Psychological abuse: implications for adjustment and commitment to leave violent partners

Violence Vict. 1999 Spring;14(1):55-67.


The contribution of psychological abuse, beyond that of physical abuse, to battered women's psychological adjustment and their intentions to terminate their abusive relationships was examined. Sixty-eight battered women residing in shelters for battered women provided information on their: (1) physical and psychological abuse; (2) psychological symptomatology; (3) strategies for coping with and perceptions of control over partner violence; and (4) intentions to return to their abusive partners. Multiple regression analyses indicated that frequency and severity of physical abuse was not a significant predictor of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptomatology nor of women's intentions to terminate their abusive relationships. However, psychological abuse was a significant predictor of both PTSD symptomatology and intentions to permanently leave abusive partners even after controlling for the effects of physical abuse. PTSD symptomatology moderated the relationship between psychological abuse and intentions to terminate the abusive relationships: resolve to leave the abusive partner as a function of level of psychological abuse was significant only among women characterized by low levels of PTSD symptomatology. Greater use of emotion-focused coping strategies, absolutely and relative to problem-focused coping, had direct effects on PTSD symptomatology. However, neither coping nor perceptions of control moderated the effects of psychological abuse on psychological adjustment. The results of the investigation suggested that psychological abuse and ensuing PTSD symptomatology are important variables to assess among physically battered women.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Adult
  • Battered Women / psychology*
  • Divorce / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Internal-External Control*
  • Motivation*
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Regression Analysis
  • Self Efficacy
  • Social Adjustment*
  • Spouse Abuse / prevention & control*
  • Spouse Abuse / psychology*
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / etiology
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / psychology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires