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Conflict continuum is a model or concept used by various social science researchers in modelling conflict, usually going from low "irritations" to high "explosiveness" intensity.[1] These conceptual models facilitate discussion as in "anywhere on the conflict continuum".[2][3]

Various continuum modelsEdit

Elise Boulding's conflict continuumEdit

Elise M. Boulding was a Quaker sociologist influenced by the events of World War II. Examining how war becomes peace, she posited a continuum between Wars of Extermination [4] and Transformation.[5]

This is Boulding’s conflict continuum [4]: War of extermination, Limited war, Threat systems (deterrence), Arbitration, Mediation, Negotiation (exchange), Mutual adaptation, Alliance, Co-operation, Integration,[4] Transformation.[5]

Andra MedeaEdit

Theorist Andra Medea seeks to explain how individuals, small groups, organizations, families, ethnicities, and even whole nations function when disputes arise between them. She posits that there are four types or levels of conflict, each operating under distinct rules: 1) Problem Solving; 2) Domination; 3) Blind Behavior; 4) Rogue Messiah.[6]

Each level moving from first to fourth is characterized by increasing degrees of separation from reality, and decreasing degrees of maturity, in this context, defined as the ability to control anger and settle differences without violence or destruction. Problem-solving behavior is based in reality and maturity, and is therefore more rational and mature than domination. Domination is more rational and mature than blind behavior, which is more rational and mature than the Rogue Messiah.[7]

However, each level moving from fourth to first is more capable than the one below it at forcing victory in a conflict. The Rogue Messiah overpowers blind behavior, blind behavior thwarts domination, and domination deadlocks Problem-solving.[7]


  1. Conflict Management. The University of Iowa. URL accessed on 2010-11-30.
  2. (18 June 1993) C412 INTEROPERABILITY: Operational Art in a New Paradigm, ii, Newport, RI.: NAVAL WAR COLLEGE.
  3. (1991) "4. Getting Started" Learning from Conflict: A Handbook for Trainers and Group Leaders, Amherst, MA: Human Resources Development Press. URL accessed 2010-12-02.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Hocker, Joyce & William W. Wilmot (1995). Interpersonal Conflict, 4th Edition, Brown & Benchmark, Madison.
  5. 5.0 5.1 (2001). History. The Institute for Global Leadership.
  6. Andra Medea interviewed by McDonnell, Jerome. "WorldView". WBEZ, Chicago. 16 May 1999.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Medea, Andra. “The Conflict Continuum.” Chicago, 1996. Page 1.
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