Morton’s Resolution Model: Conflict is Good

Morton’s Resolution Model | The Resolution of Conflict

The idea that conflict will have either constructive or destructive results is the main thesis behind Morton Deutch’s The Resolution of Conflict. Deutch’s 1973 work paved the way for much further sociological and psychological research on the effects of conflict and how it can influence our lives. Understanding this model can be key to working with and examining conflict well.

Conflict is often portrayed in a negative light. Such conflict can make people uneasy and contribute to breaking current or prior relationships. However, not all conflict is destructive, and there are times when conflict may be beneficial for a situation or relationship.

In this article, we will break down Morton Deutch’s resolution model, which he framed in his book The Resolution of Conflict.  We hope this framework can provide a springboard for further engagement and study in the psychology and sociology behind conflict.

Morton’s Resolution Model | The Resolution of Conflict

Morton Deutch was an American social psychologist, and his research earned him the title of a founding member of the study of conflict resolution.  Deutch, a World War II veteran, taught and researched psychology at various hospitals and colleges in New York City for most of his career.  Through this work, he gathered valuable information on the sources and effects of conflict on human beings, especially as the country was becoming increasingly aware of the potential for a third world war accompanied by the threat of nuclear weapons.

While running the social psychology doctorate program at Colombia University, Deutch produced one of his seminal works—The Resolution of Conflict: Constructive and Destructive Processes. This work lays out his ideas on conflict resolution, and this article will develop a summary of his model from it.

Deutch’s analysis and hypothesis in The Resolution of Conflict are unique because they do not provide a primer for avoiding conflict. Instead, it is a theory that seeks to make conflict resolution productive for the parties involved, creating good out of a challenging and destructive time.  He outlines various actions and situations within a conflict that determine the conflict’s ability to be constructive or destructive and divides conflict into several types.

He also discusses issues that are often at the heart of a conflict. Finally, he ends his work by examining how parties can orient themselves toward amicable conflict resolution. This article will focus on why conflict resolution is necessary and outline Deutch’s idea on the influencing factors and types of conflict.

Why Conflict Resolution is Important

Studying and understanding conflict resolution is essential because everyone experiences conflict regularly, and learning how to address it helps resolve conflict constructively rather than destructively.  Some expected benefits of constructive conflict resolution include:

  • Productivity: When parties conflict, it will often affect their productivity. By resolving the conflict in a way that helps the parties move forward together, they can set aside the conflict and have a renewed sense of vigor toward their overall work.
  • Reaching a Goal: When parties can resolve a conflict, they are more likely to achieve the shared goal. This is particularly true when a conflict arises between the parties working on a project.
  • Encouraging Relationships: Regardless of the relationship the parties had before the conflict arose, resolving a conflict constructively can encourage the conflict to continue or be created. Destructive conflict will ruin the relationship.
  • Creating Ideas: Through cooperative work, the parties will create value between them, often creatively. This can encourage new ideas and help the parties be innovative in conflict resolution and their production moving forward.
  • Committing to the Goal: When the parties can reach a resolution, they often create a new commitment to the task at hand and the other party. This can encourage further commitment within each party as well.

Conflict resolution brings many benefits to those involved in the dispute. These benefits demonstrate why understanding conflict resolution can be important for everyone to learn.

The Factors that Determine a Constructive or Destructive Outcome to Conflicts:

Because conflict resolution is so important, it is also essential to understand the factors that influence the outcome of the conflict and whether it is constructive or destructive.  In The Resolution of Conflict, Deutch outlines several types of actions and situations that can affect the outcome of a conflict.  These factors include:


One of the most influential aspects of a conflict is the relationship between the parties, both before the conflict and after it is resolved. This includes how parties perceive each other, their actions toward each other, and the level of trust they have established.


Another factor that can influence the outcome of the conflict is the nature of the issue. This includes the motivating factors that contributed to the dispute arising and how much room there is for the parties to negotiate within the problem’s parameters. It also includes the significance of the issue to each of the parties and how frequently this conflict arises.


Specific characteristics of the parties themselves can influence the outcome of the conflict. These include their educational and social resources, temperaments, feelings about conflict, and interests.

Other Interested Parties:

Another factor that can influence the situation is the presence of any additional parties that may be invested in the outcome of the dispute and the amount of influence they may have over the parties.


The societal environment around the parties and the pressures it can add can also influence the way that they act and resolve conflict. These can include norms imposed on the parties due to characteristics, proximity or shared networks, and institutionalized conflict resolution models.


Each party’s strategies also influence the outcome of the dispute. The outcome of a conflict can rely heavily on whether the parties use strategies that encourage collaboration or coercive tactics.


Deutch’s final influence is the effects that the conflict can have on each party. These are the consequences that each party will suffer with a given outcome and the gains or losses a party can make. Additionally, the reputation of the parties will play a role.

Deutch identifies and examines these variables that play into the outcomes that the parties can expect.  When you combine several favorable influences, it can encourage constructive conflict.  However, the same issues can flip and destroy the conflict if not monitored.

Morton Deutch’s Outline of Conflict Types:

In addition to identifying the factors that can influence the outcome of a conflict, Deutch also developed a theory of the types of conflict that arise.  By creating types, Deutch helps to organize and study conflict.  This can help researchers find commonalities among the conflict and their outcomes to help predict behavior and study the conflict further.  The types of conflicts that Deutch identified are:


According to Deutch, Vertical conflict is the “truest conflict.” This means that it cannot be easily remedied or affected by a situation or action outside of the conflict.  These conflicts are often difficult to resolve because no solution does not involve one party winning and the other losing.


Unlike vertical conflict, contingent conflict can be affected by an outside factor, meaning that the parties could resolve their dispute if they knew the availability of the outside factor. These conflicts are often easily remedied because they can be solved by introducing the factor unless the parties are unwilling to consider other options or opinions.


Displaced conflicts are those where the parties are arguing about something other than that which is the source of the conflict. Here, Deutch determines that there is a manifest conflict, which is the one the parties are speaking about, and the underlying conflict, which the parties are ignoring but is causing conflict.  This is often the case when the parties are not safe to have a conflict over the underlying conflict for various reasons.  These are not easily solved until the parties are willing to address the underlying conflict.


According to Deutch, there are situations where the wrong parties are in conflict and fighting about the wrong issues. These are misplaced conflicts. Resolving these conflicts requires identifying the underlying parties and disputes that need to be addressed, and it often requires cooperation on the part of the parties.


Latent conflicts exist subconsciously but are not being processed because the parties have not recognized them. This can be for several reasons, but it is commonly because the parties have repressed the conflict or avoided it.  Turning the conflict into a conscious conflict helps the parties move through it constructively.


Finally, Deutch describes a false conflict or one where there is genuinely no disagreement. Deutch states that these conflicts are not common because they are often based on a misunderstanding that is quickly remedied.  However, they may turn into actual disputes if they are not corrected.

Deutch states that these conflicts are not mutually exclusive, meaning multiple conflicts may exist simultaneously.  However, understanding these types can help a person identify ways that the conflict may be resolved.


Deutch’s theory helps people sort through and understand the ways that conflict is resolved. Understanding the types of contingent conflict can help a party identify how to work on a constructive resolution. Knowing the variables that can influence how a conflict resolves can be beneficial for those amid conflict, helping them understand what may be throwing their resolution strategy off course and how they can work to correct it.

Knowing how to approach conflict resolution is vital to working through situations and resolving conflicts constructively, which helps the parties receive all the benefits they had worked for.  Deutch’s influential work gives any reader the upper hand when approaching conflict and helps create constructive solutions.

To learn more about Mortons Resolution Model and other conflict resolution techniques, contact ADR Times today!

Emily Holland
error: ADR Times content is protected.