The Role of Appraisal Distortion, Contempt, and Morality in Couple Conflict: A Grounded Theory


Couples' therapy, appraisal distortion


A common goal of couples’ therapy is to help individuals modify their view of each other and the relationship. Distorted views and appraisals contribute to conflict, and these can be manifest by use of rationalization or denial. This study explored appraisal distortion as an evaluative and moral process that occurs during partner conflict, particularly when it becomes contemptuous and aggressive. Using a philosophical base that is grounded in the ethical relationship, a model of appraisal distortion and couple conflict was created using constructivist grounded theory methods. The theoretical concepts derived from the data show relationships between one’s relational stance, appraisal distortion, and verbal and physical aggression. This model implies that helping individuals take responsibility for appraisals is important in treating conflict.

Original Publication Citation

Whiting, J. B. (2008). The role of appraisal distortion, contempt and morality in couple conflict: A grounded theory. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 34, 44-57. doi: 10.1111/j.1752-0606.2008.00052.x

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date


Permanent URL


Journal of Marital and Family Therapy




Family, Home, and Social Sciences


Family Life

University Standing at Time of Publication

Full Professor