Dual-Trauma Couples and Intimate Partner Violence

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Research indicates a strong connection between a childhood trauma history and the perpetration and victimization of intimate partner violence (IPV) in both men and women. However, it is unknown whether couples in which both partners have trauma history (dual-trauma couples) differ in their experience of IPV. Therefore, this study assessed 473 heterosexual couples in which the man had been court-mandated to treatment for IPV, comparing couples with no self-reported history of trauma, couples in which only the man or only the woman had experienced childhood trauma, and dual-trauma couples. Men in dual-trauma couples reported engaging in more psychological and physical aggression against their partners than did other men, including those who also had a history of trauma but whose partners did not. Men in dual-trauma couples also acknowledged more borderline and antisocial personality features, suicidal ideation, alcohol abuse, and a tendency for more drug abuse and more general violence outside the relationship. However, their female partners described them as less psychologically aggressive than men in couples with no trauma history, as no more physically aggressive, and as less likely to have been arrested for violence or any other offense than men in all other couple categories. Women from dual-trauma couples also reported engaging in fewer help-seeking behaviors than did women without a history of trauma, suggesting their vulnerability to ongoing abuse. Implications for future research and intervention are considered.

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