The conflict theory as it relates to divorce states that two parties face the perpetual problem of trying to come to terms with the other party's conflicting interests, according to Prof. David D. Witt of the University of Akron. Conflict theory was first espoused by Karl Marx in 1844. Conflict is intensified by deprivation, distribution of power and emotional involvement.
Conflict theory in divorce proceedings also describes competition and its negative effects in a marriage. When someone is deprived of some aspect of their marital relationship, competition for affection, time, attention and power increase. This competition creates a negative state of interdependence between the parties.
When the distribution of power and wealth changes in a divorce, one party or the other usually tries to get as many resources and as much esteem as possible out of the situation. Grabbing more power or more wealth from the other person means victory in conflict theory.
A third aspect of intensified conflict is when the parties have high emotional involvement. If emotional involvement is low, conflict usually does not escalate. When emotional involvement is high, a mediator often is needed to ease the conflict.
The overriding theme of conflict theory from the original sociological perspective is that groups clash over competing self-interests. Resources, wealth and power are just three interests involved in these social conflicts, according to Delmar College.