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Background of the Study

Marriage is a relationship legally approved between adults of the opposite sex of different backgrounds. It involves the coming together of two totally different individuals with different socio-economic background to form a family (Alhasan 2001). Marriage is usually contracted amidst joy, happiness and merry making for the couple, family members and friends. Nwoye (2005), noted that marriage is a sacred and permanent contract usually involving two persons of opposite sex who decide on their own accord to marry and in the presence of at least two witnesses to exchange the formal consent to live a life of vocation of love and sharing for each other. It is intended to be stable. Marriage is culturally approved and has endorsement of sexual intercourse and sexual commitment between spouses exclusive of other males and females. There is also the expectation that children will be born and there are prescribed modes of behaviour. Marriage gives rise to family which is the basic unit of the society. The importance of the family emphasizes the importance of marriage. Cultural variations exist, however, marriage is often marked by a ritual of some sort such as wedding to indicate the couple’s new public status. Since marriage involves people of different backgrounds and characteristic coming together, various forms of challenges often occur. The challenges include, conflicts which could lead to other problems such as divorce when not properly handled. Conflict implies opposition and disagreement in views, opinions, ideas and behaviours among people. According to Goodhand and Hulme (1999), conflict is a struggle between individuals over values or claims to status, power and scarce resources in which the aims of the conflicting parties are to assert their values or claims over those of others. Conflict is inevitable and have some problems that can lead to it. Ngoka (2000) listed the following problems: decision-making problems, lack of understanding, lack of communication, failing expectations, inappropriate behaviour, differences due to upbringing, relationships with in-laws, money matters, childlessness, among others. In the view of Olaitan and Akpan (2003), causes of conflict among couples include: financial problems, sociological problems which include marital roles of couples, lack of communication, childlessness, maladjustment such as gossiping, lying, stealing, drunkenness, religious problems, hidden facts about the couples, problems emanating from friends and relations and in-laws. From the two views, this study consider the following as the causes of conflict among couples: Lack of understanding, lack of communication, failing expectations, financial problems, decision-making problems, differences due to up-bringing, inappropriate behaviour, childlessness, relationship with in-laws, friends and relations, religious problems, hidden facts about the couples, extra-marital affairs and others. These problems lead to Domestic conflicts. Domestic conflicts is conflict between couples. Keneth and Smith (2008) saw Domestic conflicts as a struggle between couples with opposing needs, ideas, beliefs, values or goals. Couple can be defined as a man and woman who have their relationships approved and united by marriage ties to become father and mother. Loyola (2002) defined couples as a man and a woman who are legally married to one another and are thereby given law specific rights and duties resultive from their relationship. The couples within families in this study are couples that are living together. Various reports show that Domestic conflictss occur across various areas of the world. Domestic conflicts has been linked to the onset of depressive symptoms eating disorders, male alcoholism, episodic drinking, binge drinking, and out –of- home drinking. For instance Fincham (2001) reported that physical aggression occurs in about 30% of married couples in the United States, leading to significant physical injury in about 10% of couples. Nigeria is not an exception Tolorunleke (2014) revealed in his findings that Domestic conflictss did exist in the Nigeria society. He observed that over the past years in Nigeria the society has witnessed a great increase in the rate of separation, divorce, marital disaffection and loss of affection between couples.

Domestic conflicts are abound in Nsukka. Report from Social Welfare Department, Nsukka Local Government Area revealed that marriages are besieged by numerous problems that often lead to increase in divorce and marital disharmony, these result from unresolved Domestic conflicts The number of broken and unsuccessful marriages handled from the period 2008 – 2014 according to the report are as follows: 141 in 2008, 144 in 2009, 140 in 2010, 150 in 2011, 135 in 2012, 158 in 2013 and 168 in 2014. The total number of cases handled for the period was 1016 most of which led to divorce and separation. These situations emphasize the need for couples to adopt effective conflict resolution practices.

Conflict resolution is a way of controlling conflict after it has occurred. It is the process by which conflicts can be brought to an end. Adewale (2015) defined conflict resolution as the principles, methods, and skills that are employed to prevent, reduce, or resolve conflict. It is therefore important to know the practices of couples in Nsukka local government area in conflict resolution.

Practices in this study are externally demonstrated behaviour by couples which in some ways influence their conflict resolution. According to Karen (2012), practice is defined as doing something again and again in order to become better at it. The author added that practice is to do something regularly or constantly. On the other hand, Wheatley (2010), saw it as frequently repeated, or customary action, habitual in performance.

Therefore, conflict resolution practices include various methods used in resolving conflicts between individuals or groups in relation with their beliefs, values and others. Resolving conflict according to different authors; Anyakoha (2007) observed that ways of resolving conflicts occur in five stages which include (1) becoming aware of the conflict or problem (2) setting limits (3) arguing stage (4) negotiating and compromise and (5) following-up. According to Sumulata and Yadav (2013), response to conflicts can come in different ways: by accommodation, third parties (counselors, kinsmen, and religious leaders), communication practices, collaborative, compromising and avoidance practices. The National University Commission (NUC) (2006), identified the following conflict resolution strategies: grassroots community-based activity, good governance, collaboration, negotiation, conciliation, mediation, arbitration, adjudication, arise management and communication. Therefore conflict resolution practices could be couples awareness of Domestic conflicts, communications, negotiation, compromising and the use of third party. There should be an awareness of existing conflict among couples before applying other ways of resolving conflicts.

Awareness of conflict is one of the conflict resolution practices of couples in this study. Awareness of conflict among couples can be defined as a synthesis of the couples conception, interpretation and perceptions of conflicts related issues which affect their behaviour. It also affects their quality of responses and reactions to conflict problems. According to Sandfort (2010) perception of conflict among couples is seen as threat or neglect.

Fletcher and Thomas (2001) shared that when couples know, understand that conflict is naturally inevitable they would be able to interpret it well in their life and would give healthy response to it. The researcher also noted some mediums through which couples awareness of conflict could be made possible. These include seminars, churches, books, schools, town criers in the village, mass media community meeting among others. These will help the couples have healthy conflict awareness practices. Awareness of conflict among couples will be more possible where there is effective communication.

Communication is very important in Domestic conflicts resolution. Communication involves ability to voice concerns as well as a willingness to listen. Marital relationship requires communication because human interact calls for communication (Goodman, 2001). Goodman stated further that the nature of marital relationship is determined by the kind of messages the couple send to each other. Lack of communication is arguably the most deliberating cause of conflict as no other problem can really be addressed without it. Effective communication skills help couples to negotiate any conflict.

Negotiation is a process of two or more parties reaching a mutually agreeable conclusion. Anyakoha (2007) opined that to negotiate is to deal or bargain with another. It is very necessary to handle negotiation well. In support of this, James, Bodtler, Jones and Ryan (2006) suggested that negotiators can enhance the problem-solving process by learning how to assess and respond to emotions such as anger, fear, hope, anxiety, sadness, pride and embarrassment. Couples should prepare themselves well for effective and successful negotiation. Couples arrive at compromise after a successful negotiation.

Compromise is an agreement made between two people or groups in which each side gives up some of the things they want so that both sides are happy at the end. Sportsman and Hamilto (2007), defined  compromise as an approach that is to find an expedient, mutually acceptable solution that partially satisfies both parties. Ghaderi, Haghighi, Ajirlo & Sogh (2012) stated that in compromising practices of conflict resolution, each of the two parties involved has an average respect for each other. It is based on strategies and mutually acceptable decisions and when couple have equal points, they can use this practice. Two people may have an idea of how a problem should be solved at the end of the day they take two separate approaches, that could not reach to their goal. Compromise here is not successful. Or if one person gets all of what he wants and the other doesn’t get his needs met at all, then that is not compromise (Binguman, 2012). So it is very important for couples to endeavour to have good compromising practices.

In the case of where the couples cannot resolve their conflict with being aware of conflict, communication, negotiation or arrive at compromise, couples seek a third party to help them resolve the conflict. The third parties include other family members, parents in-laws, friends, social welfare counselors, kinsmen, religious leaders among others. They assist the couples in finding a mutually acceptable solution. The “third party” and intermediary” are both used to refer to a person or team of people who become involved in a conflict to help the disputing parties manage or resolve it. Third parties might act as consultants, helping one side or both sides analyse the conflict and

play an effective response (Nathan, 1999). However, as much as the third parties help in conflict resolution among couples, they must not force the couples to agree on an issue or solution.


Conflict among couples have numerous consequences on families and societal well being, such as divorce, separation, unhealthy relationship between husband and wife, fight, physical injury of the couples, deteriorated health condition as a result of neglect, death of spouse in extreme cases, poor character formation among the children as a result of separated parents among others. Unresolved conflicts among couples could result in separation or divorce between husband and wife due to a long period of emotional tension between the couple. These ugly situations are very common occurrences in Nigerian society today and the case of Nsukka local government area of Enugu State is not significantly different.

The marital challenges report in Social Welfare in Nsukka Local Government Area indicates that there is increase in separation and divorce among couples. Unresolved conflicts can lead to instability in marriage. This in turn can lead to family problems which can threaten family stability. The  calls to adoption and utilization of effective conflict resolution practices by couples. The available information on marital challenges in Nsukka appears to indicate that the couples may not be adopting effective conflict resolution practices. The data from Social Welfare Nsukka local government area (2014) gave the total of 1016 marital and separation. This is a problem that requires attention since they may not know and cannot practice what the do not know. It becomes necessary to find out what they do about their conflict situations and ways they can be better resolved, hence this study.

Purpose of the Study

The major purpose of this study was to investigate the conflict resolution among couples within families in Nsukka local government area of Enugu State. Specifically, the study was designed to:

1.                  Determine the couples levels of awareness of marital stability.

2.                  Identify the causes of domestic conflicts among couples within families in Nsukka local government area.

3.                  Identify the communication practices of conflict resolution among couples in Nsukka local government area on the issues of conflict resolution.

4.                   Identify couples negotiation practices of conflict resolution in Nsukka local government.

5.                  Determine compromising practices of couples in conflict resolution.

6.                  Determine the couples’ practices of seeking third parties in conflict resolution.

Significance of the Study

Conflict is an inevitable occurrence of daily life of human beings. Therefore, when conflict occurs in the family, appropriate resolution measures should be taken to avoid further damage in the family structure. This is because, when conflicts are unresolved, the resultant effects are divorce, separation and disharmony among family members etc. The findings of this study will therefore be beneficial to couples, Home Economics educators, Students, Curriculum planners, Guidance and Counselors, social and community health workers.

The findings of the study will be beneficial to family members and couples in particular as it will intimate them on awareness, causes of conflicts and furnish them with the level of conflict resolution practices among couples in the area. The study will help in drastic reduction of conflict, improved healthy life style and enhancement of equilibrium among family members in the study area through conferences, seminars, churches, mass media among others. The study will also help the government in policy formulation and implementation with family welfare and survival as its focal point.

The findings of the study will provide relevant literature for Home Economists, sociologists and guidance and counseling educators. This will also enhance their teaching/knowledge of the causes and conflict resolution practices. The findings of the study can be used by Home economics educators to teach students at all levels of Nigeria education system on the prevailing causes, effects and conflict resolution practices for adoption by families. This can be incorporated in the teaching of Home management and family life education at post-primary education level. This will further improve the skills of Home economics educators and students appropriate conflict resolution among friends, families, in work place and the society in general.

The findings of the study will also be of great benefit to curriculum planners by providing relevant information for curriculum review and update to meet societal needs most especially in the area of family welfare and survival. The study will also provide useful resource materials to Home Economics organizations, Universities, Polytechnics, Colleges of Education, Libraries and other researchers in conflict management and resolution among parties.

The findings of this study will benefit the social and community health workers in the sense that it will provide empirical information on the causes of conflict and conflict resolution practices which can be used for managing conflicts among people in order to promote healthy life styles at homes and work places.

Research Questions

Six research questions were raised in line with the purpose of the study.

1.                  To what level are couples aware of family marital stability and domestic violence in the study area?

2.                  What are the causes of marital stability and domestic violence among couples in Nsukka local government area? What are the communication practices of conflict resolution among couples in Nsukka local government area?

3.                  What are the negotiation practices of conflict resolution among couples in Nsukka local government area?

4.                  What are the compromising practices of couples in conflict resolution in Nsukka local government area?

5.                  What are the third party practices in conflict resolution among couples in Nsukka local government area?


Six null hypotheses were formulated and will be tested at 0.05 level of significance.

1.                  There is no significant difference in the mean ratings of husbands and wives on their level of awareness of domestic conflict in the study area.

2.                  There is no significant difference in the mean ratings of husbands and wives on the causes of domestic conflicts among couples in Nsukka local government area.

3.                  There is no significant difference in the mean ratings between the husbands and wives on their communication practices of the issues of conflict resolution.

4.                  There is no significant difference in the mean ratings between husbands and wives on their negotiation practices of conflict resolution.

5.                  There is no significant difference in the mean ratings between husbands and wives on their compromising practices ways in conflict resolution among couples.

6.                  There is no significant difference in the mean ratings between husbands and wives on their practices of seeking third parties in conflict resolution.

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