Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Master of Arts (MA)

Degree Name

Clinical Psychology

Department or School/College

Department of Psychology

Committee Chair

Christine Fiore

Commitee Members

Jennifer Waltz, Sara Hayden


Emotional Abuse, Physical Abuse, Psychological Abuse, Relationships, Trauma, Intimate Partner Violence, Women


University of Montana


Intimate partner violence (IPV) is a long-standing issue that has recently been investigated as a significant social and interpersonal problem. Research has suggested that psychological abuse is both more prevalent and more devastating to victims, as compared to physical violence. While there remains no true consensus as to the definition of “psychological abuse”, a current conceptualization typifies psychological abuse into four groups of acts that are meant to (a)denigrate and damage a partner’s self-esteem, (b) withhold nurturing and support, (c) both explicitly and implicitly threaten, and (d) restrict personal freedom. It is hypothesized that an analysis of existing measures of IPV will find the four proposed distinct groups of psychological abuse and one distinct group of physical violence. By controlling for physical violence, it is hypothesized that the four proposed groups of nonphysical abuse will each individually account for more variance in trauma symptoms than physical violence alone. Two hundred and fifty two volunteers from the greater Missoula community who experienced or were experiencing violence in their relationship participated in this study. All participants completed a semi-structured interview, the Conflict Tactics Scale (Straus & Gelles, 1979), the Psychological Maltreatment of Women Inventory (Tolman, 1989), and the Trauma Symptoms Checklist (TSC-33, Briere & Runtz, 1989). An exploratory factor analysis was conducted to investigate the fit of all items of the measures of emotional abuse to Maiuro’s conceptualization. Five distinct forms of abuse were found: emotional control and restriction of resources; denigration and damage to partner’s self-image or esteem; restriction of social outlets; the abusive partner’s self-centered manipulation tactic, and physical threats and violence. A hierarchical regression found that emotional control and restriction of access to resources was the only significant form of nonphysical abuse contributing to trauma. This suggests that an abuser’s efforts to isolate a victim from their children, control the household and finances, and block the victim’s access to care is a significantly traumatizing experience. Results have implications for the importance of investigating, assessing and treating forms of emotional abuse that include isolation, control, and restriction of resources for women in violent relationships.



© Copyright 2014 Marie Baca Villa