Rethinking current approaches to psychological abuse: Conceptual and methodological issues

Diane R. Follingstad

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

115 Scopus citations


Numerous ways in which we currently approach conceptualizing and measuring "psychological abuse" are highly problematic and likely inaccurate for understanding this complex phenomenon. While a major goal of this type of research often appears to be the identification of individuals considered to have been "psychologically abused", this may be both a premature and misplaced goal. "Psychological abuse" has not been adequately defined, validated, or conceptually anchored in a way which provides a sound basis for its measurement, or which allows for conclusions to be made and applied to real-life settings. Rather, more important for this area of research is the development of sophisticated thought and measurement approaches applied to the broader field of psychological aggression (which does not attempt to determine a threshold for claiming "abuse" has occurred). The conceptualization and measurement of this complicated interpersonal phenomenon needs inclusion of not only the recipient's perspective, but also observers' views, the perspective of the initiator, outcome of the actions, analysis of contextual variables, as well as analysis of the recipient's and initiator's views.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)439-458
Number of pages20
JournalAggression and Violent Behavior
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 2007


  • Interpersonal aggression
  • Psychological abuse
  • Psychological aggression

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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