Although research into intimate partner abuse has expanded throughout the past several decades and increased our understanding of this multi-faceted phenomenon, the vast majority of empirical work is still focused almost exclusively on physical violence—against women in particular. Although a crucial issue in our society, physical violence against women is only one facet in an array of possible abusive behaviors toward an intimate partner. Researchers have long acknowledged the existence of multiple forms of non-physical abuse. These types of abuse have received little research attention, however, and are commonly lumped together simply as “non-physical” or “emotional” abuse. There is no reason to believe, however, that all forms of non-physical abuse are the same, whether in intensity, frequency, or co-existence with physical violence. The current study attempts to disentangle the multiple types of nonviolent abuse to examine prevalence, differences by sex, and its relationships to physical abuse. Using Tjaden and Thoennes’ (1998) survey data, this study examines the prevalence of different types of non-physical abuse, both in the general population and among those experiencing physical violence Findings indicate that non-physical partner abuse is more common than physical and that non-physical abuse does not show striking sex differences, as is commonly believed. There is strong evidence that some types of non-physical abuse serve as clear risk factors for physical abuse and may increase risk of more frequent violence among those already being abused. These relationships do not, however, differ by sex. Implications for future research are discussed.
Intimate partner violence Non-physical abuse Sex differences in abuse