The purpose of this study is to understand how adolescents handle their interpersonal disputes. Particularly, the study explores conditions associated with the adoption of confrontational means of conflict resolution.
Both sociological approach and various perspectives of developmental psychology guide this research. According to the “pure” sociological approach, interpersonal disputes can be handled unilaterally, bilaterally, or trilaterally. The nature of the structure of social relationship such as the degree of intimacy or social status will affect the method adopted to resolve interpersonal conflicts. This perspective is compatible with the view of the social relational model in developmental psychology. Other perspectives of developmental psychology have focused on factors such as pubertal processes and personality and emphasize interaction between various contexts.
A research model organizing insights from these approaches is proposed to explain the adoption of confrontational means of conflict resolution. This model is tested by a survey data of 1,808 middle and high school students in Taiwan. Major findings are：(1) Adolescence most frequently employ a unilateral form and non-confrontational means, such as inaction or avoidance, in handling interpersonal conflict. (2) The adoption of various forms of conflict resolution is related to social relational distance and status difference. (3) The influence of individual’s biological and psychological characteristics is partly mediated by their influence on variables related to social relationships. (4) The social relational variables in a certain interaction context would influence the odds of adopting confrontational means of conflict resolution in another context. (5) For males, the odds of using confrontational methods were greater when dealing with disputes outside the family. Females have just the opposite tendency. (6) Those who identify themselves as close to no one tend to use confrontational means to resolve disputes outside of their families. (7) High integration with peers tends to increase the likelihood of using confrontational means to resolve their conflicts with adults. (8) Adolescents’ own social status at school is more important than the socioeconomic status of their families in explaining the use of confrontational methods. (9) Harsh parenting and teaching practices promote adolescent’s adoption of confrontational methods to resolve conflicts.