An individual difference explanation of why married couples engage in the demand/withdraw pattern of conflict

John P. Caughlin, Anita L. Vangelisti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Demand/withdraw is a pattern in which one spouse nags or complains while the other spouse avoids or withdraws. Given the fact that demand/withdraw has been repeatedly linked to marital discord, it is important to understand why couples engage in such a seemingly dissatisfying conflict pattern. Although several scholars have suggested that power differences between men and women lead to demand/withdraw, the research reported here focused on an alternative explanation: That individual differences are important contributors to demand/withdraw communication. In particular, two models connecting individual differences to demand/withdraw were examined. The first model, a self-influence model, suggested that individuals' attributes primarily affect their own communication behaviors. The second model, a relational influence model, posited that individuals' characteristics affect the extent that the couple (i.e., both partners) engages in demand/withdraw. Results supported both the self-influence and relational influence models. These findings imply that individual differences do contribute to demand/withdraw and suggest that there is a need for future research to investigate the exact nature of the association between individual differences and the demand/withdraw pattern of marital conflict.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)523-551
Number of pages29
JournalJournal of Social and Personal Relationships
Issue number4-5
StatePublished - Aug 2000

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Communication
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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