Journal of Family Violence

, Volume 14, Issue 3, pp 251-266

First online:

Is Partner Aggression Related to Appraisals of Coercive Control by a Partner?

  • Miriam K. EhrensaftAffiliated withDivision of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Columbia University
  • , Dina VivianAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, SUNY at Stony Brook

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Research and clinical reports on men who are aggressive towards their intimate partners find that these men tend to behave in highly controlling ways towards such partners (e.g., restricting their social interactions, monitoring of activities, and reducing decision-making power). This study tests the hypothesis that men and women in violent dating relationships appraise such behaviors differently than individuals in nonviolent relationships. Based on clinical and empirical partner abuse literature, 119 college students rated the extent to which they perceived hypothetical behaviors towards a partner as ‘controlling.’ Results suggest that individuals who had either engaged in or received partner aggression appraised restrictive, domineering, and coercive behaviors from a male to a female partner, and from a female to a male partner as less controlling than individuals who had neither perpetrated nor received partner aggression. Men also viewed those behaviors as less controlling than did women. Generalizability, clinical implications, and directions for future research are discussed.

partner violence coercive control dating attitudes