Existing research demonstrates that numerous psychosocial dynamics display fractal properties. Fractal structures are characterized by branch-like patterns that are self-similar and consist of exponentially more small events compared to large events. Examples include: shifts in physiological arousal; shifts in self-esteem; patterns of traits within personality; and recurrences in behavioral flows and small group interaction dynamics. Furthermore, across various psychological (and other natural science domains), these fractal patterns have been shown to provide resilience to complex adaptive systems by allowing for flexibility in response to changing adaptive pressures. Specifically, fractal dynamics allow systems to adjust on both a large or small scale without becoming stuck or falling apart. The present study aims to extend this line of research to examine conflict dynamics over time in dating relationships. An experience sampling methodology was used to assess conflict, relationship satisfaction, and commitment levels three times daily for 30 days (n = 90) for undergraduates self-identifying as being in a monogamous relationship. Hypotheses (each dependent of the former in numerical order): (1) ratings of conflict over time will conform to a fractal distribution, with exponentially more small conflicts than large ones; (2a) moderate levels of fractal dimension (i.e., flexibility) and (2b) higher structural integrity (i.e., fit to fractal distribution) will be associated with higher levels of dating satisfaction and commitment; (3) The strength of network ties (i.e., reactivity) among conflict satisfaction and commitment will have a significant correlation with both fractal structure and with relationship satisfaction, with lower reactivity predicting higher satisfaction; and (4) Fractal structure will moderate the relationship between conflict and satisfaction, with more flexible and well-integrated fractal structure buffering the impacts of conflict on dating satisfaction. Preliminary results will be presented and discussed.
Reilly, Melanie and Pincus, David, "Romantic Resilience: Fractal Conflict Dynamics and Dating Satisfaction" (2019). Student Scholar Symposium Abstracts and Posters. 331.