AUTOMATIC RELATIONSHIP–HARM ASSOCIATIONS AND INTERPERSONAL TRAUMA INVOLVING CLOSE OTHERS

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Abstract

Women exposed to violence early in life are at risk of revictimization. The interpersonal schema hypothesis of revictimization proposes that revictimized women will be more likely to hold negative expectations about intimate relationships, including expectations that relationships involve harm, relative to singly or nonvictimized women. To test the interpersonal schema hypothesis, we used the implicit lexical decision task to examine automatic associations between relationship and harm concepts among college women who reported histories of no, single, or multiple types of interpersonal trauma involving close others (e.g., family member, partner). Women exposed to multiple types of interpersonal trauma involving close others showed stronger relationship–harm associations than singly or nonexposed women. Relationship–harm associations predicted the number of interpersonal trauma types (e.g., sexual, physical trauma) involving close others reported by participants, but were unrelated to posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms. Findings suggest that relational schemata held by women exposed to multiple types of interpersonal trauma involving close others include concepts of harm, which may have implications for how multiply victimized women behave in and think about intimate relationships.

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