June 19, 2014

The trouble with the silent treatment

Daily Briefing

    A meta-analysis of studies has found that the silent treatment—one of the most common forms of relationship conflict—can cause damaging health problems, the Wall Street Journal's Elizabeth Bernstein reports.

    The silent treatment—when one person aims to get the attention of another person and is met with silence—is part of a "demand-withdraw " pattern in which a partner demanding attention becomes frustrated by the other's lack of response and a "vicious cycle" begins, says Sean Horan of Texas State University.

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    For the meta-analysis, which was published in Communication Monographs, researchers evaluated 74 studies encompassing 14,000 participants. They found that demand-withdraw behavior can lead to both emotional and physical damage. 

     

    Emotionally, individuals who engage in the behavior tend to express lower relationship satisfaction, less intimacy, and poorer communication. They might even experience personality changes, including increased aggression and less agreeableness.

    The silent treatment also can cause physical harm, according to the analysis. For instance, some study participants had impaired immune systems, urinary and bowel problems, and erectile dysfunction.

    Paul Schrodt—a professor in the department of communication studies at Texas Christian University and lead researcher on the analysis—says partners can "break the cycle" by becoming aware of the pattern, identifying their role, and establishing rules of resolution before conflicts arise (Bernstein, Wall Street Journal, 6/16).

    More from today's Daily Briefing
    1. Current ArticleThe trouble with the silent treatment

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