Anger, Irrational Beliefs, and Dysfunctional Attitudes in Violent Dating Relationships

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The purpose of the present investigation was to evaluate whether perpetrators of dating violence could be differentiated from their nonviolent counterparts on measures of anger and cognitive distortion, specifically Ellis's (1994) irrational beliefs and Beck's (1976) dysfunctional attitudes. Of the 95 male and 152 female undergraduates surveyed, 27% (24 males and 43 females) reported using some form of physical aggression against their current dating partner in the past year. On a self-report measure of anger (State-Trait Anger Expression Inventory), violent individuals reported higher levels of Anger Out and lower levels of Anger Control compared to nonviolent participants. While there were no differences between violent and nonviolent participants' levels of Trait Anger, the results suggest that violent individuals have difficulty controlling angry feelings when they arise, which may increase the likelihood of externally directed forms of anger expression. No significant group differences emerged on questionnaire measures of irrational beliefs and dysfunctional attitudes. Within the violent sample, there was no differential pattern of correlations between measures of anger and cognition relative to the nonviolent sample. The present data suggest that while trait-based measures of cognitive distortion explain little variance in self-reported acts of dating violence, future research should investigate whether (a) cognitive distortions are present during affect-inducing partner conflict situations, or (b) vary with violence severity.

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