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The Conflict–Cohesion Hypothesis: Past, Present, and Possible Futures

Advances in Group Processes

ISBN: 978-0-85724-773-5, eISBN: 978-0-85724-774-2

Publication date: 17 November 2011


The relationship between intergroup conflict and intragroup cohesion is a longstanding concern in sociology and related disciplines. Past work suggests that intergroup conflict shapes emotional bonds between group members, promotes in-group and out-group stereotyping, encourages self-sacrifice for the group, and changes the social structure of groups. Conflict thus plays an important structural role in organizing social interaction. Although sociologists contributed much to the beginnings of this research tradition, sociological attention to the conflict–cohesion link has waned in recent decades. We contend that despite advances in our understanding of the conflict–cohesion hypothesis, more remains to be done, and sociologists are especially equipped to tackle these unanswered questions. As such, we encourage sociologists to revisit the study of intergroup conflict and intragroup cohesion and offer some possibilities for furthering our understanding of this phenomenon. After reviewing and evaluating the relevant literatures on the conflict–cohesion hypothesis, we consider ways in which a broad range of current theories from the group process tradition – including theories of status, exchange, justice, identity, and emotion – could contribute to understanding the conflict–cohesion hypothesis and how those theories could benefit from considering the conflict–cohesion hypothesis. In doing so, we make a case for the continuing importance of sociology in explaining the link between intergroup conflict and intragroup cohesion.


Benard, S. and Doan, L. (2011), "The Conflict–Cohesion Hypothesis: Past, Present, and Possible Futures", Thye, S.R. and Lawler, E.J. (Ed.) Advances in Group Processes (Advances in Group Processes, Vol. 28), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 189-225.



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