Motivation and emotion/Book/2020/Emotional abuse in romantic relationships
Why does emotional abuse occur in romantic relationships and what can be done about it?
Overview[edit | edit source]
The aim of this chapter is to bring to light why emotional abuse occurs in romantic relationships. That there are multiple overlapping reasons for why both genders are perpetrators of abuse,this abuse can affect areas of mental health and social aspects of the victims life. The reason why victims don't separate from their abusers are similar, and there needs to be an overhaul in prevention and intervention programs.
Emotional abuse has been linked to many side effects. The two main affectsare mental and social. Both men and women have shown strong links to developing depression, anxiety, PTSD, use of drugs and alcohol (Coker et al., 2002; Hines, 2010; Swan et al., 2008). Both women and men experience not having the support from friends and family, having nowhere to go, and having no access to money (Carney, & Barner, 2012; Tilbrook et al., 2010).
1. What is emotional abuse?
2. Who is affected? And why do they perpetrate?
3. Why don't victims of abuse leave?
4. Prevention and intervention
Domestic violence is the overarching name for the three main types of abuse that occurs in romantic relationships such as emotional, physical and sexual abuse, in this scenario the focus will be on emotional abuse. Violence in Australia is a prevalent problem in today's society as seen in (Figure 1).
The idea of males being only abusers and women being only victims needs to be abolished, as this can make it difficult for men to seek help in prevention programs designed for women, and intervention programs that are designed for men that are ineffective in helping stop women from abusive (Carney et al. 2007; Hines, 2007).
Emotional abuse[edit | edit source]
This section discusses what abuse is, some of the types of emotional abuse that can occur, and other types of abuse that can co-occur.
What is it?[edit | edit source]
Emotional abuse aka 'psychological abuse', is non-physical abusive behaviour which can be seen via humiliation, rejection, manipulation, degradation etc. (Carney and Barner, 2012).
Types of emotional abuse[edit | edit source]
- Manipulation has the goal of changing someone's behaviour through the use of a hidden psychological influence that has an abusive and deceptive undertone to it (Nepryakhin, 2019).
- Coercion control is behaviour that a perpetrator uses to monitor and control or threaten their partner (Carney and Barner, 2012).
- Threats are statements used to inflict pain, harm, damage (to property) and other aggressive behaviour towards someone because of something that has/hasn't been done (Carney and Barner, 2012).
- Terrorisation is using physical and psychological abuse in order to control and manipulate behaviour (Carney and Barner, 2012).
- Isolation from support systems (i.e. friends, family, work, others) (Beck et al., 2011; Carney and Barner, 2012) (Figure 2).
Prevalence of other types of abuse[edit | edit source]
Those who experience emotional abuse, also report experiencing physical and sexual abuse (Sears et al., 2007; Carney and Barner, 2012). The study by Sears et al., (2007) on adolescents found that 26% of girls and 19% of boys usedmultiple forms of abuse. Similar links were found in a study by Paat et al., (2019) that emotional abuse was positively associated with sustaining physical and sexual abuse.
Who perpetrates emotional abuse and why?[edit | edit source]
This section will be discussing who perpetrates emotional abuse and why (i.e. maltreatment, psychological disorders, or drugs/alcohol).
Statistics on prevalence of emotional abuse[edit | edit source]
Men and women are equally likely to be victims of emotional abuse as they are perpetrators (Figure 3). Such abuse doesn't just occur in adults or people who are married, or have been together for years, it also occurs in adolescents (Sears et al., 2007). The study by Panuzio, & DiLillo, (2010) looked at newlyweds and their likelihood of perpetrating abuse and marriage satisfaction,they looked at sexual, physical and emotional abuse and found that emotional abuse was the highest form shown and that women were slightly more likely to perpetrate such violence (women 95% and men 92.6%) (Romans et al., 2007). A similar finding by Harwell et al., (2003) found that the difference in experiencing emotional abuse was close, with men experiencing it 12% of the time and women experiencing it 18% of the time, and a study by Coker et al., (2002) found that 12.1% of women and 17.3% of men experienced emotional abuse. A survey by Black et al., (2011) found that 48.4% of women and 48.8% of men had experienced emotional abuse.
Why[edit | edit source]
Experiences and attitudes[edit | edit source]
There are numerous studies out there that support different reasons why men and women use intimate partner violence (IPV),ultimately it comes down to the individuals , personality, attitudes and views towards using IPV, and experience (i.e. in childhood or previous relationships). The study by Sears et al., (2007) also looked into risk factors that were associated with using emotional abuse in romantic relationships, they looked at what predicted the use of physical abuse to then predict the use of emotional abuse as the two tend to co-occur. They found that adolescents who were accepting of physical violence were more likely to show such behaviour. They assessed adolescents fear of family violence and found that those who feared it were more likely to show similar behaviours (Sears et al., 2007).
A study by Price & Byers (as cited in Sears et al., 2007) of boysattitudes towards such abuse found that adolescents witnessing or receiving emotional abuse from parents were more likely to display such behaviour in their intimate relationships. Similar findings were seen in a study by Wolfe, et al., (as cited in Sears et al., 2007) but in regards to both genders. Ehrensaft (2008) did a study looking at how a persons childhood upbringing can influence the types of intimate relationships the children formed as adults, particularly children who were maltreated, neglected or lived in hostile environments. This study did a longitudinal study on 543 girls and boys over a 20 year span, and they found those exposed to the poor upbringing that they were likely to develop an antisocial personality and had a higher chance of perpetrating abuse (Ehrensaft, 2008). A review by Swan et al., (2008) on the reasons why women's use abuse on intimate partners found that childhood trauma and psychological functioning were good predictors. In regards to traumatic childhoods a study by Swan et al., (as cited by Swan et al., 2008) found that those who showed IPV towards a partner, 52% were abused physically, 60% were neglected or emotionally abuse, and 58% were abused sexually as children.
A longitudinal study by Siegel (as cited in Swan et al., 2008) that those who were sexually abused as well as being beaten by a parent were likely to perpetrate IPV. A study by Berzenski, & Yates, (2010) found that children who suffered emotional abuse was a good predictor for those who will perpetrate IPV. A study by Dugal et al., (2018b) on the role that emotional dysregulation as a result of child maltreatment has in emotional abuse, the results found that 86% of the participants suffered emotional dysregulation as a result of maltreatment and of those participants 51% have perpetrated emotional abuse towards their partner. A study by Dugal et al., (2018a) found that out of the 241 men and women 70%had experienced childhood trauma (resulting in emotional dysregulation and maladaptive personality traits), and 80% reported using emotional abuse in their relationships. Childhood trauma leads to emotional dysregulation because they have been subjected to such maltreatment, and haven't learnt how to effectively cope with cognitive and behavioural aspects of being treated poorly which has lead them to not being able to control their emotions and stop them from acting out in negative ways (Berzenski, & Yates, 2010; Dugal et al., 2018a; Dugal et al., 2018b).
Other[edit | edit source]
self-defense, drugs and alcohol and mental health[edit | edit source]
A study by Nybergh et al., (2013) found four reasons men and women gave for using IPV,these included self-defense, feeling offended and/or hurt, drugs or alcohol, and loss of control. The most common reason for IPV by both men 50% and women 54.5% was due to feeling offended and/or hurt, women's 30.9% second reason was self-defense (men 18.8%) and men's 31.3% second reason was drugs or alcohol (women 16.4%). The study by Ross (2011) split the reasons for the use of IPV in to two groups situational and categorical. The results showed that women's use of IPV was related to both groups such that self-defense was used because of the hostile relationship (situational), and both men and women fit into categorical as they showed features of borderline personality disorders which were linked to the use of IPV (Ross, 2011).
Langhinrichsen-Rohling et al., (2012) did a review on why men and women use IPV,from the review they reported that the reason for IPV by men and women was due to jealousy, self-defense and retaliation, additionally men reported control being a reason for IPV. A review by Hamberger & Larsen, (2015) found a lot of mixed results of why men and women participate in such behaviour, from the results they found that women were more likely to use self defense then men, and that men retaliated because they were hit first, stressed, or their partner started arguing/nagging. In relation to psychological functioning a study by Swan (as cited in Swan et al., 2008) found that women displaying IPV, 24% were taking medication for psychiatric conditions, 1 in 3 met the PTSD criteria, 1 in 5 had problems with drugs and alcohol and 69% met the depression criteria. A study by Dowd (as cited by Swan et al., 2008) found a connection between IPV and a substance problem (67%), depression (67%), bipolar (18%), and anxiety (9%).
Experience of emotional abuse from a female and male perspective:
He started ofcharming and sweet, then he started to play mental games; say one thing but mean another, get angry that what he had asked for was done 'but he claimed he never said that'. He would call her derogatory names, or that she was useless. He would threaten to harm/kill himself if she left, or that he would kill me and my daughter. He had control of the money and would give me an allowance to pay bills and food. Every time they split he would follow her movements which meant she couldn't rely on friends or family for shelter because they didn't want to be put in danger. If police were contacted about disturbances from the house they would do nothing on arrival because they didn't see anything happen. She felt like she was walking on egg shells all the time, never knowing what will set him off this time.
Male: She has promised to lie and accuse me of physical abuse against her, sexual abuse of our daughter, if that helps her win custody (Hines, 2010).
Why not leave?[edit | edit source]
This section will talk about some of the reasons why people don't leave emotionally abusive relationships, with research showing that both genders have similar reasons.
Women[edit | edit source]
A study by Patzel (2006) found that women didn't leave their relationships for a number of reasons, one because they still love their partner, the dynamics of the relationship, i.e. blame themselves for the abuse and/or they believe they can help stop the abuse. They don't label the abuse as abuse, i.e. the abusive partner has a strong personality, they (victim) are too sensitive, abuse was pointed out, doesn't exist in lesbian relationships. There were situational influences as to why they stayed, i.e. perpetrator said they (victim) would lose custody of kids, wanted to keep kids safe, no or little support from friends or family, no access to money (Patzel, 2006). A study by Abd Aziz et al. (2019) found that women remained in abusive relationships due to the conflict in emotions (worried about how the partner will react to a split, and still love them), want to keep the kids safe, they are financially dependent on their partner, religious reasons (it's not viewed favourably to get divorced) which also leads to the worry of bringing shame to the family. A study by Pugh, & Sun, (2018) on college students perception for why women don't leave abusive relationships because of learned helplessness and having a positive belief for the future relationship. They found that learned helplessness was supported when there were lower tolerance levels for IPV and male dominance, the IPV was the result of unequal power, financial issues, alcohol or drug usage. Hope for the relationship was supported when there is low tolerance for male dominance and IPV, and IPV was caused by unequal power and financial stress (Pugh, & Sun, 2018).
Men[edit | edit source]
The study by Hines (2010) found that men didn't leave abusive relationships for similar reasons to women, love for their partner, fear kids will get hurt, fear they will lose custody or fear of separating kids from other parent (Figure 4), partner will change, don't have access to any money, don't have anywhere to go (due to no social support from family/friends), embarrassed, partner has threatened suicide or to kill them or loved ones (Machado et al., 2018). Tilbrook et al. (2010) found that men didn't leave their relationship due to the shame, guilt, embarrassment that they have been abused and fear of not being believed because men are seen as abusers and women the victims. A study by Lysova, & Dim, (2020) found that men were less likely to leave out of fear of being ridiculed for not being masculine enough, that they are the actual aggressor, or not being believed as they tried contacting support services (i.e. police and helplines) and were laughed at and ignored. A study by Lysova et al., (2020) found similar findings as above, afraid of not being seen as masculine, don't claim it as abuse, love partner and want to keep the marriage going, make excuses for the abuse (they are stressed), have nowhere to go, and they will be ridiculed/laughed at.
Prevention and intervention[edit | edit source]
Even though, as seen above, the reasons for perpetrating and why not to leave are similar, it won't be the case every time as there is no textbook way to prevent and intervene in such behaviour for every single person. Considering prevention and intervention programs are typically run in groups, not everyone in that group will have the same reasons for staying and perpetrating, hence the need for programs to be tailored to the person seeking help. When men and women present at these programs a number of things need to be assessed (i.e. sexual, emotional) not just looking for the physical signs of abuse, effects of abuse and reasons for staying, and the motives behind the abuse (i.e. childhood, psychological disorders, drug/alcohol use), as all these factors can affect how successfully the programs is in stopping the abuse and getting the victim to safety (Carney et al., 2007; Hines, 2007).
As men are seen as the perpetrators and women the victims, researchers and policy makers need to look deeper into the aetiology of female perpetrators and male victims, as intervention programs are designed for men and prevention programs are designed for women, (Carney et al., 2007; Hines, 2007). For example, in some case women who are perpetrators are retaliating against abuse, so putting them into intervention programs designed for men won't be helpful (Swan et al., 2008). Those responding to IPV need to be aware that men can victims as well as women, as ridiculing, humiliating, laughing, and blaming men prevents them from seeking further help (Hines et al., 2010). Those dealing with violent partners need to make a link to possible antisocial behaviours which stem from maltreatment in childhood (Ehrensaft, 2008).
Those who wish to keep the relationship and want to get counselling, should get counselling that looks to help couples with anger management, psychological disorders (i.e. antisocial), and look at the roots of why such behaviour keeps happening and how to manage difficult situations in order to break the cycle of abuse (Perez, 2015) (Figure 5). Prevention and intervention programs should be introduced to adolescents through school, home or other means, and look particularly at those who come from abusive households, as previously mentioned, maltreatment of a child is a strong predictor of being an abuser or being a victim; these programs could look at helping with anger issues, emotion regulation, showing the signs of abuse, where to find support etc. (Berzenski, & Yates, 2010; Wekerle, & Wolfe,1999; Wolfe et al., 2003).
Part of prevention needs to include the education and representation that men can be victims too, and more support needs to be provided so that self-disclosures occur and not feel shame or embarrassment, be blamed for the abuse, or not be provided help; so that the cycle of abuse doesn't continue because they felt trapped (Tilbrook, Allan, & Dear, 2010). Preventing people from committing these behaviours should start at home by promoting healthy relationships with parents and peers, this should also be supported by teachers, however unfortunately not everyone grows up in a safe environment so programs (i.e. in school, communities, youth justice systems) need to be in place to stop the abuse from occurring (Black et al., 2011).
Conclusion[edit | edit source]
Emotional abuse is a type of IPV,this particular area of abuse is a new area of research, particularly in areas of men being the victim and what can be done about it. This chapter delved into how this type of behaviour is a reciprocal, i.e. men and women can either be the perpetrator or victim. It also looked out how both genders have similar motives (childhood, alcohol/drugs, psychological disorder) for perpetration and reasons not to leave (kids, lack or support, love), both of these areas add to why it occurs and what can be done about stopping it. Finally it briefly looked at how the current prevention and intervention programs need a makeover, i.e. men can be victims, the intervention programs aren't suitable for women and the prevention programs need to be more accepting of male victims.
See also[edit | edit source]
References[edit | edit source]
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[edit | edit source]
- Hotline for domestic violence- https://www.thehotline.org/is-this-abuse/
- Relationships Australia- https://www.relationships.org.au/relationship-advice/relationship-advice-sheets/relationship-difficulties-1/domestic-and-family-violence-controlling-and-violent-relationships
- 1800 Respect- https://www.1800respect.org.au/violence-and-abuse/psychological-abuse/
- Ted talk on healthy and unhealthy love- https://www.ted.com/talks/katie_hood_the_difference_between_healthy_and_unhealthy_love/transcript#t-12477