Journal of Family Violence

, Volume 11, Issue 4, pp 379–409 | Cite as

Psychological abuse of women: Six distinct clusters

  • Linda L. Marshall


This study was designed to identify patterns of psychological abuse (abuse) and determine whether different patterns mediate the effects of violence and sexual aggression. Interviews were completed with 578 (80.3%) of 720 women who volunteered for a study of “bad” or “stressful” heterosexual relationships. Cluster analysis with 51 items assessing many types of subtle and overt psychological abuse identified six groups. Cluster 1 sustained the most serious abuse, violence, and sexual aggression, but partners did not denigrate women or control finances. Cluster 2 sustained serious abuse which was more subtle than the dominating-controlling abuse discussed by others and had moderate violence and sexual aggression scores. Cluster 3 scored relatively low on abuse but reported controlling types (e.g., isolation, enforced secrecy) and relatively little violence and sexual aggression. Cluster 4 sustained the least abuse, violence, and sexual aggression but the abuse was overt (e.g., criticism, several types of control). Clusters 5 and 6 were similar with high abuse and moderate violence and sexual aggression scores but they experienced very different types of abuse. Total psychological abuse, threats of violence, acts of violence, and sexual aggression scores made different contributions to women's health, help seeking, and relationship perceptions depending on the pattern of abuse they sustained. Results for each type of harmful act are discussed separately.

Key Words

psychological abuse domestic violence battered women sexual aggression marital rape 


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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • Linda L. Marshall
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of North TexasDenton

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