First Advisor

Jerry Lansdowne

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Urban Studies


Urban Studies and Planning




Interpersonal conflict, Conflict management



Physical Description

3, xii, 137 leaves: ill. 28 cm.


Two major theoretical controversies were addressed in this study: (1) whether conflict behavior can best be explained by personal characteristics or by situational characteristics and (2) whether there is one best way to handle conflict or several effective ways depending on the situation. Specifically, it explored the relationship between locus of control (internal, powerful others, chance) and conflict behavior (nonconfrontation, solution-orientation, control) in situations where choosing each of these strategies was regarded most appropriate. The study gathered data relevant to four questions: (1) Is there a relationship between an individual's conflict behavior style and personal characteristics such as feelings of power and control? (2) If there is a relationship, does it affect one's choice of conflict behavior in particular situations? (3) Can situations be defined so that a particular conflict behavior could be considered effective and therefore most appropriate? (4) Are all individuals equally disposed to choose the effective conflict behavior in the situation? Characteristics were defined by this researcher forming the basis for regarding choice of a particular conflict strategy as most appropriate in the situation. Conflict situations incorporating those characteristics were then developed and pretested for use in administering the Organizational Communication Conflict Instrument (OCCI) (Putnam & Wilson, 1982). Four conflict situations were used. Levenson's I, P, and C Locus of Control Scale (1973) and Putnam & Wilson's OCCI (1982) were administered to 163 undergraduates at Portland State University. Females comprised 63% of the sample, males--37%. Results of canonical correlations indicated that "powerful others" locus of control orientation was related to choice of nonconfrontation conflict behavior. Multivariate analysis of variance results indicated that the situation, sex, and locus of control variables account significantly for differences in choice of conflict behavior. The Newman-Keuls procedure revealed an unexpected outcome; all subjects reflected a significant tendency to choose the appropriate behavior in the situation. The findings of this study suggest that conflict behavior can be explained by both personal characteristics and situational characteristics. The study also provides evidence that there is not one best way to handle conflict across all situations, supporting a contingency approach to interpersonal conflict.


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Portland State University. School of Urban and Public Affairs.

Persistent Identifier