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Conflict negotiation and autonomy processes in adolescent romantic relationships: An observational study of interdependency in boyfriend and girlfriend effects

Journal of Adolescence
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1016/j.adolescence.2008.08.005
  • Autonomy
  • Romantic Relationships
  • Gender
  • Conflict Negotiation
  • Adolescence


Abstract This study examined the association between conflict negotiation and the expression of autonomy in adolescent romantic partners. Thirty-seven couples participated in a globally coded conflict interaction task. Actor-partner interdependence models (APIM) were used to quantify the extent to which boys’ and girls’ autonomy was linked solely to their own negotiation of the conflict or whether it was linked conjointly to their own and their partners’ negotiation style. Combining agentic autonomy theories and peer socialization models, it was expected that boys’ and girls’ autonomy would be associated only with their own conflict behaviors when they employed conflict styles reflective of their same gender repertoire, and associated conjointly with self and partner behaviors when they employed gender-atypical conflict styles. Instead of an equal, albeit distinct, positioning in the autonomy dynamic, the results suggested that girls’ autonomy is associated solely with their own conflict behaviors, whereas boys’ autonomy is jointly associated with their own and their partners’ conflict behaviors. We discuss the relative power of boys and girls in emergent dyadic contexts, emphasizing how romantic dynamics shape salient abilities.

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