Mechanisms of distress and dissolution in physically aggressive romantic relationships

Erika Lawrence, Eunyoe Ro, Robin Barry, Mali Bunde

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

3 Scopus citations


Physical aggression1 (e.g., pushing, grabbing, slapping, or hitting a partner with an object) occurs in one fourth to one half of the couples in dating, cohabiting, engaged, and newlywed relationships (Eliot, Huizinga, & Morse, 1986; Lawrence & Bradbury, 2001, 2005; Leonard & Roberts, 1998; O’Leary et al., 1989), and it has harmful effects on the physical and psychological well-being of its victims and their children (e.g., Follingstad, Rutledge, Berg, Hause, & Polek, 1991; Kolbo, Blakely, & Engleman, 1996). The literature on physical aggression in intimate relationships provides many important clues about its prevalence, nature, and consequences, but this research also contains important limitations. For example, whereas replicable descriptive associations between physical aggression and relationship dissolution are beginning to emerge, conceptual frameworks for evaluating and integrating these findings remain to be developed. Whereas there exists an extensive literature informing the processes through which dissolution occurs in romantic relationships, there is little consideration of the potential contributory role of physical aggression in these models, let alone of the mechanisms through which relationship dissolution occurs when physical aggression is present. Finally, whereas extensive progress has been made in assessing the prevalence of aggression in intimate relationships, a number of methodological factors-such as a consideration of the heterogeneity of aggression and an examination of the relational and societal contexts in which aggression occurs-await further refinement. Thus, the body of research on physical aggression in intimate relationships is limited in its ability to explain dissolution in physically aggressive relationships.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationHandbook of Divorce and Relationship Dissolution
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages24
ISBN (Electronic)9781317824213
ISBN (Print)0805859055, 9780805859058
StatePublished - Jan 1 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Social Sciences
  • General Psychology


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