The Role of Intimate Partner Violence and Relationship Satisfaction in Couples’ Interpersonal Emotional Arousal

Alexandra K. Wojda, Donald H. Baucom, Danielle M. Weber, Richard E. Heyman, Amy M.Smith Slep

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


To inform interpersonal models of intimate partner violence (IPV), the present study examines patterns of vocally encoded emotional arousal during the conversations of mixed-gender couples who reported on the extent of physical and psychological IPV and degree of relationship satisfaction (N = 149). All couples completed two problem-solving discussions. Emotional arousal was measured continuously during each conversation using vocal fundamental frequency. Contrary to expectations, results demonstrated that trajectories of arousal differed based on gender, IPV, and relationship satisfaction. Within conversations, men demonstrated linear increases in arousal at higher levels of IPV, suggesting that men may either struggle to contain their emotions or use heightened emotional expression as a conflict strategy in relationships with more extensive IPV. Conversely, women exhibited different trajectories of arousal depending on the combinations of relationship satisfaction and couple IPV, except at higher levels of their own satisfaction. Specifically, when women reported being highly satisfied in their relationships, they demonstrated similarly shaped trajectories across all levels of IPV and men’s satisfaction. Together, this suggests that women’s higher relationship satisfaction may buffer their emotional expression, although this may not always be adaptive within the context of relationships with extensive IPV.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)385-395
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Family Psychology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2 2021


  • Communication
  • Couples
  • Emotional arousal
  • Intimate partner violence
  • Relationship satisfaction
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Emotions
  • Personal Satisfaction
  • Arousal
  • Men
  • Female
  • Intimate Partner Violence/psychology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology


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