The Development and Evaluation of a Training Videotape for the Resolution of Marital Conflict

Raymond M. Bergner (Ph.D., 1973)

Thesis directed by Associate Professor Peter G. Ossorio

In the course of day to day living, disagreements inevitably arise between intimate partners. Some of these disagreements, if left unresolved, can have harmful consequences for relationships. However, despite this, it appears to be the case that many intimates often do fail to resolve their differences, and with such attendant consequences. It is this constellation of states of affairs which provides the raison d'etre for this dissertation. The different ways in which this dissertation addresses itself to these states of affairs are the following:

(1) Previous literature relevant to the questions: "Given conflict, what means have been proposed for its resolution, and how adequate have these means proven empirically?" is reviewed. At the risk of oversimplification, it generally appears to be the case that the academic schools have so constrained themselves with inappropriate models of conflict that their efforts to yield any useful knowledge have been doomed from the start. Formulations from the domain of clinical psychology have seemed generally far more relevant and useful, especially that of Bach and Wyden (1968), though all suffer from serious drawbacks of one sort or another.

(2) Part II of this dissertation is devoted to the presentation of a new conceptual framework relevant to the practical business of the resolution of conflict between intimate partners. This framework is preferred as an organized set of ideas about how, when issues arise in the context of intimate relationships, they may constructively and amicably be resolved. This formulation is essentially sui generis and has no intellectual forbears in any of the existing formulations on conflict resolution, although certain substantive findings from Bach and Wyden (1968) are incorporated.

(3) Based on the above formulation, a training videotape, the Marital Conflict Videotape (MCV) was developed. This tape employs (a) the use of plays of marital conflict performed by actors, (b) the provision of commentary about how the participants are going wrong in these plays in their attempts to resolve their differences, and (c) the use of multiple-choice questions posed of the audience in order to promote active learning.

Part III concludes with a description of the research methods employed to empirically assess the effectiveness of the MCV as a therapeutic modality. Methods of assessment employed included (a) the use of a pre-post-follow-up outcome design, (b) behavioral observation of couples in actual conflict, (c) self-report procedures, and (d) the use of a no-treatment control group as a basis of comparison.

(4) Data and comparisons reported in Part IV, "Results," indicated that couples who viewed the MCV subsequently exhibited substantive behavior change in the predicted direction and reported significant changes in the direction of more amicable and constructive resolutions of their everyday disagreements. Control couples, in comparison, exhibited no such changes.

(5) Results obtained provide evidence of the practical value of both (a) the set of ideas comprising the conceptual framework for conflict resolution introduced in this dissertation and of (b) the format employed in the MCV as one which promotes learning on the part of viewers. The dissertation concludes with a discussion of several design inadequacies in the present study and of certain implications of this research for social and clinical psychology. [173 pp.]