conflict styles, intergenerational transmission, hostility


The purpose of this study was to explore the potential genesis of conflict styles for couples by evaluating the association between parents’ conflict styles and those of their adult children and their adult children’s partners. Using Social Learning Theory as a theoretical foundation, the four conflict typologies from Gottman’s work (avoidant, validating, volatile, and hostile) were applied to study the participants’ conflict styles. Multinomial logistic regression was then conducted on a sample of 25,511 participants, testing the relationships between the conflict styles of parents, their adult children’s conflict styles, and their adult children’s partners’ conflict styles. All of the perceived parental conflict styles were linked to the same conflict styles in adult children. However, for adult children and their partners, the patterns were mixed. Whereas having validating parents predicted having validating partners, having avoidant or hostile parents predicted having hostile partners. The results suggest the possibility of the intergenerational transmission of conflict styles between parents and their adult children as well as contributing to the established research on assortative mating in that individuals may be more likely to select partners who are similar to them in terms of their approaches to conflict. The results of this study have important implications for intervening early in families with less functional conflict styles.

Original Publication Citation

Busby, D. M., & Chiu, H-Y. (2017). Perceived conflict styles of adult children and their parents: What is the connection? Journal of Child and Family Studies, 26: 3412-3424.

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date



Journal of Child and Family Studies




Family, Home, and Social Sciences


Family Life

University Standing at Time of Publication

Full Professor