Overlap of Relationship Distress and Intimate Partner Violence in Community Samples

Richard E. Heyman, Michael F. Lorber, Sangwon Kim, Alexandra K. Wojda-Burlij, Scott M. Stanley, Ana Ivic, Douglas K. Snyder, Galena K. Rhoades, Mark A. Whisman, Steven R.H. Beach

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Mixed-gender couples presenting for couple therapy are at 2–3 times higher risk for physical intimate partner violence (IPV) than community couples. However, it is unclear if this elevation of relative risk is the same in the general population because relationship distress and treatment-seeking are often confounded. We used archival data from three representative U.S. civilian samples and one representative U.S. Air Force sample to test the hypothesis that clinically significant relationship distress is associated with increased risk of various forms of IPV. In these community samples, those in mixed-gender distressed relationships were at 2–3 times higher risk than those in nondistressed relationships for any physical IPV during the past year and at 3–6 times higher risk for clinically significant psychological and physical IPV during the past year. Given that the increase in IPV risk is similar for individuals in distressed community relationships and therapy-seeking relationships, the prior findings of the elevated rates of IPV in clinical samples are unlikely to be due to therapy-seeking. Although epidemiological risk involves statistical, not causal, associations, the increased co-occurrence of IPV in distressed mixed-gender couples fits with numerous theories of IPV and has implications for both screening and future research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Family Psychology
StateAccepted/In press - 2022


  • Clinically significant intimate partner violence
  • Physical intimate partner violence
  • Psychological intimate partner violence
  • Relationship distress
  • Relationship satisfaction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)


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