Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



Eberly College of Arts and Sciences


Political Science

Committee Chair

Joe D Hagan

Committee Co-Chair

R Scott Crichlow

Committee Member

Robert D Duval

Committee Member

David M Hauser

Committee Member

Philip A Michelbach


Dyadic conflict research within international relations is largely reliant on the analysis of differences in regime or leadership characteristics as a catalyst for conflict. This dissertation challenges traditional scholarship through the introduction of a unique approach that examines more fundamental differences between states. These fundamental historical and cultural differences, which are enshrined in a states' civil religion, offer insights into the behavior of states during crisis. The three primary questions of this dissertation are the following: What role does societal norms and cultural values have in threat perception? Why do states practice restraint in some crises and escalation of belligerence in others? Why do some conflicts result in brutal wars and others in limited wars? The theoretical expectation is that greater cultural and historical differences between states reduces the bargaining range for states to resolve crises, resulting in the escalation of tensions. In order to demonstrate empirical support for these claims, a mixed-methods approach is utilized. The quantitative analysis will be conducted to determine the generalizability and applicability of differences in civil religion on hostilities and escalation of crisis between dyads. The qualitative analysis will expound on the historical narratives of three pairs of dyads, which include the same state involved in two crises. These case studies will demonstrate how crises between certain dyads are escalated because of ontological threat perception. Furthermore, these case studies also demonstrate how the severity and brutality of war can vary dramatically between different dyads.