Physical and Psychological Aggression

Physical aggression occurs in approximately 25% to 50% of dating, cohabitating, and married couples. It includes such behaviors as grabbing, pushing, slapping, biting, and more serious physical acts that result in serious injury or death. Physical aggression is strongly associated with rape and sexual assault. One study of married couples found that husbands' use of physical aggression strongly predicted forced sex (Marshall & Holtzworth-Munroe, 2002). Another study of male rapists found that 120 men who reportedly committed rape were also responsible for 1,225 different acts of physical aggression. In this same study, repeat rapists (those who committed multiple rapes over time) were responsible for 85% of the total acts of physical aggression (Lisak & Miller, 2002).

Psychological aggression is the most common form of aggression in intimate relationships, including dating relationships (Shorey, Cornelius & Bell, 2008). It encompasses a wide range of verbal and behavioral acts intended to humiliate, criticize, blame, dominate, isolate, intimidate, and threaten one's partner. Some research has concluded that the consequences of psychological aggression are more severe and long-lasting than those of physical aggression (Murphy & Hoover, 1999).

Psychological aggression consists of two highly related components: expressive aggression, such as name calling, insulting or humiliating an intimate partner, and coercive control, which includes behaviors intended to monitor and control or threaten an intimate partner (e.g., isolating an intimate partner from family and friends, deciding what clothes an intimate partner should wear, limiting access to money and other financial resources, and threatening to hurt an intimate partner). Psychological aggression has been linked to aggressive sexual beliefs (Marshall & Holtzworth-Munroe, 2002).

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