Sex Roles

, Volume 36, Issue 9–10, pp 585–603 | Cite as

Psychological Abuse Among College Women in Exclusive Heterosexual Dating Relationships

  • Randolph B. Pipes
  • Karen LeBov-Keeler


This study was designed to identify possible predictors of psychological abuse in non-marital heterosexual romantic relationships. In attempting to predict who would self-identify as being psychologically abused, we investigated a number of variables including psychological abuse in past close relationships, psychological abuse within the family of origin, self-esteem, and characteristics of the current relationship, including seriousness and duration of the relationship. Of particular interest in the study was the providing of a definition of psychological abuse with the opportunity for participants to agree that they were or were not in a psychologically abusive relationship. Descriptive statistics are reported that describe the frequency of psychological abuse in a dating population as well as a variety of perceptions of the abuse by victims. Participants were 175 female college students who were either enrolled in undergraduate psychology classes, or were members of a sorority. They were single and reported being currently involved in an exclusive heterosexual dating relationship of at least two months duration. When participants were provided with a definition of psychological abuse, nineteen individuals identified themselves as psychologically abused; 156 individuals identified themselves as non-abused. Psychologically abused participants, when compared with non-abused participants, reported more instances of partner behaviors characteristic of psychological abuse and gave higher estimates of the percentage of women in the study who were currently being psychologically abused (False Consensus Effect). Using regression analysis, we also found that abused individuals were more likely to have lower self-esteem, to come from homes in which their parents' relationship involved psychological abuse, and to report that they were psychologically abused by either their mother or their father.


Romantic Relationship College Woman Female College Psychological Abuse Female College Student 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1997

Authors and Affiliations

  • Randolph B. Pipes
    • 1
  • Karen LeBov-Keeler
    • 1
  1. 1.Auburn UniversityAuburn

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