Is psychological aggression as detrimental as physical aggression? The independent effects of psychological aggression on depression and anxiety symptoms

Violence Vict. 2009;24(1):20-35. doi: 10.1891/0886-6708.24.1.20.


The differential effects of psychological and physical victimization on depression and anxiety symptoms were examined via APIM and growth curve modeling techniques in a sample of newlyweds (N = 103 couples) assessed four times over the first 3 years of marriage. On average, husbands and wives reported moderate levels of psychological aggression, and there were no sex differences in prevalence rates or mean levels. Changes in psychological victimization were associated with changes in depression and anxiety symptoms, even after controlling for the effects of physical victimization. This study demonstrates the severe impact of psychological aggression on its victims and expands on previous studies of battering samples to demonstrate that psychological victimization may be more damaging than physical victimization in nonbattering, community couples.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aggression / psychology*
  • Anxiety / epidemiology
  • Anxiety / psychology*
  • Crime Victims / psychology*
  • Crime Victims / statistics & numerical data
  • Depression / epidemiology
  • Depression / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Male
  • Marriage / psychology*
  • Marriage / statistics & numerical data
  • Risk Factors
  • Spouse Abuse / psychology*
  • Spouse Abuse / statistics & numerical data
  • Young Adult