Effects of Instigation, Anger, and Emotion Regulation on Intimate Partner Aggression: Examination of “Perfect Storm” Theory

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Abstract

Objective: In the present study, we examined whether intimate partner aggression (IPA) could be predicted by variables corresponding to the I3 model’s “perfect storm” theory (“I-Cubed”; Finkel & Eckhardt, 2013). Accordingly, we investigated whether IPA was predicted by an interaction of three processes: presence of instigatory cues (interpersonal provocation), aggression-impelling traits (dispositional anger), and diminished inhibitory control (poor emotion regulation). Method: Individuals with a history of IPA (N = 180) were randomly assigned to use a specific emotion regulation strategy (cognitive reappraisal, distraction, suppression, or no instruction) while imagining an anger arousing (instigation) or neutral (no instigation) relationship scenario using the Articulated Thoughts in Simulated Situations paradigm. IPA-related behaviors were assessed via participants’ coded aggressive verbalizations during the Articulated Thoughts in Simulated Situation scenarios and self-reported intention to engage in physical aggression. Results: Results supported the “perfect storm” hypothesis that IPA-related outcomes were higher among participants who endorsed high (vs. low) levels of trait anger, experienced provocation, and engaged in suppression as a weak inhibitory strategy for emotion regulation. Conclusions: The use of a comprehensive theoretical framework such as the I3 model for the assessment of interactive risk factors for IPA will aid determining for whom, and under what circumstances, IPA is most likely to occur, and may further inform clinical intervention and social policy.

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