Rest from conflict is more common in older people

Rest from conflict — “loyalty” — is passive with respect to the social partner, and is constructive

Rest from conflict—“loyalty”—is passive with respect to the social partner, and is constructive.[1]

Rest from conflict means waiting hopefully

Conflict strategies are defined along two dimensions…

  1. The active–passive dimension indicates whether an individual confronts or avoids the problem.
  2. The constructive–destructive dimension refers to whether the strategy is likely to benefit or harm the relationship.

Based on these dimensions, 4 conflict categories arise: exit, neglect, voice, and loyalty.

  • Exit includes active destructive behaviors, such as yelling and hitting.
  • Neglect encompasses passive destructive strategies, such as pretending the social partner does not exist, sulking, or avoiding interactions.
  • Voice involves active constructive behaviors to directly solve the problem, such as discussing the issue.
  • Loyalty includes passive constructive strategies, such as optimistically waiting for things to change. For example, a person may be irritated but chooses not to say anything to avoid upsetting her social partner.

It is possible that individuals in all age groups usually respond to conflict with active constructive strategies. But, whether people also use active destructive strategies (e.g., yelling) or passive constructive strategies (e.g., doing nothing) varies with age group.

Rest from conflict is less common in younger people, in general

In this study…

…age differences were not accounted for by intensity of distress, relationship quality, contact frequency, or type of social partner.

…younger people were more likely to use exit responses (e.g., arguing, yelling) than older people…

…we did not find that younger people were also more likely to use neglect than older adults.

It is possible that neglect behaviors are not always destructive. Avoiding the person or leaving the situation may be advantageous for relationships if used immediately after a conflict because of extreme anger and the potential to engage in destructive behaviors. These behaviors may be harmful, however, if used over long periods of time.

…older adults were less likely to use certain destructive strategies than younger people.

…there were no age group differences in active constructive (voice) strategies, such as discussion.

…older adults were more likely to report loyalty strategies (e.g., doing nothing)…

…adolescents and middle-aged adults were less likely than oldest–old adults to describe loyalty.

Rest from conflict is more common in young adults and in older people

Young adults and oldest–old adults may have been equally likely to use loyalty because many of the young adults were enrolled in college or may have been employed in low-status jobs, which may encourage the use of loyalty.

It appears that individuals are better able to regulate their behavioral responses to interpersonal problems as they age.

…we found that older adults are more likely to use certain constructive strategies than younger adults.

…older adults were more likely to describe loyalty strategies (e.g., doing nothing) than younger people…[2]

  1. Dowding, Keith, et al. “Exit, voice and loyalty: Analytic and empirical developments.European Journal of Political Research 37.4 (2000): 469-495.
  2. Birditt, Kira S., and Karen L. Fingerman. “Do we get better at picking our battles? Age group differences in descriptions of behavioral reactions to interpersonal tensions.The Journals of Gerontology Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences 60.3 (2005): P121-P128.

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