Recovering from conflict in romantic relationships: A developmental perspective

Jessica E. Salvatore, Sally I Chun Kuo, Ryan D. Steele, Jeffry A. Simpson, W. Andrew Collins

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74 Scopus citations


This study adopted a developmental perspective on recovery from conflict in romantic relationships. Participants were 73 young adults (target participants), studied since birth, and their romantic partners. A novel observational coding scheme was used to evaluate each participant's degree of conflict recovery, operationalized as the extent to which the participant disengaged from conflict during a 4-min "cool-down" task immediately following a 10-min conflict discussion. Conflict recovery was systematically associated with developmental and dyadic processes. Targets who were rated as securely attached more times in infancy recovered from conflict better, as did their romantic partners. Concurrently, having a romantic partner who displayed better recovery predicted more positive relationship emotions and greater relationship satisfaction. Prospectively, target participants' early attachment security and their partners' degree of conflict recovery interacted to predict relationship stability 2 years later, such that having a partner who recovered from conflict better buffered targets with insecure histories.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)376-383
Number of pages8
JournalPsychological Science
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2011

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by a National Institute of Mental Health grant to W. Andrew Collins, Byron Egeland, and L. Alan Sroufe (R01MH40864); by a National Institute of Child Health and Human Development grant to W. Andrew Collins (R01HD054850); and by a predoctoral training grant from the National Institute of Mental Health to Jessica E. Salvatore (T32MH015755-32).


  • attachment
  • conflict
  • conflict recovery
  • dyadic regulation
  • romantic relationships
  • self-regulation
  • spillover
  • turning points


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