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Nancie Hudson ACF Abstract FY10

To Break Up or Make Up: How Expectancy Violation and Cultural Values Affect Communication and Appraisal in Adult Romantic Conflict

Conference Name: The University of Oklahoma Sooner Communication Conference

Previous research has shown that hurt feelings in romantic adult relationships can evoke verbal and non-verbal communication responses which lead to breakup.  Relationship conflicts between romantic partners are perceived as more emotionally painful than conflicts between family members and friends.  Romantic partners can respond to conflict in their relationship with constructive or destructive communication.  Romantic couples have high expectations for one another, because they expect their partner to protect them.  Consistent with expectancy violations theory, romantic partners interpret a conflict in their relationship based on their expectations, and when unexpected behavior occurs, they enter a heightened state of awareness and react based on their appraisal of how their partner can reward them in the future.  In addition to communicator reward valence, however, cultural values explain the differences in how romantic partners perceive and respond to interpersonal conflict.  For example, American culture promotes individualistic responses such as anger and confrontation, which are concerned with the self rather than the other person.  This paper synthesizes the findings of five communication research studies to examine how expectation violation and cultural values influence communication and relationship outcomes when romantic couples experience interpersonal conflict.