More than 25 percent of all couple relationships include physical aggression at some point. Psychological aggression between partners is more prevalent—and potentially more harmful—than physical aggression
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between intimate partners. This study compared the relationship between physical and psychological aggression and relationship satisfaction in violent and nonviolent couples.
The sample consisted of 58 heterosexual, English-speaking couples, married or living together for over a year. Couples were recruited by community advertisements, and their ethnic makeup reflects that of the greater Boston area. To ensure a range of violence in our sample, couples were screened using a modified version of the Conflict Tactics Scale (Straus and Gelles 1990). The frequencies of physical assault and psychological aggression were assessed using the Revised Conflict Tactics Scale (Straus et al. 1996), and marital satisfaction was assessed using the Locke-Wallace Short Marital Adjustment Test (Locke and Wallace 1959). Out of 73 people with physically violent partners, 35 reported being satisfied with their relationships. To better understand this phenomenon, we used multiple regression analyses to examine whether the experience of physical or of psychological aggression was more strongly related to relationship satisfaction.
Results and Discussion
Compared with women who were dissatisfied with physically violent partners, women who were satisfied in their relationships with such partners experienced lower levels of psychological aggression. Women's psychological aggression was related to men's dissatisfaction with their relationships, although women's physical aggression was not. These findings bear out clinical observations that intimidation and the constant threat of violence can be more stressful to women than actual physical violence itself.
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Waldinger, R.J., Fishman, D., Moore, C. and Chivers, L. (2004). Strange Bedfellows. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 52(2):478-479