Putting the brakes on aggression toward a romantic partner: The inhibitory influence of relationship commitment

Erica B. Slotter, Eli J. Finkel, C. Nathan DeWall, Richard S. Pond, Nathaniel M. Lambert, Galen V. Bodenhausen, Frank D. Fincham

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

82 Scopus citations


Why do people behave aggressively toward romantic partners, and what can put the brakes on this aggression? Provocation robustly predicts aggression in both intimate and nonintimate relationships. Four methodologically diverse studies tested the hypothesis that provocation severity and relationship commitment interact to predict aggression toward one's romantic partner, with the aggression-promoting effects of provocation diminishing as relationship commitment increases. Across all four studies, commitment to one's romantic relationship inhibited aggression toward one's partner when individuals were severely (but not mildly) provoked. Study 4 tested the hypothesis that this Partner Provocation × Commitment interaction effect would be strong among individuals high in dispositional tendencies toward retaliation but weak (perhaps even nonexistent) among individuals low in such tendencies. Discussion emphasizes the importance of understanding instigating, impelling, and inhibiting processes in the perpetration of aggression toward intimate partners.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)291-305
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Personality and Social Psychology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2012


  • Aggression
  • Commitment
  • I theory
  • Romantic relationships

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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