Gender differences in intimate-conflict initiation and escalation tendencies

Zeev Winstok, Ronit Smadar-Dror, Michael Weinberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


According to gender motivation theory, men are driven by a desire to enhance their status; whereas, women are motivated by a desire to reduce risk, and the behavioral expressions of those motivations are context-dependent. In order to test this theory in the context of intimate relationships, this study compared men's and women's escalatory tendencies in the initial development of intimate conflict. These tendencies were conceptualized in terms of four attributes: two attributes that represent response intention (decision and style) and two others that represent motivations for that intention (putting one's partner in his or her place and avoiding conflict). These attributes were measured in the context of five hypothetical situations. Each of those scenarios involved potential escalation of intimate conflict, following an intimate partner's aggressive verbal demand. The study involved a convenience sample of 403 male and female participants. The findings show that, in the initial steps of intimate-conflict development, women tend toward escalation more than men. The findings also show that the escalatory tendency, as conceptualized and measured using the examined scenarios, corresponds to actual behavior exhibited in the resolution of common issues in the couples' lives. These findings reinforce gender motivation theory.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)276-284
Number of pages9
JournalAggressive Behavior
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 May 2018

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.


  • behavioral intention
  • conflict escalation
  • conflict initiation
  • gender motivation theory
  • intimate partner conflicts

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • General Psychology


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