Defining psychological abuse of husbands toward wives: Contexts, behaviors, and typologies

D. R. Follingstad, D. A.N.A.D. De Hart

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

100 Scopus citations


Little consensus exists regarding which particular behaviors constitute psychological abuse. In this study, a national sample of psychologists rated behaviors by a husband toward his wife as to whether each behavior constituted psychological abuse. For behaviors viewed as "possibly abusive," psychologists indicated whether their judgments would depend on contextual factors of frequency/duration, intent to harm by the perpetrator, and/or perception of harm by the victim. Frequency/duration was more influential than intent to harm or perception of harm in determining whether a behavior was viewed as abusive. Cluster analyses revealed conceptual groups that were labeled (a) threats to physical health; (b) control over physical freedoms; (c) destabilisation through intimidation, degradation, isolation/monopolizing, and control; (d) dominating/controlling behaviors; and (e) "inept" relationship behaviors. Threats to physical health, control over physical freedoms, and destabilisation were most likely to be perceived as psychological abuse, whereas inept behaviors were rarely viewed as inherently abusive.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)891-920
Number of pages30
JournalJournal of Interpersonal Violence
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2000

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Applied Psychology


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