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Etiological Similarities Between Psychological and Physical Aggression in Intimate Relationships: A Behavioral Genetic Exploration

An Erratum to this article was published on 01 September 2008


Previous research has consistently shown that there is a strong association between psychological and physical aggression in intimate relationships. Theories as to why this association exists include that they have a single underlying etiology with differing thresholds, or they have separate etiologies and there is a two-step process by which psychological aggression moves to physical. The current study suggests that these two theories are not necessarily competing theories. The genetic and environmental covariance between psychological and physical intimate partner aggression were examined in 134 monozygotic (MZ) and 41 dizygotic (DZ) twin pairs. Results showed that psychological and physical aggression have largely the same genetic etiology, and any differences between the two are a function of differing nonshared environmental influences.

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This research was supported by Grant MH64252-01 from the National Institute of Mental Health and the Twins Days Research Grant. Special thanks go to the Family Research Lab and Crimes Against Children Research Center seminar participants for their feedback on a previous version of this manuscript. This paper is based on the doctoral dissertation research of the first author.

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Correspondence to Denise A. Hines.

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Saudino, K.J., Hines, D.A. Etiological Similarities Between Psychological and Physical Aggression in Intimate Relationships: A Behavioral Genetic Exploration. J Fam Viol 22, 121–129 (2007).

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  • Physical abuse
  • Psychological abuse
  • Intimate partner violence
  • Etiology
  • Genetic