Dyadic splitting in partner relational disorders

Judith P. Siegel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The defense mechanism of splitting appears to underlie many interpersonal problems that are presently classified within the category of relational disorders of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (American Psychiatric Association, 1994) and, accordingly, bridges individual and family psychology. It is suggested here that certain relationships are marked by specific patterns and characteristics that can best be regarded as dyadic splitting. This article presents an overview of splitting in individuals and couples and reviews empirical studies establishing norms and validity of dyadic splitting, as measured by the Dyadic Splitting Scale. Research with samples of men who batter, battered women who return to their abusers, and couples clinically assessed as being narcissistically vulnerable demonstrates the presence of dyadic splitting in these populations. The notion of a defense mechanism influencing relationship dynamics strengthens the appreciation of mutuality between individual and relationship disorders and holds promise for treatment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)418-422
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Family Psychology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2006


  • Couples treatment
  • Defensive splitting
  • Dyadic splitting
  • Intimate violence
  • Narcissistic vulnerability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology


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