Canadian Journal of Public Health

, Volume 89, Issue 1, pp 43–47 | Cite as

Couple Violence and Psychological Distress

  • Elaine Grandin
  • Eugen Lupri
  • Merlin B. Brinkerhoff


Except for anecdotal data, empirical research on the psychological well-being of abused men is scarce. This paper compares the mental health of non-victims with victims of physical and psychological violence among 562 Calgary couples. Physical and psychological violence were assessed by two subscales of the Conflict Tactics Scales and psychological distress was assessed by abbreviated anxiety and depression subscales of the SCI-90, a frequency of symptom measure. Female and male victims of either psychological- only or physical violence reported significantly higher rates of distress than nonvictims. Females exhibited higher depression and anxiety scores than their male counterparts, regardless of whether they were victims or non-victims of either type of violence. Being both a perpetrator and victim of either type of violence is associated with significantly higher levels of psychological distress for both genders. The theoretical and practical implications of these findings are discussed.


Sauf pour les anecdotes, la recherche empirique sur le bien-être psychologique des hommes maltraités est rare. Cette communication compare la santé mentale de 562 couples hétérosexuels calgariens, mariés ou habitant ensemble, qui ont déclaré avoir subi une violence physique et psychologique dans leur relation. La violence physique et psychologique a été évaluée par deux souséchelles des Conflict Tactics Scales (E.-U.) et la détresse psychologique a été évaluée par les sous-échelles abrégées d’anxiété et de dépression du SCI-90, une mesure de fréquence des symptômes. Les femmes et les hommes victimes de violence psychologique exclusivement ou de violence physique ont déclaré des taux de détresse considérablement plus élevés que les non-victimes. Les femmes ont indiqué des niveaux de dépression et d’anxiété plus élevés que leurs homologues masculins, qu’elles aient ou non été victimes d’un type de violence. Être à la fois l’auteur et la victime d’un genre ou l’autre de violence est lié à des niveaux de détresse psychologique beaucoup plus élevés pour les deux sexes. Les incidences théoriques et pratiques de ces conclusions sont discutées.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    Brinkerhoff MB, Lupri E. Interspousal violence. Can J Soc 1988;13:407–31.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Straus MA, Gelles, RJ. Physical Violence in American Families. New Brunswick: Transaction Publishers, 1992.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Gelles RJ, Straus, MA. Intimate Violence. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1988.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Straus MA, Gelles RJ, Steinmetz, SK. Behind Closed Doors: Violence in the American Family. New York: Anchor/Doubleday, 1980.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Straus, MA. Measuring intrafamily conflict and violence: The conflict tactics scales (CT). J Marriage 1979;41:75–88.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Bland R, Orne H. Family violence and psychiatric disorder. Can J Psychiatry 1988;31:129–37.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Brinkerhoff MB, Grandin E, Lupri E. Religious involvement and spousal abuse: The Canadian case. J Scien S Rel 1992;31:15–31.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Grandin E, Lupri E. Intimate violence in Canada and the United States: A cross-national comparison. J Fam V 1997;12(4):417–43.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Habermehl A. Gewalt in der Familie. Hamburg: Gewis, 1991.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Lupri E. Harmonie und Aggression: Über die Dialektik ehelicher Gewalt. Kölner Z SS 1990;42:474–501.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Sommer R. Male and Female Perpetrated Partner Abuse: Testing a Diathesis-Stress Model. University of Manitoba, Winnipeg: Unpublished Doctoral Thesis.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Straus MA, Gelles, RJ. Societal change and change in family violence from 1975 to 1985 as revealed by two national surveys. J Marriage 1986;48:465–79.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    Johnson M. Patriarchal terrorism and common couple violence: Two forms of violence against women. J Marriage 1995;57:283–94.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    Sommer R, Barnes GE, Murray, RP. Alcohol consumption, alcohol abuse, personality and female perpetrated spouse abuse. Person Indiv Diff 1992;13:1315–23.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    Kennedy LW, Dutton, DJ. The incidence of wife assault in Alberta. CJ Behavioural Science 1989;21(1):40–54. (The data regarding assault on husbands were not reported in this publication but are available from the Population Research Laboratory, University of Alberta, Edmonton.)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    Ratner, PA. The incidence of wife abuse and mental health status in abused wives in Edmonton, Alberta. Can J Public Health 1993;84:246–49.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Statistics Canada. The Daily: Survey Highlights 1993. Ottawa: Minister of Supply and Services, 1993.Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    Dobash RP, Dobash RE, Wilson M, Daly M. The myth of spousal symmetry in marital violence. Soc P 1992;39:401–21.Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    Dobash RP, Dobash, RE. Wife-beating: Patriarchy and Violence Against Wives. Milton Keynes: The Open University, 1990.Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    Popper A. The invisible reality: Patterns and power in family violence. In: Baker M (Ed.), The Family: Changing Trends in Canada. Toronto: McGraw-Hill Ryerson, 1991.Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    Berk RA, Berk SF, Loseke DR, Rauma D. Mutual combat and other family myths. In: Finkelhor D, Gelles RJ, Hotaling GT, Straus MA (Eds.), The Dark Side of Families: Current Family Violence Research. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage Publications, 1983.Google Scholar
  22. 22.
    Walker, LE. The Battered Women Syndrome. New York: Springer, 1984.Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    MacLeod L. Wife battering and the web of hope: Progress, dilemmas and visions of prevention. Discussion paper presented at the Working Together: 1989 National Forum on Family Violence June 18–21, 1989.Google Scholar
  24. 24.
    MacLeod L. Battered But Not Beaten: Preventing Wife Battering in Canada. Ottawa: National Council on the Status of Women, 1987.Google Scholar
  25. 25.
    Derogatis, LR. The SCL-90-R. Baltimore, MD: Clinical Psychometrics, 1975.Google Scholar
  26. 26.
    Kim, JO. Factor analysis. In: Nie HN, Hull C, Jenskin K, et al. (Eds.), Statistical Package for the Social Sciences. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1975.Google Scholar
  27. 27.
    Kurz D. Physical assaults by husbands: A major social problem. In: Gelles RJ, Loseke DR (Eds.), Current Controversies on Family Violence. Newbury Park: Sage Publications, 1993.Google Scholar
  28. 28.
    Browne A. When Battered Women Kill. New York: The Free Press, 1987.Google Scholar
  29. 29.
    Duffy AD, Mandell N, Pupo N. Few Choices: Women, Work, and the Family. Toronto: Garamond Press, 1989.Google Scholar
  30. 30.
    Mackie M. Gender Relations in Canada: Further Explorations. Toronto: Butterworth, 1993.Google Scholar
  31. 31.
    Hoff, AL. Battered Women as Survivors. London: Routledge, 1990.Google Scholar
  32. 32.
    Scheff TJ, Retzinger S. Emotions and Violence. Lexington: D.C. Heath, 1991.Google Scholar
  33. 33.
    Busby, DM. The Impact of Violence on the Family. Treatment Approaches for Therapists and Other Professionals. Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1997.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Canadian Public Health Association 1998

Authors and Affiliations

  • Elaine Grandin
    • 1
  • Eugen Lupri
    • 1
  • Merlin B. Brinkerhoff
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of SociologyThe University of CalgaryCalgaryCanada

Personalised recommendations