A conflict escalation comparison: Couples from the general population and couples engaged in high-intensity conflict

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: The purpose of the present study was to test a model that examines the characteristics of the escalation process among heterosexual couples. It also examined how women's use of verbal and physical violence is associated with a sense of danger in men. Background: The prevalence of intimate partner violence (IPV) is a critical concern for public health. IPV has serious physical and mental health consequences on the victim. Methods: Participants were 165 women. The first subsample (n = 70, 42.42%) comprised women from the general population, and the second (n = 95, 57.57%) was composed of women living in relationships characterized by high-intensity conflict (research population). Structural equation modeling was performed to assess the hypothesized model and to test the research hypotheses. Results: Analysis indicates that the use of violence (verbal and/or physical) by one partner was positively correlated to the use of violence by the other partner. The analysis also shows that the woman's use of violence positively affects the man's sense of danger only for couples from the general population. Finally, the man's sense of danger is related to his violence toward the woman. Conclusion: In a high-conflict relationship, violence is less reciprocal but escalates more easily, whereas in the general population, violence is more reciprocal but more moderate. In addition, emotions are an essential component of marital conflict and influence the development and management of conflict. Emotional components, such as a sense of danger, may be a risk factor in the escalation of conflict to violence.

Original languageEnglish
JournalFamily Relations
StatePublished - 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 The Author. Family Relations published by Wiley Periodicals LLC on behalf of National Council on Family Relations.


  • conflict escalation
  • intimate partner violence
  • physical violence
  • sense of danger
  • verbal violence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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