Arthur M. Bodin, Ph.D., ABPP

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Relationship Conflict Inventory



The Relationship Conflict Inventory: Partner Version (RCI-P) was developed to evaluate relationship conflict in a format that is amenable to efficient and inexpensive use by clinicians as an assessment tool for initial evaluation, treatment outcome, and - if desired - tracking progress. It focuses on the verbal and physical processes of conflict in terms of frequency, distress level, and causal attribution.

Overview

The RCI-P begins with a general question asking how satisfied the person is with their relationship with their partner (RCI-P), using a 7-point scale ranging from "Extremely Dissatisfied" to "Extremely Satisfied."

The rest of the inventory consists of statements about specific types of verbal and physical conflict as well as topics of conflict and asks the following for each statement:

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Did the conflict ever happened ("Yes" or "No")?

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How many times did the conflict happen in the past month?

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What was your highest distress level experienced whenever it happened (using a 5-point scale ranging from "Not at All Distressed" to "Extremely Distressed")?

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Who typically caused the conflict (using a 5-point scale ranging from "Me" to "The Other Person/My Partner)?

Specific Applications

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To help therapists and patients target the areas of greatest conflict.

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To help patients and their therapists clarify the nature and severity of relationship conflict.

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To accumulate normative data on both verbal and physical conflict.

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To make visible the areas and intensity of relationship conflict between partners.

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To have a roughly hierarchical scale potentially useful in forensic as well as clinical and research applications.

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To have a scale for assessing the processes of conflict.

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To have a scale for assessing the frequency level of various kinds of conflict.

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To have a scale for assessing the distress level of various kinds of conflict.

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To have a scale for assessing the attribution of cause for various kinds of conflict.

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To make possible the inclusion of relationship conflict as a diagnostic category in the DSM or other systems for diagnosis or classification.

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To provide a concise yet broad and sensitive inventory for measuring changes in relationship conflict.

Completion Time and Reading Level

The RCI-P may take about 10-40 minutes to complete. The RCI-P is at 7th-8th grade reading level by the Lexile system.

Additional Benefits of the RCI-P

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How intense is the distress from each kind of verbal and physical conflict according to each partner?

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How frequent is each kind of verbal and physical conflict according to each partner?

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How much does each partner accept responsibility for the various conflicts or attribute it to the partner?

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How similar are the partners' ratings of frequency, distress, and causal attribution across the spectrum of verbal and physical conflicts?

RCI Book Chapter

My RCI-P work through 1995 was published as Bodin, A. M. (1996). Relationship conflict – verbal and physical: Conceptualizing an inventory for assessing process and content. In F.W. Kaslow (Ed.), Handbook of Relational Diagnosis and Dysfunctional Family Patterns (pp. 371-393). New York: Wiley. To supplement the material in the chapter, I have created a table showing the intercorrelations between variables measured by my instrument and by some other instruments. The early convergent validity data was gathered over two years from my own patients.

Treatment Planning

A focused overview of relationship conflict likely to flow from the RCI-P -- particularly in discussing it with the couple -- includes accurate and applicable information about the following:

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Do the partners acknowledge and attempt to account for differences in their views, and do they argue about such differences or seek accommodation? Observing the process of their response to mutual feedback provides information about whether they are ready to begin discussing content conflict (substantive differences), or whether they must first discuss process conflict and develop better processes for defining and resolving conflict.

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Which kinds of verbal and physical conflicts have high initial priority because of their frequency and/or distress levels, and/or because of their potential for emotional or physical destructiveness?

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Which process conflicts need to be addressed before the couple can discuss matters calmly enough to achieve accurate mutual understanding and the good will to move forward?

Treatment Implementation

The problematic processes pinpointed by the RCI-P provide illumination for the therapist to aim interventions not only where the light is good but also where the interactional problems are. Thus, according to what is illuminated by the RCI-P, the therapist can focus on helping the partners appreciate the importance of and gain skill in:

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communicating in a confirming way and avoiding disconfirming both the other and oneself;

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harnessing escalation as a second-nature signal to suspect the possible existence of an unrecognized misunderstanding;

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"checking back" with each other through paraphrasing the other’s point as powerfully as they can. This allows them to detect and correct misunderstandings using appropriate steps from a "hierarchy of conflict resolution techniques." These include; "agreeing to disagree," flipping a coin, taking turns, meeting the other person part way, catering to the one who cares more, conventional negotiation with bargaining, and principled negotiation -- with its win-win spirit.

Conclusion

I hope that this work will contribute to something beyond mere clarity in conceptualizing relationship conflict by making it easier for therapists to "know the score" and, with its guidance, to help couples find not only the words but also the music as they seek to create harmony in their relationships.

Usage Fees

If you would like to obtain a copy of the RCI, a usage fee of $50 is required.


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