This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

Conflict Behaviors and Marital Satisfaction in Older Adulthood: A Typology




Williams, Leah

Type of Degree



Human Development and Family Studies


Research has generally supported the idea that older adult conflict resolution is different from that of younger adults and that more effective conflict resolution skills are positively associated with marital satisfaction at the aggregate level. However, it remains unclear how maritally satisfied older couples differ in their handling of conflict. Addressing this gap in the literature, the current study uses a person-centered typology approach to better understand the different behaviors that comprise conflict management among satisfied older adult couples. Using observed, behavioral measures of conflict resolution with self-reported measures of marital satisfaction, this study creates a typology of conflict resolution behaviors and their relationship with marital satisfaction in a sample of older couples (N = 64). Results provided support for the hypothesized associations. Four clusters emerged: Problem Solvers, Warm Couples, Even Couples, and Cool Couples. Clusters varied on problem solving skills, warmth, hostility, and denial, and these differences were linked to significant differences in spouses’ marital satisfaction. Potential explanations of these findings and future directions are provided.