Relationship Insults Can Lead To Partner Violence
> 8/2/2007 12:46:31 PM

Although accurate statistics are hard to come by, it is estimated that at least 10 million men and women are victims of partner violence each year. No matter its nature, domestic stife can be the cause of a great deal of emotional and physical pain and thus a new study recently published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences aims to take a deeper look into the problem's roots. The researchers involved were interested in why some men insult their partners and what implications this behavior held for the future. The team involved with the study hypothesized that men who habitually insulted their partners were engaging in what is sometimes refered to as, “mate retention," a strategy used by an abusive partner to prevent defection from the relationship by the other partner.

Author, Dr. Steve Stewart-Williams and a team of researchers surveyed 245 men and asked them to report the frequency of insults they used towards their partners within the previous month. The participants were given a list of 47 insults which were divided into four categories: physical insults, insults about personal value or mental capacity, accusations of sexual infidelity, and derogating their value as a person. These types of insults ranged from telling their partners that they would never amount to anything to calling then stupid, worthless dumb and inferior.  In addition, researchers had men report their use of mate retention behaviors from a list of 104 actions characteristic of mate retention. Some of those behaviors included being overly protective, monopolizing a partner's time, and constant vigilance on partner’s whereabouts.

When all questions were answered, the results revealed that men who insulted their partners had a higher rate of using mate retention behaviors as well. In a second study, 372 female respondents were asked the same questions researchers asked the men. Based on their answers, researchers again found a link between the number of times women reported being insulted to signs of mate retention behaviors. They found men who insulted their partners and displayed signs of mate retention were doing so as a means of control, with the end goal being to lower the chances of a dissolution of the relationship by their partner.

This research serves to paint a picture of how jealous or overprotective but otherwise harmless behaviors can be part of a broader trend toward partner violence. Evidence, and even common sense, link these insults and behaviors with dangerous and many times life threatening signs of domestic violence, leaving them unchecked could have long lasting repercussions. Statistics show that 31 percent (nearly one-third) of all American women reported being physically or sexually abused by their partners at some point in their relationships. In addition, 30 percent of women killed in the U.S. are killed by their husbands or boyfriends. While further study should push at how and why psychological abuse, which can be extremely harmful, escalates to physical violence, this research should lead to revisions of how different levels of intervention, be they—therapeutic, familial or legal—handle the question of domestic unrest.

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