CRVAW Faculty Journal Articles


Defining Psychological Abuse of Husbands Toward Wives: Contexts, Behaviors, and Typologies


Little consensus exists regarding which particular behaviors constitute psychological abuse. In this study, a national sample of psychologists rated behaviors by a husband toward his wife as to whether each behavior constituted psychological abuse. For behaviors viewed as “possibly abusive,” psychologists indicated whether their judgments would depend on contextual factors of frequency/duration, intent to harm by the perpetrator, and/or perception of harm by the victim. Frequency/duration was more influential than intent to harm or perception of harm in determining whether a behavior was viewed as abusive. Cluster analyses revealed conceptual groups that were labeled (a) threats to physical health; (b) control over physical freedoms; (c) destabilization through intimidation, degradation, isolation/monopolizing, and control; (d) dominating/controlling behaviors; and (e) “inept” relationship behaviors. Threats to physical health, control over physical freedoms, and destabilization were most likely to be perceived as psychological abuse, whereas inept behaviors were rarely viewed as inherently abusive.

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Notes/Citation Information

Published in Journal of Interpersonal Violence, v. 15, no. 9, p. 891-920.

Dr. Diane Follingstad had not been a faculty member of the University of Kentucky at the time of publication.

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