Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Master of Arts (MA)

Degree Name

Clinical Psychology

Department or School/College


Committee Chair

Christine Fiore, Ph.D.

Commitee Members

Allen Szalda-Petree, Ph.D., Betsy Bach, Ph.D.


psychological abuse, intimate partner violence, college students' mental health, problematic romantic relationships, depression


University of Montana

Subject Categories

Clinical Psychology | Counseling Psychology | Social Work


Many researchers hypothesize that experiencing psychological abuse in a romantic relationship may be more common than experiencing other forms of intimate partner violence (IPV) because psychological abuse often co-occurs with the presence of physical violence in a relationship and may be likely to occur on its own (Follingstad & Rogers, 2014; Hennings & Klesges, 2003). Some data have linked the experience of psychological abuse in a romantic partnership with mental health outcomes such as depression, anxiety, and somatization (Rogers & Follingstad, 2014). Although, few empirical studies have examined the unique experiences of individuals who have endured psychological abuse alone (without co-occurring physical or sexual abuse) in a romantic relationship. This study aimed to understand how mental health impacts may differ for this population. Additionally, this study was interested in understanding how labeling one’s romantic relationship experiences as “psychologically abusive” may influence the relationship between experiencing psychological abuse and current levels of depression, anxiety, and posttraumatic stress symptoms. Results from a sample of 331 college students attending a Northwestern university indicated that those who have experienced psychological abuse alone in their most problematic romantic relationship reported significantly greater symptoms of depression, anxiety, and posttraumatic stress than those who have not experienced abuse in their relationships, while those who have experienced multiple forms of abuse in their most problematic romantic relationship reported the greatest impact on current mental health symptoms. Moderation analyses suggested that labeling one’s romantic relationship as “psychologically abusive” influenced the degree to which experiencing psychological abuse was predictive of depression, anxiety, and posttraumatic stress symptoms. The results of this study have added to the body of literature on IPV prevalence rates by observing the occurrence of psychological abuse alone among a sample of college students. Findings from this sample have also provided some evidence for a continued need to investigate the impact of psychological abuse, on its own, as a unique predictor of mental health symptomology.



© Copyright 2018 Jessica J. Peatee