Intergenerational Conflict Management Styles: Exploring the Indirect Effects of Sex through Filial Obligation.
Indeed, older adults are the largest growing population in the world. This population is predicted to double by the year 2050 which means that over 20% of the United States population would be above the age of 65 (Ortman, Velkoff, & Hogan, 2014). Scholars have referred to this as the demographic imperative (i.e., the necessity to study older adults because of their rise in population; Nussbaum Pecchioni, Robinson, & Thompson, 2000). This increasing number of older adults has created an increased humanistic concern for their well-being (Nussbaum et al., 2000). Hence, research in intergenerational communication in the last few decades has flourished (Giles, 2004; Giles, Gholam, & Choi, 2012; Hummert, 2012, Pecchioni, Ota, & Sparks, 2004), albeit more scholarly attention is needed on conflict management in intergenerational relationships (Wiebe & Zhang, 2017; Zhang & Lin, 2009).
There are several intergroup theories that provide a framework to explain and justify the examination intergenerational conflict. Social identity theory (SIT; Tajfel, 1981) explains how humans have an innate need to organize their social world into categories and groups. In addition, SIT explains that people strive to show positive ingroup distinctiveness in social comparison in order to gain self-esteem. In the intergenerational realm, age provides an intergroup marker for categorization. As a consequence of this categorization, people might ascribe to group traits, behave in stereotypical ways, and show ingroup favoritism and outgroup prejudice and discrimination. Another intergroup theory, communication accommodation theory (CAT), examines how different motivational processes influence communication acts, as well as attributions, evaluations, and intentions for future interactions that people make as a result (Williams & Nussbaum, 2001). Guided by CAT, the Communication Predicament of Aging Model (CPA) is heuristic in generating much of the research in intergenerational communication by identifying problems and dilemmas that can be found in intergenerational communication between young and older adults. According to the CPA model, physical age cues may trigger intergroup categorization which could activate stereotypes of aging held by young adults (Ryan et al., 1986). These agebased stereotypes, which influence young adults' under-or over-accommodations, may create a negative feedback cycle for older adults. This cycle can lead to constrained opportunities for older adults' communication, lower self-esteem, emotional and functional decline, and reinforcement of age stereotypical behaviors (Harwood, Ryan, & Giles, 1997). The CPA model has also been extended to include problematic old-to-young communication based on stereotypes of young adults held by older adults that can lead to harmful and unsatisfactory intergenerational relationships (Giles & Williams, 1994). In essence, these harmful and unsatisfactory communication behaviors between young and older adults are potential sources of intergenerational conflict. Contributing to the growing literature on intergenerational communication research, the current study examines young adults' conflict management styles in intergenerational relationships by focusing on the roles played by sex and filial obligation.
Conflict Management Styles, Gender Differences, and Filial Obligation
Conflict Management Styles
Blake and Mouton (1964) created five conflict styles that were reinterpreted by Kilmann and Thomas (1975). These studies proposed a five-category scheme for classifying interpersonal conflict management styles on two dimensions: concern for self and concern for other. The conflict management styles are interactions of the two types of concerns. Individuals who adopt the integrating style have a high concern for the self and the other party. This style attempts to generate a plan of action in a cooperative manner that is mutually satisfying. Individuals who adopt the competing style have a high concern for the self and low for the other. This style uses an assertive communication style in an uncooperative manner to defend a personal position. The accommodating style is used by individuals who have a high concern for the other and low concern for the self. This style is self-sacrificial and highlights the other person's satisfaction by being unassertive and cooperative. The avoiding style is used when both of the concerns are low. This style can be made manifest in withdrawal and failure to take a position through an unassertive and uncooperative response. And finally, the compromising style emphasizes mutual concession making. This style would be moderately self-concerned and moderately other-concerned. However, prior research has demonstrated that the compromising style is not a distinct style and is highly associated with the integrating and avoiding styles (e.g., Cai & Fink, 2002). Hence, the current study examines the four distinct conflict styles only (i.e., the integrating, accommodating, avoiding, and competing styles) in line with other intergenerational communication scholars (e.g., Song & Zhang, 2012; Zhang, et al., 2005).
Conflict management styles have been examined extensively from the interpersonal perspective. For example, Sillars (1980) found that college roommates were more likely to use avoidant strategies when they believe the other person was responsible for the conflict. On the other hand, roommates would use integrative styles when they felt personally responsible for the conflict. Scholars have found that across a variety of interpersonal communication contexts that cooperative and integrative tactics produce the most communication satisfaction (Canary & Cupach, 1988) and also feelings of trust and commitment (Canary & Spitzberg, 1990). There has been a general view that confrontational and avoidance strategies are not rated as satisfying (e.g., Newton & Burgoon, 1990). Cai and Fink (2002) compared collectivists' and individualists' preferences of interpersonal conflict management styles. Results indicated that the integrating style was preferred the most by both individualists and collectivists, followed by the accommodating and the avoiding styles (no difference between the two) with the competing style being preferred the least. Although the avoiding style could be portrayed as negative because of low levels of concern for both self and other, Kim and Leung (2000) suggest that individuals' tendency to avoid conflict can be explained by their desire to preserve relational harmony and their motivation to save others' face and conform to social norms. This provides a more positive explanation for the prevalence of the avoiding style than has been seen before in interpersonal conflict management research (Newton & Burgoon, 1990). At one point, Brown, Yelsma, and Keller (1981) argued that researchers should pay attention to individuals' predispositions of conflict processes. Scholars have since noted that individuals' attributes such as predispositions, needs, personality traits, beliefs, and attitudes all can influence their choice of conflict management style in interpersonal scenarios (Putnam & Poole, 1987). Finally, Lee and Rogan (1991) examined interpersonal conflict management in cross-cultural context. Findings indicated that an individual's preference of conflict management style was significantly influenced by cultural group membership. Leung's (1988) cross-cultural study on conflict management indicated that both cultural group membership and in/out-group membership influenced conflict management styles. These studies have suggested that multiple variables (i.e., micro and macro) influence conflict management styles, demonstrating the importance the interpersonal and intergroup approaches to conflict management.
From the intergroup perspective, Zhang et al. (2005) found that older participants rated the accommodating style used by young adults in intergenerational conflict situations more favorable than the problem-solving style, while the young adults preferred the problem-solving and the accommodating styles equally well. Bergstrom and Nussbaum (1996) examined conflict preference in intergenerational conflict from both young and older adults' perspectives. They found that young adults tended to prefer more control-oriented styles while older adults preferred solution-oriented styles. Further, they claimed that the use of solution-oriented styles increased with age which is consistent with previous research (Cicirelli, 1981). Although there is an increasing number of studies that examine conflict management styles from an intergroup perspective, the majority of research in conflict management styles is still in the interpersonal realm. To enrich the current literature in intergroup conflict management, the current study aims to examine conflict preference in intergenerational relationships from the young adults' perspective.
RQ1: What are young adults' preferred conflict management styles with older adults in intergenerational conflict?
Another important variable in intergenerational conflict is sex. Men and women have been shown to have differences in the way that they handle conflict. Gottman and Levenson (1988) found that men experience more physiological arousal during conflict than do women. Men's higher level of physiological reactivity, they argued, led them to try to minimize or to avoid the conflict to escape the harmful arousal. In marital dyads, men have been shown to be more likely to avoid conflict all together by withdrawing (Heavey, Layne, & Christensen, 1993). On the other hand, being less physiologically reactive to stress, women are not compelled to circumvent conflict. Another explanation rests on the theory that women are socialized to be highly relationship-oriented. This might lead women to seek closeness and intimacy whereas men are socialized to be independent and achievement-oriented (e.g., Gilligan, 1982; Rubin, 1983).
These differences in sex, or sometimes referred to as gender differences, have been explained from a social constructionist perspective. This perspective highlights how understandings of the world are formed based on shared assumptions about reality (Keener, Strough, & DiDonato, 2012). There are several ways people shape their assumptions about reality. First, social expectations and perceptions based on gender may be activated in contexts where people interact with others (Keener et al., 2012). Scholars who study gender differences often distinguish between communal and agentic orientations (Bakan, 1966). Feminine roles are characterized by a communal orientation focusing on others' needs while masculine roles are characterized by agentic orientation with more a focus on individual needs (Keener et al., 2012). These orientations, which can be influenced by expectations, have also been studied in conflict scenarios. Socialization by same-sex peers during childhood teaches girls to use communal strategies to effectively manage conflict (Maccoby, 1998). On the other hand, boys are taught that agentic strategies are most effective (Maccoby, 1998). Similar studies have shown that these patterns of conflict that develop through socialization at a young age (i.e., boys are assertive or agentic while girls are cooperative or communal) persist across life in certain contexts (Maccoby, 2000).
In the current study, gender differences will be examined in relation to conflict management styles. Research on gender differences in conflict management has provided mixed results. Haar and Krahe (1999) examined the influence of culture and gender on children's conflict styles. Although culture had an effect on conflict styles, gender did not. Duane (1989) compared male and female officials' conflict styles when resolving grievance-related issues in the work place. Results showed that females were less inclined to use the avoiding and accommodating styles and more inclined to use the competing style than men were. In a similar way, the relationship between conflict style preference and communicative strategies in supervisor/subordinate conflict has been examined (Conrad, 1991). This study showed that both women and men chose pro-social communicative strategies at the beginning of the conflict then shifted to coercion when the initial strategy failed. In an attempt to clarify the role that gender plays in preference of conflict management styles, Sorenson, Hawkins, and Sorenson (1995) conducted a study that found gender's influence on conflict preference to be mediated by psychological type. However, the findings also showed that the psychological type was actually a stronger predictor of conflict preference than was gender. Overall, prior literature has provided mixed results on gender differences in conflict management in various communication contexts. Thus, this study contributes to the conflict literature by focusing on gender roles in preference of intergenerational conflict management styles.
RQ2: What are the sex differences in young adults' preference of conflict management styles in intergenerational conflict?
The current study will also examine filial obligation, a cultural norm borrowed from East Asian cultures, which is described as "respect for old age" in both family and nonfamily contexts (Ng et al., 1997, p.103). As a core principle of Confucianism, filial obligation initially prescribes "how children should behave toward their parents, living or dead, as well as toward their ancestors in the family context. It justifies absolute parental authority over children and, by extension, the authority of those senior in generational rank over those junior in rank" (Ho, 1994, p. 350). Practical support for older adults (e.g., financial support) and communication related constructs (e.g., respect) have been distinguished as two primary aspects of young adults' understanding of filial obligation (Gallois et al., 1999). This cross-cultural study, found that Asian participants endorsed practical support for older adults more than their Western counterparts in both family and nonfamily contexts. On the other hand, Western participants endorsed communication related constructs, such as continued communication and contact with older adults, more than those in Asia.
Researchers have continued to examine filial obligation and its role in intergenerational relationships in both Asian and non-Asian contexts. For example, the direct and indirect effect of filial obligation on caregiving burden within Chinese-Canadian families has been examined (Lai, 2010). This study found a positive association between filial obligation and a positive perception of caregiving. Lai (2010) argued that filial obligation may "serve as a buffer that provides caregivers with the psychological strengths and endurance required to deal with the challenges and negative effects encountered during the course of caregiving" (p. 215). In a similar study, researchers found a significant positive association between young Chinese New Zealanders' endorsement of filial obligation and their intergenerational communication experience (Liu, Ng, Weatherall, and Loong, 2000). Their positive intergenerational communication experience held true among three groups of older adults: family, Chinese nonfamily, and Europeans. Diwan, Lee, and Sen (2010) examined expectation of filial obligation within the United States as well. They explored the relationship between older adults' levels of filial obligation and expressed preference of future living arrangements with their children. Findings indicated that older adults preferred to move closer to their children rather than moving to a retirement community or moving in with their children. These studies have demonstrated the cross-cultural utility of filial obligation, and, hence, provided initial empirical evidence for the effects of filial obligation on intergenerational communication outcomes.
Recently, scholars have begun to examine gender in relation to filial obligation. Gender has been shown to influence filial obligation in China and other eastern cultures (Zhan & Montgomery, 2003). Similarly, research on Hispanic immigrants has shown that being female, more educated, and older was related to lower expectations of filial obligation (Kao & Travis, 2005). By contrast, a study on Dutch elders found that being female, more educated, and older was related to increased expectations of filial obligation (Liefbroer and Mulder 2006; de Valk & Schans 2008). These studies show that research on the relationship between gender and filial obligation is still insufficient. Thus, the current study will examine the influence of sex on filial obligation in intergenerational contexts in America.
RQ3: Are there sex differences in younger adults' beliefs of filial obligation?
Although research on the relationship between filial obligation and conflict hasn't been examined in depth, it has been shown to influence preference of conflict management styles in both the individualistic and collectivistic cultures (Zhang, Xing, & Villamil, 2017; Zhang et al., 2005). Consistent with prior literature, the current study examines the relationship between filial obligation and intergenerational conflict management styles.
RQ4: What is the relationship between young adults' beliefs of filial obligation and preferred intergenerational conflict management styles?
Filial Obligation as a Mediator
Further, to address the lack of explaining mechanism between sex and intergenerational communication outcomes, the current study considers filial obligations as a specific value construct that can explain the relationship between sex and intergenerational conflict style preferences. Within intergenerational communication context, prescribed gender values concerning appropriate interaction with elderly are critical determinants of young adults' endorsement of particular conflict styles. Filial obligation has been used as a mediator between cultural orientation and conflict preference in prior literature (Zhang, et al., 2017). In a similar way, this study will explore sex's relationship with conflict styles through filial obligation.
RQ5: Does filial obligation explain the predictive paths from American young adults' sex to their use of the integrating, accommodating, avoiding, and competing styles with older adults?
After IRB approval, voluntary participants (N = 182, [M.sub.age]= 20.15, SD = 2.05; 18-34 years old; 48% males and 52% females) were recruited from a research pool at a large mid-western university in the United States. Participants received course credit for their participation. There were 151 (83.0%) White/Caucasian participants, 14 (7.7%) Hispanic/Latino participants, eight (4.4%) Black participants, five (2.7%) Asian participants, and four (2.1%) who responded other.
Procedures and Measurement
Participants completed an in-person survey as a part of a larger study. This study uses data from the Intergenerational Conflict Management Scale and the Filial Obligation Scale.
Conflict styles with older adults. Participants' overall perceptions of four conflict management styles in intergenerational conflict situations (having conflict with older adults) were assessed using the same 28 items. A seven-item subscale measured the integrating style used by the participants in conflict situations with older adults ([alpha] = .77; e.g., "In general, I tried to integrate their ideas with mine to form joint decisions."). A seven-item subscale measured the accommodating style ([alpha] = .84; e.g., "I generally tried to satisfy the needs of my peers."). A seven-item subscale measured the avoiding style (seven items, [alpha] = .81; e.g., "I usually avoided open discussion of my differences with older adults."). A seven-item subscale measured the competing style ([alpha] = .83; e.g., "I usually argued my case with older adults.").
Filial obligations. Participants' perceptions of appropriate interaction norms with older adults in general were measured using seven 7-point Likert items (1 = strongly disagree and 7 = strongly agree; [alpha] = .82; e.g., "young people should always accommodate to older adults' needs."). The items were adapted from Ho's Filial Piety Scale (FPS; 1994) and Gallois et al.'s (1999) Structure of Filial Piety (SFP).
Research Question 1 examined young adults' preferred conflict management styles with older adults in intergenerational conflict. To address this research question, one-way repeated measures ANOVA was performed. The results indicated a significant difference in preference of conflict styles, Wilks' Lambda = .012, F (3, 171) = 111.81, p < .001.
Six pairs of matched t-test were conducted for post hoc comparisons (Type I errors were controlled using the Bonferroni method). The results of the matched ttests showed that young adults prefer the integrating style (M = 5.24, SD = 0.94) significantly more than the accommodating (M = 4.94, SD = 1.01), t (179) = .310, p < .01, and competing styles (M = 3.19, SD = 1.21), t (179) = 2.038, p < .001. Young adults also preferred the avoiding (M = 5.07, SD = 1.21) and accommodating styles significantly more than the competing style, t (175) = 1.866, p < .001; t (177) = 1.721, p < .001 respectively (see Table 1).
Structural equation modeling (SEM) was used as the analytic frame in the current study to address the remaining research questions exploring: a) the effect of sex on young adults' conflict preference; b) the effect of sex on young adults' feelings of filial obligation; c) the effect of filial obligation on conflict preferences; and d) the indirect effect of sex on intergenerational conflict management styles through filial obligation.
Prior to the structural analyses, a measurement model was tested using confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) to verify the relationship between the indicators and latent constructs. A five-factor CFA was conducted. The latent constructs were four intergenerational conflict management styles and filial obligation. For each latent construct, three balanced parcels were created through combining and averaging an item with high residual variance and an item with low residual variance. A parcel can be defined as "an aggregate-level indicator comprised of the sum (or average) of two or more items, responses, or behaviors" (Little, Cunningham, Shahar, & Widaman, 2002, p. 152). Fixed factor identification method was used fixing the variance of each construct to one. The measurement model showed a close fit, [[chi square].sub.(77, n = 182)] = 114.761, p < .01, RMSEA = [.051.sub.(030 - .071)], SRMR = .048, CFI = .967, TLI = .954. Table 2 shows the descriptive statistics, standardized lambda loadings, and standard errors for each parceled indicator.
To address the remainder of the research questions a bootstrapping analysis was conducted. The model specification for the mediation model were the same as the structural model except indirect paths were added from sex to the intergenerational conflict styles through filial obligation. The mediation model showed good absolute fit, [[chi square].sub.(87, n = 183)] = 122.688, p < .01, RMSEA = [.047.sub.(.026 - .066)], and good comparative fit, CFI = .969, TLI = .957.
Research Question 2 was interested in the direct effects of sex on conflict preference. There were no significant differences between men and women for the integrating style (direct effect = -0.185, p > .05), the accommodating style (direct effect = -0.003, p > .05), or the avoiding style (direct effect = -0.052, p > .05). Finally, the difference between men and women's use of the competing style approached significance with men using the style more than women (direct effect = -0.337, p = .068).
Research Question 3 was interested in the effect of sex on levels of filial obligation, Research Question 4 was interested in the effect of filial obligation on conflict preference, and Research Question 5 was interested in the indirect of effect of sex on conflict preference through filial obligation. First, in the mediation model for the integrating style, the pathway between sex and filial obligation was significant ([psi] = .370, p < .05) and the pathway between filial obligation and the integrating style was significant ([psi] = .197, p < .05). However, the indirect effect was not (indirect effect = .073, p > .05; See Figure 1).
Second, in the mediation model for the avoiding style, the pathway between sex and filial obligation was significant ([psi] = .370, p < .05) and the pathway between filial obligation and the avoiding style was significant ([psi] = .296, p < .05). However, the indirect effect was not. (indirect effect = .110, p > .05; See Figure 2).
Third, in the mediation model for the competing style, the pathway between sex and filial obligation was significant ([psi] = .370, p < .05). However, the pathway between filial obligation and the competing style ([psi] = -0.096, p > .05) and the indirect effect were not significant. (indirect effect = .073, p > .05; See Figure 3)
Finally, the bootstrapping analysis for indirect effects did support one mediated relationship. The indirect effect for the accommodating style was significant (indirect effect = .229, p < .05). Further, the pathway between sex and filial obligation was significant ([psi] = .370, p < .05) and the pathway between filial obligation and the integrating style was significant ([psi] = .197, p < .05; See Figure 4).
Discussion & Conclusion
This study examined young adults' preference of conflict management styles with older adults, sex's effect on preference of conflict management style and filial obligation, filial obligation's effect on preference of conflict management styles, and the indirect effect of sex on preference of conflict management style through filial obligation. The results and implications of this study will be discussed in light of previous literature and future research direction.
Young adults' conflict preference in intergenerational relationships with older adults has been examined before (Bergstrom & Nussbaum, 1996). They found that when thinking about a specific conflict situation (e.g., patient-care provider relationships), young adults were more likely to prefer the competing style to manage conflict. The current study revealed that young adults preferred the integrating and avoiding styles the most followed by the accommodating style (no difference between the accommodating and avoiding styles, with the competing style as the least preferred). One explanation for contradictory results might be that the young adults cognitively prefer (i.e., when thinking about conflict with an older adult in general) the integrating, accommodating, and avoiding styles, but when they are in a specific conflict situation, they actually tend to use the competing style more frequently. Further, although young adults might use the competing style more in specific conflict situations, the negative cognitive evaluation of the style might keep them from reporting it as a preference. Scholars have pointed out this response bias because people want to portray themselves in a positive light (Williams & Nussbaum, 2001). Hence, methodological differences and participants' social desirability might have accounted for the contradictory findings
It also is important to note the two most preferred conflict management styles. The integrating style has been characterized by a willingness to exchange information openly, to address differences constructively, and to make every effort to pursue a solution that will be mutually acceptable (Cai & Fink, 2002). It has also been shown to be the preferred mode of handling interpersonal conflict in various contexts because it leads to win-win situations (Cai & Fink, 2002). While the integrating style is used more when there is a long-term dependency on the other party, the avoiding style is the opposite (Pruitt & Carnevale, 1993). People who engage in the avoiding style typically do not believe that they will be dependent on the other party and hope the conflict just goes away. Hummert (1990) provides a similar explanation. While thinking of conflict with older adults in general, several stereotypes could have become salient. If the stereotypes were positive, young adults would be more likely to handle the conflict in an integrating way. On the other hand, if stereotypes were negative, then young adults might prefer the avoiding style. Overall, the ability to use either the integrating or avoiding style in intergenerational conflict could be beneficial for the young adult.
However, the avoiding style has also been shown to have a positive purpose. These findings point to two completely different modes of conflict management (i.e., engaging and non-engaging) that could be used with older adults. On the one hand, the preference of the avoiding style might be a true reflection of the low communication frequency between young and older adults in general (Williams & Nussbaum, 2001). Due to generational gaps, differences in values, negative age stereotyping, and older adults' non-accommodative intergenerational behaviors, the contact frequency between young and older adults is generally low (Giles et al., 2003; Williams & Giles, 1996). Young adults may choose to keep distance from older adults in both family and nonfamily contexts in general, especially in conflict situations (Zhang, 2004; Zhang & Lin, 2009). On the other hand, the preference of the integrating style might be motivated by perspectives of one's own aging, young adults' general preference of the integrating style across situations, or positive prior intergenerational experiences and expectations of intergenerational encounters (Harwood, McKee, & Lin, 2000; Lin, Zhang & Harwood, 2004; Williams & Giles, 1996).
Previous research indicated that type of relationship influences young adults' preference of conflict management style as well (Pruitt & Carnevale, 1993). Future research should examine young adults' conflict management style preference in both family and nonfamily intergenerational relationships. For instance, when participants prefer the integrating style, they might have been thinking about conflict situations with their grandparents because the relationship might be viewed as long term. On the other hand, those who preferred the avoiding style might have considered conflict with nonfamily older adults because it could be viewed as short term. Future research in intergenerational conflict should further examine the explaining mechanisms in young adults' preference of the integrating and the avoiding styles in managing intergenerational conflict.
There was only one main sex difference in preference of conflict management styles that approached significance. Men used the competing style more than women. This supports prior literature on sex differences in conflict (Gottman and Levenson, 1988). Further, these results show support for the social constructionist idea that masculine roles are characterized by agentic orientation with more a focus on individual needs (Keener et al., 2012). Scholars should continue to examine sex in conflict scenarios with older adults to confirm these marginal results. The other three conflict management styles showed no difference between men and women. These results are also supported by prior research as well showing that sex doesn't have a large effect in conflict situations (Harr & Krahe, 1999). Harr and Krahe (1999) found that in the context of conflict dealing with children, sex lacked predictive power in preference of management style. In the intergenerational context, this study shows similar results. Overall, this study suggests that even though sex expectations and socialization can influence men and women's use of conflict management styles, the effect could be relatively small in the intergenerational context--women and men act in similar ways when managing conflict with older adults.
The next two research questions that will be discussed examine filial obligation. Most research and theory in the discipline of communication is derived from North America (Gallois et al., 1999). Thus, Eastern concepts are rarely used as theoretical frameworks, explanations, or variables when examining Western cultures. Similar to previous literature (Gallois et al., 1999), the current study shows the cross-cultural utility of filial obligation in intergenerational relationships. This study also shows the important role played by filial obligation in explaining intergenerational conflict management behaviors.
Research Question 3 examined filial obligation's relationship with sex. Results indicated that that women scored significantly higher (M = 4.59 SD = 1.08) on the filial obligation scale than men (M = 4.16, SD = 1.34). Again, these findings are consistent with the social constructionist perspective that claims women are socialized at a young age to be caretakers and communal (Maccoby, 1998). Thus, in terms of filial obligation, women could show respect to their elders because it is focused on other's needs instead of their own.
Research Question 4 dealing with filial obligation examined its relationship with the conflict styles. Filial obligation is positively associated with the integrating, accommodating, and avoiding styles. It is not surprising that filial obligation yields these results. The definitions of these conflict styles themselves provides explanation for this as well. High concern for the other person in the conflict is characterized by both the integrating and accommodating styles. The avoiding style was also positively associated with filial obligation. Previous research on conflict management styles showed that young adults tend to use the avoiding style frequently in interpersonal conflict (Cai and Fink, 2002). Kim and Leung (2000) suggest that individuals' tendency to avoid conflict can be explained by their desire to preserve relational harmony and their motivation to save others' face. The positive predictive association between filial obligation and the avoiding style has provided another explanation of the prevalence of the avoiding style in intergenerational conflict in that young adults' avoidance of intergenerational conflict could be partially motivated by conforming to age-based social norms of respecting older adults. Finally, the competing style was not significantly associated with filial obligation but did have a negative relationship. Those who have more respect for older generations will be less likely to compete when handling conflict with this age group.
The last major finding of this study deals with the indirect effect that can be found in the accommodating style. Sex predicts the accommodating style through filial obligation. In other words, women are more likely to ascribe to feelings of filial obligation and those who report high feelings of filial obligation tend to accommodate more. Prior literature on sex differences show that women are more likely to assimilate into norms that have been set by culture (Zhang et al., 2005). Further, the accommodating style is characterized by low levels of concern for the self and high levels of concern for the other. This style, by definition, is the most similar to filial obligation which can be characterized by "authority of those senior in generational rank over those junior in rank" (Ho, 1994, p. 350). Williams and Giles (1996) proposed an idea they called reluctant accommodation. This idea is characterized by the lack of authenticity of young adults while feeling obligated, forced, or pressured when communicating with older adults. The current study provides an explanation for why young adults could feel this way. Although they might not choose to be accommodative in nature, they feel the need to be respectful. This respectfulness, or filial obligation, leads to use of the accommodative style.
Overall, this study contributed to research on intergenerational conflict between young and older adults in several ways. First, this study has demonstrated that the integrating, avoiding, and accommodating styles were preferred highly by young adults in intergenerational conflict, and the competing style was not preferred. Second, this study justified the cross-cultural utility of filial obligation as an important construct in intergenerational communication by demonstrating its association with conflict management style preference and its role as a mediator between sex and the accommodating style. Also, this study expanded literature on intergenerational conflict by providing explanation for several phenomena (e.g., prevalence of the avoiding style and reluctant accommodation). Finally, consistent with the prior conflict literature in general, this study showed that differences in sex do not influence intergenerational conflict management style preference.
Limitations and Future Research
This study enriched current literature on intergenerational conflict and provides more information on young adults' perceptions of conflict management styles with older adults. There are still, however, several aspects of this study that need continued examination. First, sex had a weak influence on conflict style preference. Future research should continue to examine other variables or explaining mechanisms of intergenerational conflict management styles. Potential predictors could include contact with older adults, perceptions of one's own aging, conformity to aged based norms, endorsement of age stereotypes, intergenerational communication anxiety, or age salience in interaction. The current study serves as an initial attempt into uncovering the relationship between sex, filial obligation, and intergenerational conflict management styles. Future research should also compare qualitative and quantitative data to gain a more complete picture of conflict scenarios and to examine conflict in specific intergenerational conflict situations. This could uncover more about conflict management style preference and the context in which it is used/preferred.
The most important way that intergenerational research can be furthered is by increasing the amount of research done from the older adults' perspective. Although the young adults' perspective is valuable, older adults' perspective would give a more complete picture of this phenomena to advance intergenerational communication theory.
* A previous version of this paper won a top paper honor in the Communication and Aging Division at the National Communication Association Annual Conference in Philadelphia, PA.
Weston T. Wiebe, Ph.D.
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Weston T. Wiebe, College of the Ozarks, USA, Yan Bing Zhang, University of Kansas, USA, Ning Liu, University of Kansas, USA
Table 1. Young Adults' Conflict Preference in Intergenerational Conflict with Older Adults. Conflict Style Mean (SD) Integrating 5.24 (0.94)a Avoiding 5.07 (1.21)ab Accommodating 4.94 (1.01)b Competing 3.19 (1.21)c Note. Different superscripts in Mean (SD) column indicate significant differences Table 2. Descriptive Statistics, Standardized Lambda Loading, Standard Errors, Residuals for the Parceled Indicators of the Latent Constructs Latent construct/indicator Mean (SD) [lambda](SE) Residuals Filial Obligation/FIL1 4.927 (.106) .895 (.132) .450 Filial Obligation/FIL2 4.879 (.102) .677 (.118) .366 Filial Obligation/FIL3 3.502 (.112) .965 (.146) .437 Intergenerational conflict styles Integrating/INT1 5.184 (.082) .533 (.085) .432 Integrating/INT2 5.291 (.079) .400 (.080) .353 Integrating/INT3 5.181 (.094) .869 (.118) .540 Accommodating/ACC1 4.648 (.096) .650 (.091) .392 Accommodating/ACC2 4.519 (.092) .512 (.079) .332 Accommodating/ACC3 5.376 (.082) .373 (.056) .304 Avoiding/AVO1 4.560 (.106) .883 (.127) .437 Avoiding/AVO2 5.499 (.105) .834 (.126) .420 Avoiding/AVO3 5.027 (.115) .816 (.146) .337 Competing/COM1 3.380 (.099) .632 (.111) .358 Competing/COM2 2.695 (.096) .483 (.103) .288 Competing/COM3 3.720 (.121) 1.201 (.167) .451
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|Author:||Wiebe, Weston T.; Zhang, Yan Bing; Liu, Ning|
|Publication:||China Media Research|
|Date:||Jul 1, 2018|
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