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Critically Discuss Conflict Resolution In Groups

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Critically discuss conflict resolution in groups

Conflict resolution has been researched, analysed and discussed for many years; however, it is only until recently that psychologists have gotten involved on a wider scale. Up until then the study of relations has more or less been the preserve of political scientists, historians and professionals such as lawyers and diplomats. Much of the social science research has therefore been based on the previous; therefore the theories developed give a much deeper insight to the psychological aspects of conflict resolution. In order to discuss conflict resolution, conflict needs to be defined.

Chambers (2003) defines conflict is as " a violent collision: a struggle or contest: a battle: a mental struggle "(pg. 272) This is a general and very broad definition of the word which has been differently interpreted by psychologists as well as sociologists and economists. Shaw claims that in conflict situations driving forces are involved, combined with restraining forces, own forces and various combinations of induced or impersonal forces. All these contribute to a conflict situation. He goes on to explain that driving forces produce conflicts when the person is located between two positive valences, two negative valences or the person themselves. He uses a diagram to represent this (Appendix 1). In his next diagram he shows an avoidance-avoidance conflict situation is shown. (Appendix 2). Shaw refers to this as a stable conflict situation whereby the conflict usually remains unresolved. The third and last diagram represents two goals which both represent positive and negative valences in the same direction. This he calls the approach-avoidance conflict situation in which conflict is also stable however, people in this situation psychologically think they are in the avoidance-avoidance situation.

Conflicts which involve other forces such as driving forces or restraining forces, and these restrictions can't be passed the person may respond with aggression, hostility, frustration, apathy or other negative feelings. Shaw believes that conflict can be caused by opposition of forces corresponding to the persons needs, or by induced forces. However, this theory makes little sense, as Shaw gives the example of an employer giving orders to an employee, may show signs of some kind of power of P ( a boss would have a certain hold/power over his/her employees) however, this does not mean that this automatically results in conflict. This example can be seen in virtually any type of business and while there have been and still are a few cases of this type of control from on person to another, the majority of time there is no result in conflict. Furthermore, this example can also be taken to on to a parent and a child. Usually in children in their teens will show some slight rebellion to the parent's authority, which does cause conflict, suffice to say the resulted conflict is not one, which cannot be resolved or removed. The conflict may arise over curfews or other social aspects of the child's life. In many cases a compromise is reached therefore removing the conflict point. However, this would mean that the parent surrenders a slight portion of his authority or power, but still retains the majority of it.

Conflict resolution has been widely discussed because there are so many different situations in which conflict arises. A very large part of conflict resolution can take place between ethnic groups, minority and majority (ethnic) groups and between state and minority ethnic groups. Eriksen (1993) related conflict resolution to ethno-cultural factors, which he defined as 'a group of people who firmly believe that they are ethically and/ or culturally distinct from the rest of the population (pg.XX). The relationship between ethno-cultural majority and minority groups in different societies has shown that they are very prone to conflict. These conflicts seem 'deep-rooted' and 'intractable' due to the fact that their psychological dimension has prevailed over political and economic ones. Conflicts and the problems between various ethno-cultural groups have become complicated due to the way the different groups identify and perceive themselves and the way they perceive their history and the threats directed towards their existence. For example Jewish people who are a minority group keep within themselves, their laws include marriage only within their ethno-cultural group. Partly this is for the group to grow from a minority group into either an equal level or as a majority group. However, this feeling has been generated because of their persecuted history. This type of behavior can also be seen in African-American groups. Although it is not a rule for them to abide by, as it is for Jewish, to marry within their ethnicity or culture. In general minority groups feel they have to stick together and it is shunned upon to do anything, which could possible harm the group.

Sherif (1988) who was a pioneer in the study of inter-group relations, formulated a 'realistic group conflict' theory,. His theory suggested that inter-group competition is derived from real or perceived conflicting goals due to the hostility between them. Groups in general are found to develop negative stereotypes towards the other group when engaged in competitive or frustrating activities. He found that when a group is split in two that are opposing one-another, hostility quickly evolves towards the opposing group. This happened when there are conflicting goals with only on possible outcome. That goal can only be achieved at the expense of the other group. Sherif's research also showed in general that the majority group perceived minority group as different. The need for a cohesive society was emphasized and the fact that an obstacle is needed to achieve a cohesive society. Often however, a member of the minority group seeks to be a part of the majority group, this is not taken likely with the majority group and is often rejected. This example can be found in everyday life; in high schools all around the world. Often, the majority group (the popular group), is envied by the minority group (the out-group) An individual member of the minority group will try and shift into the popular/majority group, which is often met with resistance as the individual lacks in qualities that are perceived to be favorable to gain membership in the group. The rejected individual then will have no choice but to stay with the minority group, though feelings of resentment towards the majority group is inevitable. The rejection from the majority group leaves the individuals feeling degraded and sometimes, resulting in self-hate. An example of self-hatred is seen in Clark and Clark's (1940) experiments with black and white


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