Siding and other reactions to a conflict: A theory of escalation toward outsiders

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Siding in a dyadic conflict is important because it precipitates escalation. Nevertheless, little is known about how and why a nonprofessional outsider (P) reacts when a conflict party puts him under pressure to take sides. Coalition and role conflict theories suggest four behavior alternatives (taking sides, compromise, avoidance, and conflict resolution) and two behavior determinants: the sanction power and the legitimate power each of the conflict parties exerts over P. This article delineates the relationships among these variables (power hypothesis), and introduces the further assumptions that P will gather information before he selects one of the four behavior alternatives (process hypothesis) and that escalating siding behavior will be his most frequent reaction (escalation hypothesis). In a secondary analysis of cross-sectional survey data on behavior in role conflict situations, the power hypothesis and the escalation hypothesis are confirmed. Finally, the theoretical and practical significance of the theory are discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)495-520
Number of pages26
JournalJournal of Conflict Resolution
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1981

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