Personality Dynamics of Intimate Abusiveness

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A new theory is proposed to account for individual differences in the tendency to be abusive, assaultive, or homicidal in intimate relationships. The focus of this theory is on men whose abuse is specific to intimate relationships and is manifested through cyclical mood swings. This group, which appears to comprise about 40% of all men who present for treatment for wife assault, appears to have a borderline personality structure. For these men, abusiveness is triggered by internal mood states rather than by external events. Several studies are cited indicating that intimate attachment generates rage in wife assaulters. The origins of this attachment-rage are traced to early development. This template generates a complex of perceptions (attributions and projections) and behaviors (abusiveness) specific to intimate relationships. A personality profile of intimately abusive males has been strongly related to intimate partners’ reports of psychological abusiveness in several samples of males, including physically assaultive males, non-violent controls, clinical outpatients, college students, and gay males.

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