Breaking up is hard to do: psychological entrapment and women's commitment to violent dating relationships

Violence Vict. 2012;27(4):455-69. doi: 10.1891/0886-6708.27.4.455.


Psychological entrapment occurs when people continue investing in unfavorable situations after already devoting too much to lose. We predicted that women who already invested more time and resources into their relationships would exert effort to improve their relationships following partner violence. In turn, these efforts were expected to increase women's subjective investment in, and thus, commitment to violent relationships. Undergraduate women (N = 98) in heterosexual relationships reported on partner violence and relationship duration at Time 1 and relationship sacrifices, subjective investment, and commitment at Times 1 and 2. As expected, women with violent partners who were in longer term relationships sacrificed more 6 weeks later. Unexpectedly, in multivariate analyses, Time 2 sacrifices were not significantly associated with Time 2 subjective investment, although subjective investment was positively associated with concurrent commitment. These results provide preliminary evidence for women's entrapment in violent relationships.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Battered Women / psychology*
  • Coercion*
  • Courtship / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Male
  • Motivation
  • Self Disclosure*
  • Self Efficacy*
  • Social Support
  • Spouse Abuse / psychology*
  • Students / psychology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult