Risk factors for male-to-female partner psychological abuse

Julie A. Schumacher, Amy M. Smith Slep, Richard E. Heyman

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


We review the risk and protective factors for male-to-female partner psychological abuse. The conclusions that can be drawn from this review were limited by the small body of research. However, it does appear that partner psychological aggression/abuse may be more difficult to predict than partner physical aggression/abuse. In general, socio-economic status (SES) variables do not appear to significantly increase risk. Certain relationship variables, including communication patterns, marital adjustment, and attachment were significantly associated with psychological aggression, with moderate to strong effect sizes. However, these associations are difficult to interpret, because these relationship variables exhibit a high degree of conceptual and operational overlap with the psychological aggression. Two main directions can be derived from this review. First and foremost, definitional issues must be resolved. Given that partner emotional abuse, unlike physical or sexual abuse, is typically conceptualized as requiring a pervasive pattern rather than a single salient action, reliable and valid assessment is exceedingly challenging. Second, once definitional issues are resolved, etiological and intervention models can be developed and tested. This review indicates that men's personality and couple factors would be the most fruitful areas from which to start.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)255-268
Number of pages14
JournalAggression and Violent Behavior
Issue number2-3
StatePublished - 2001


  • Abuse
  • Couple factors
  • Partner
  • Personality
  • Psychological abuse
  • Risk factors

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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