33 Top Conflict Examples

conflict examples and definition, explained below

Conflicts can be as extreme as wars and simple as interpersonal disagreements between friends and family.

Conflicts can be expressed as violent and non-violent clashes, as well as existing in a range of areas of public and private life. In this article, we’ll cover them all from big to small.

Types of Conflict

To categorize the conflict examples I’ve explored in this article, I’ve developed this table which explores them from big to small (international, national, workplace and school, and interpersonal). I’ve also split them into violent and non-violent types of conflict.

InternationalNationalWorkplace, School & PublicInterpersonal
Proxy Wars
Civil Wars
Armed Insurgencies
Gang Wars
Physical Abuse
Violent Crime
Interpersonal Abuse
Non-ViolentCold Wars
Political disputes
Trade wars
Political partisanship
Peaceful protest
Cold Shoulder
Emotional abuse

Violent Conflict Examples

1. Wars

Level: International

War is one of the most extreme examples of conflict. Wars can disrupt the lives of millions of people and lead to death on a large scale. Sadly, war is rarely something individual people enthusiastically participate in. They’re often thrust into a war because of conflicts between people in power who fail to respect people’s rights to peace, democracy, and freedom.

2. Proxy Wars

Level: International

Proxy wars involve violent battles between two superpowers without the direct interaction between those nations. It occurs when one or more countries act as a proxy for the two superpowers. For example, the battle between North and South Korea in the 1950s was a proxy war between China and the United States, who supplied their preferred sides of the conflict.

3. Civil Wars

Level: National

Civil wars occur within countries when two factions who share the same nationality engage in armed conflict in a battle for control of the country. Its occurrence represents nation-state failure and the breakdown of the balance of power within the country. Examples include the Korean civil war, which led to the fracturing of the country into the north and south, as well as the American civil war that was won by the north.

4. Armed Insurgencies

Level: National

Armed insurgencies do not reach the scale of civil wars because they are not symmetrical conflicts between two factions of the nation. Rather, they involve small militia groups actively revolting against the established government and civil services. They often use guerilla warfare tactics to attempt to disrupt and undermine the functioning of society.

5. Genocides

Level: National

Genocide occurs when a body of people, usually an army or militia, attempt to deliberately engage in the mass killing of a group of people due to their ethnicity. An example of a 21st Century genocide is the Myanmar military’s systematic targeting of Rohingya Muslims who are a minority population within the country.

6. Gang Wars

Level: National

Whereas civil wars and armed insurgencies involve recognized authorities in a direct conflict with an insurgent rebel group, gang wars involve conflicts between illegal non-governmental groups. They’re common in Mexico, for example, where gangs compete for influence over areas of the country.

7. Riots

Level: National

Riots involve protests, often simultaneous,  that turn violent and lead to property damage. Riots can be in response to a range of issues, from sports results (e.g., the Detroit riots following the 1968 World Series win) to perceived mistreatment by authorities (e.g., the 2011 London riots).

8. Terrorist Attacks

Level: National

A terrorist attack is a violent act committed by an individual or group with the intent to instill fear in a population for political, religious, or ideological reasons. Terrorist attacks can take many forms, from bombings and shootings to more subtle methods like cyberattacks.

9. School Shootings

Level: Workplace and School

A school shooting is an incident of violence involving the use of firearms, that occurs at an educational institution. School shootings have occurred all over the world, but they are most common in the United States where there have been numerous high-profile incidents in recent years.

10. Labor Strikes

Level: Workplace and School

Strikes are a type of conflict that can occur in both the workplace and in educational institutions. They involve workers or students ceasing to work or attend classes in order to protest against something. For example, strikes have been used to protest against low wages, dangerous working conditions, and the

11. Violent Crime

Level: Workplace, School & Public Spaces

Violent crime is a type of crime that involves the use of force or violence against another person. This can include crimes like assault and robbery. Violent crime is often seen as more serious than non-violent crime, and it can have a lasting impact on both the victim and the community.

12. Physical Abuse

Level: Workplace, School & Public Spaces

Physical abuse is the intentional use of physical force against another person that causes them bodily harm. This can include hitting, kicking, shoving, and using weapons. Physical abuse can also involve withholding food or water, or forcing someone to consume alcohol or drugs.

13. Interpersonal Abuse

Level: Interpersonal

Interpersonal abuse is the intentional use of physical, emotional, or psychological maltreatment against another person in a relationship. This can include violence, threats, name-calling, and controlling behaviors. Interpersonal abuse can occur in relationships between family members, friends, acquaintances, and romantic partners.

14. Eye-for-an-Eye

Level: Interpersonal

The “eye-for-an-eye” principle is the idea that someone who has caused harm to another person should be harmed in return. This principle is often invoked in cases of revenge or retaliation. The “eye-for-an-eye” principle is found in many legal systems around the world, and it has its roots in the ancient Mesopotamian Empire (circa 18th Century BCE).

Non-Violent Conflict Examples

15. Cold Wars

Level: International

Cold wars are long-running disputes between nations that do not involve direct violent conflict. They usually involve propaganda wars, proxy wars, and arms build-ups. Espionage and economic conflict (e.g. tariffs and sanctions) may also be used.

16. Intergovernmental Disputes

Level: International

An intergovernmental dispute is a disagreement between two governments. They are usually the result of disagreements about human rights, allocation of resources, or the boundaries between sovereign states. They can be resolved through international courts or negotiations to prevent escalation into economic or military disputes.

17. Trade Wars

Level: International

A trade war is a type of economic conflict between two or more nations. It is usually caused by one nation imposing tariffs or other trade barriers on another. Trade wars can also be the result of currency manipulation, dumping, and other forms of economic warfare. A real-life example of a trade war is the “chicken war” of the early 21st century between the United States and Europe. During the chicken wars, the United States imposed tariffs on European exports of chicken in retaliation for Europe’s higher tariffs on American beef.

18. Proxy Wars

Level: International

A proxy war is a type of conflict in which two nations or groups support opposing sides in a third party’s war. Proxy wars are often used when the two nations or groups are not able to fight each other directly, either because of political reasons or because they are too evenly matched.

Proxy wars can be dangerous because they can lead to a wider conflict if not managed properly. For example, the proxy war between the United States and the Soviet Union in Afghanistan in the 1980s eventually led to the Soviet Union’s withdrawal from Afghanistan and the rise of the Taliban.

19. Sanctions

Level: International

Sanctions are punitive measures imposed by one state on another for political reasons. They can take the form of economic penalties (e.g. trade embargoes) or diplomatic measures (e.g. expelling diplomats). Sanctions are often imposed as a way to pressure another state into changing its behavior without resorting to military force. A real-life example of a sanction is the oil embargo imposed on Iran by the United States in 2012 in order to pressure Iran into halting its nuclear program.

20. Political Disagreements

Level: National

A political disagreement is a type of conflict that arises from different opinions or positions on political issues. In democracies, there are usually at least two political parties that sit on different ends of an ideological spectrum (left-wing vs right-wing). In some cases, political disagreements in democratic nations can be resolved through negotiation and compromise. In other cases, they are resolved through elections to end political gridlock.

21. Peaceful Protest

Level: National

A peaceful protest is a type of demonstration in which people express their grievances without resorting to violence. Peaceful protests can take many different forms, such as marches, sit-ins, and hunger strikes. They are often used to pressure governments or corporations into changing their policies. A real-life example of a peaceful protest is the 2011 Occupy Wall Street movement in the United States, which was a series of protests against economic inequality.

22. Discrimination

Level: Workplace, School & Public Spaces

Discrimination is the act of treating someone differently based on their race, gender, sexuality, or another characteristic. Discrimination can be intentional or unintentional. It can be based on personal biases or institutional policies. It can occur in workplaces, schools, and public spaces. A real-life example of discrimination is the pay gap between men and women in the United States, which is caused by a combination of personal biases and institutional policies.

23. Sexual Harassment

Level: Workplace, School

Sexual harassment is any type of unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature. Sexual harassment can occur in workplaces, schools, and other settings. It can be perpetrated by anyone, regardless of their gender or position of power. Sexual harassment came to the fore in society during the #MeToo movement, which was started in response to the widespread sexual harassment and assault of women by men in positions of power.

24. Bullying

Level: Workplace, School & Public Spaces

Bullying is the act of repeated, intentional, and harmful behavior directed at someone. Bullying can take many forms, such as verbal abuse and gossip behind someone’s back. It can occur in workplaces, schools, and other public spaces. Bullying is often motivated by a desire to assert power over someone.

25. Cyberbullying

Level: Workplace, School & Public Spaces

Cyberbullying is the act of using technology to repeatedly and intentionally harm or harass someone. It can take many forms, such as sending mean messages or spreading rumors online. Cyberbullying can occur in workplaces, schools, and other public spaces. It is often motivated by a desire to assert power over someone.

26. Harassment

Level: Workplace, School & Public Spaces

Harassment can be described as any behaviour that is unwelcome, offensive or threatening. It can occur in person or online, and can be directed at an individual or a group of people. Harassment is often motivated by factors such as race, religion, gender, sexual orientation or disability. It can also take the place of stalking and gaslighting.

27. Gaslighting

Level: Workplace, School & Public Spaces

Gaslighting is a type of psychological manipulation in which someone tries to make another person question their reality. Gaslighting can occur in any relationship, but is most common in intimate relationships. It is often motivated by a desire to control or abuse the other person. A real-life example of gaslighting is when an abusive partner tells their victim that they are crazy or imagining things.

28. Factionalism

Level: Workplace, School & Public Spaces

Factionalism is the act of dividing people into groups based on their political beliefs. Factionalism can occur in workplaces, schools, and other public spaces. It is often motivated by a desire to control or influence the other person. A real-life example of factionalism is the 2016 election in the United States, which was marked by a deep divide between supporters of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.

29. Lawsuits

Level: Workplace, School & Public Spaces

A lawsuit is a legal proceeding in which one party sues another for damages due to an irresolvable conflict. Lawsuits can be filed in civil or criminal court. They are typically filed by individuals, but can also be filed by businesses or governments. Lawsuits can be costly and time-consuming, but they offer the possibility of monetary compensation or other relief for the victim.

30. Arguments

Level: Interpersonal

An argument is a simple interpersonal disagreement between two or more people. Arguments are normal in relationships, but conflict resolution skills can help to resolve them and maintain the positives of the relationship.

31. Cold Shoulder

Level: Interpersonal

The cold shoulder is the act of deliberately ignoring or snubbing someone. It is often used as a way to reject or punish someone. The cold shoulder can be hurtful and may damage relationships. An example of giving the cold shoulder is when someone gives their partner the silent treatment after a fight.

32. Emotional abuse

Level: Interpersonal

Emotional abuse is a type of psychological abuse that involves the consistent use of words and actions to control, intimidate, or degrade someone. It can take many forms, such as name-calling, put-downs, excessive criticism, and yelling. Emotional abuse is often motivated by a desire to control or manipulate the other person.

33. Disagreements

Level: Interpersonal

A disagreement is perhaps the most mild form of conflict, but is conflict nonetheless. It involves two people who see things differently and may have trouble coming to an agreement. This can lead to conflict and tension, as people attempt to assert their own opinions and convince others to see things their way.

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Conflict is a natural part of life, but that doesn’t mean it has to be negative. Conflict can be used to create positive change, and it can be an opportunity for growth and learning. However, conflict can also be destructive, and it can lead to division and hurt feelings. With conflict resolution skills, you can turn a potentially negative situation into a positive one.

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Dr. Chris Drew is the founder of the Helpful Professor. He holds a PhD in education and has published over 20 articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education. [Image Descriptor: Photo of Chris]

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