Conflict escalation in dyads with a history of territorial disputes

Karen K. Petersen (Middle Tennessee State University, Murfreesboro, Tennessee, USA)

International Journal of Conflict Management

ISSN: 1044-4068

Publication date: 5 October 2010



Building on the steps to war model, this paper seeks to examine the impact that territorial Militarized Interstate Disputes (MID) have on the time it takes a dyad to go to war after it experiences its first MID.


A model common to epidemiological research, the hazard model, is employed to examine the dyadic relationship from the time of the first MID forward. This is an improvement to dyadic analysis, as most research examines the characteristics of individual MIDs in isolation.


Dyads with a history of territorial MIDs go to war much more quickly than dyads without a history of territorial MIDs. Future research should explore the relationship between territory, war, and power status to test the assertion that minor power states engage in power politics behavior less frequently.

Practical implications

Conflict resolution measures need to be employed more quickly when states have unresolved territorial issues. Mediation generally does not occur quickly, which may explain why territorial issues are less likely to be referred to mediators and less successfully mediated. The results presented herein highlight the need for flexible, quick responses to certain crises and the need to settle borders and other territorial disputes permanently to avoid war.


The paper tests a critical component of the steps to war model and examines the assertion that the historical relationship between states affects conflict decisions.



Petersen, K. (2010), "Conflict escalation in dyads with a history of territorial disputes", International Journal of Conflict Management, Vol. 21 No. 4, pp. 415-433.

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