This cross-sectional study aimed to understand how emerging adult couples interpreted relationship conflicts, and whether such meaning making was associated with psychological relationship aggression and moderated by gender. We specified the I Cubed model of relationship aggression to examine how in the context of recounting relationship conflicts, the impellance factors of anger and break-up anxiety might increase and the inhibition factor of perspective taking might decrease the likelihood of relationship aggression. Each partner in 126 couples was interviewed separately about their unmet relationship needs. Narrative-based measures of impellance and inhibition were obtained as well as self-reported psychological relationship aggression and satisfaction. Although gender was not a moderator, there was some support for associations of impellance and inhibition factors with aggression. Extending prior work using couple observations and diary methods, we found that interpreting conflict events in terms of anger and perspective taking was related to relationship aggression while controlling for relationship satisfaction. Consistent with the I Cubed model, there were actor effects such that anger ratings were an impellance factor that increased and perspective taking was an inhibition factor that decreased the likelihood of aggression. Our findings suggest that narrating past conflicts related to unmet needs is a task that involves the management of anger associated with more relationship aggression. The efficacy of relationship education programs for emerging adult couples might be improved by focusing on skills to decrease anger and facilitate perspective taking.
Romantic conflict narratives and associations with psychological relationship aggression in emerging adult couples