Their True Selves?

  • Kristin D. Neff
  • Susan Harter


In this study we examined how men and women typically resolve conflicts with relationship partners (by meeting the self's need, the other's need, or through compromise) and the authenticity of resolutions and their relation to psychological health. Data were collected using a questionnaire given to 251 men and 251 women (aged 18–75 yrs) who were in heterosexual relationships. Results showed that most women (but not men) who resolved conflicts by meeting their partners' needs rather than their own thought that this was inauthentic behavior that they adopted to avoid negative repercussions from their partners. For all participants, inauthenticity and a lack of partner validation was linked to poorer psychological health. Results suggest that women's other-oriented relationship behavior does not necessarily stem from the authentic self.

gender-roles interpersonal conflicts authenticity 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Allen, J. P., Hauser, S. T., Bell, L. L., & O'Connor, T. G. (1994). Longitudinal assessment of autonomy and relatedness in adolescent-family interactions as predictors of adolescent ego development and self-esteem. Child Development, 64 179-194.Google Scholar
  2. Baldwin, J. M. (1897). Social and ethical interpretations in mental development: Astudy in social psychology. NewYork: Macmillan.Google Scholar
  3. Batson, D., Bolen, M. H, Cross, J. A., & Neuringer-Benefiel, H. E. (1986). Where is the altruism in the altruistic personality? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 50 212-220.Google Scholar
  4. Bohan, J. S. (1993). Regarding gender: Essentialism constructionism, and feminist psychology. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 17 5-21.Google Scholar
  5. Brown, L., & Gilligan, C. (1992). Meeting at the crossroads: Women's psychology and girls' development. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  6. Cahn, D. D. (1990). Confrontation behaviors, perceived understanding, and relationship growth. In D. D. Cahn (Ed.), Intimates in conflict: A communication perspective (pp. 153-166). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  7. Chadwick, B. A., & Heaton, T. B. (1992). Statistical handbook on the American family. Phoenix: Oryx Press.Google Scholar
  8. Chodorow, N. (1989). Feminism and psychoanalytic theory. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  9. Colby, A., & Damon, W. (1992). Some do care: Contemporary lives of moral commitment. New York: Free Press.Google Scholar
  10. Cooley, C. H. (1902). Human nature and the social order. New York: Scribner's.Google Scholar
  11. Cross, S. E., & Madson, L. (1997). Models of the self: Self-construals and gender. Psychological Bulletin, 122 5-37.Google Scholar
  12. Emde, R. N., & Buchsbaum. H. (1990). “Didn't I hear my Mommy? ”: Autonomy with connectedness in moral self-emergence. In D. Cicchetti & M. Beeghley (Eds.), The self in transition: From infancy to childhood (pp. 35-60). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  13. Gilligan, C. (1982). In a different voice: Psychological theory and women's development. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  14. Gilligan, C. (1988). Remapping the moral domain: New images of self in relationship. In C. Gilligan, J. Ward, & J. Taylor (Eds.), Mapping the moral domain (pp. 3-19). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  15. Gilligan, C., Lyons, N., & Hanmer, T. J. (1989). Making connections. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  16. Gray-Little, B., & Burks, N. (1983). Power and satisfaction in marriage: A review and critique. Psychological Bulletin, 93 513-538.Google Scholar
  17. Grotevant, H., & Cooper, C. (1988). Individuation in family relationships: A perspective on individual differences in the development of identity and role-taking skills in adolescence. Human Development, 29 82-100.Google Scholar
  18. Guisinger, S., & Blatt, S. (1994). Individuality and relatedness: Evo-lution of a fundamental dialectic. American Psychologist, 49 104-111.Google Scholar
  19. Harter, S. (1982). The perceived competence scale for children. Child Development, 53 87-97.Google Scholar
  20. Harter, S. (1988). Manual for the self-perception profile for adolescents. University of Denver.Google Scholar
  21. Harter, S. (1997). The personal self in social context: Barriers to authenticity. In R. D. Ashmore & L. Jussim (Eds.), Self and identity: Fundamental issues (pp. 81-105). New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  22. Harter, S. (1999). The construction of the self: A developmental perspective. New York: Guilford.Google Scholar
  23. Harter, S., Marold, D., & Whitesell, N. R. (1992). A model of psychosocial risk factors leading to suicidal ideation in young adolescents. Development and Psychopathology, 4 167-188.Google Scholar
  24. Harter, S., Marold, D., Whitesell, N. R., & Cobbs, G. (1996). A model of the effects of parent and peer support on adolescent false self behavior, Child Development, 67 360-374.Google Scholar
  25. Harter, S., Waters, P. L., Pettitt, L. M., Whitesell, N., Kofkin, J., & Jordan, J. (1997). Autonomy and connectedness as dimensions of relationship styles in men and women. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 14 148-164.Google Scholar
  26. Harter, S., Waters, P., & Whitesell, N. R. (1998). Relational self-worth: Differences in perceived worth as a person in different relational contexts. Child Development, 69 756-766.Google Scholar
  27. Harter, S., Waters, P., Whitesell, N. R., & Kastelic, D. (1998). Predictors of level of voice among high school women and men: Relational context, support, and gender orientation. Developmental Psychology, 34 1-10.Google Scholar
  28. Hauser, S., Powers, S., & Noam, G. (1991). Adolescents and their families. New York: Free Press.Google Scholar
  29. Hill, J., & Holmbeck, G. (1986). Attachment and autonomy during adolescence. In G. Whitehurst (Ed.), Annals of child development (pp. 145-189). Greenwich, CT: JAI Press.Google Scholar
  30. Horney, K. (1950). Neurosis and human growth. NewYork: Norton.Google Scholar
  31. James, S. D., & Johnson, D. W. (1987). Social interdependence, psychological adjustment, and marital satisfaction in second marriages. Journal of Social Psychology, 128 287-303.Google Scholar
  32. Jordan, J. V. (1991). The relational self: A new perspective for un-derstanding women's development. In J. Strauss & G. Goethals (Eds.), The self: Interdisciplinary approaches (pp. 136-149). New York: Springer-Verlag.Google Scholar
  33. Jordan, J. V., Kaplan, A. G., Miller, J. B., Stiver, I. P., & Surrey, J. L. (1991). Women's growth in connection: Writings from the Stone Center. New York: Guilford.Google Scholar
  34. Kanter, R. (1977). Men and women of the corporation. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  35. Kelley, H. H., & Thibaut, J. (1978). Interpersonal relations. New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  36. Kohut, H. (1977). The restoration of the self. New York: International Universities Press.Google Scholar
  37. Larson, J. H., Hammond, C. H., & Harper, J. M. (1998). Perceived equity and intimacy in marriage. Journal of Marriage and Family Counseling, 24 487-506.Google Scholar
  38. Lunney, G. H. (1970). Using ANOVA with a dichotomous dependent variable. Journal of Educational Measurement, 7 263-269.Google Scholar
  39. Mead, G. H. (1934). Mind, self, and society from the standpoint of a social behaviorist. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  40. Messer, B., & Harter, S. (1986). Self-perception profile for adults. University of Denver.Google Scholar
  41. Miller, J. B. (1986). Toward a new psychology of women. Boston: Beacon Press.Google Scholar
  42. Okin, S. M. (1989). Justice, gender, and the family. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  43. Rankin-Esquer, L. A., Burnett, C. K., Baucom, D. H., & Epstein, N. (1997). Autonomy and relatedness in marital functioning. Journal of Marital & Family Therapy, 23 175-190.Google Scholar
  44. Roloff, M. E., & Cloven, D. H. (1990). The chilling effect in in-terpersonal relationships: The reluctance to speak one's mind. In D. D. Cahn (Ed.), Intimates in conflict: A communication perspective (pp. 49-76). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  45. Schneider, P., & Schneider, H. (1991). Mutuality in couples therapy: Addressing the effects of sexism in the marital relationship. American Journal of Family Therapy, 19 119-128.Google Scholar
  46. Selman, R. L. (1989) Fostering intimacy and autonomy. In Damon, W. (Ed). Child development today and tomorrow (pp. 409-435). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
  47. Spitzberg, B. H., Canary, D. J., & Cupach, W. R. (1994). A competence-based approach to the study of interpersonal conflict. In D. D. Cahn (Eds.), Conflict in interpersonal relationships (pp. 183-202). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  48. Steil, J. M. (1997). Marital equality: Its relationship to the well-being of husbands and wives. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  49. Storaasli, R. D., & Markman, H. J. (1990). Relationship problems in the early stages of marriage: A longitudinal investigation. Journal of Family Psychology, 4 80-98.Google Scholar
  50. Tavris, C. (1997). The science and politics of gender research: The meanings of difference. In D. Bernstein (Ed.), Nebraska Symposium on Motivation: Gender and Motivation (Vol. 45, pp. 1-23). Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press.Google Scholar
  51. Wainryb, C., & Turiel, E. (1994). Dominance, subordination, and concepts of personal entitlements in cultural contexts. Child Development, 65 1701-1722.Google Scholar
  52. Watson, C. (1994). Gender differences in negotiating behavior and outcomes: Fact of artifact? In A. Taylor & J. B. Miller (Eds.), Conflict and gender (pp. 191-210). Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Press.Google Scholar
  53. Westkott, M. (1989). Female relationality and the idealized self. American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 49 239-250.Google Scholar
  54. Winnicott, D. (1965). The maturational processes and the facilitating environment. New York: International Universities Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kristin D. Neff
    • 1
  • Susan Harter
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Educational PsychologyUniversity of TexasAustin
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyUniversity of DenverDenver

Personalised recommendations