There violence abuse by a partner is widespread and can have serious repercussions on physical and psychological health, but there is a lack of research on reliable indicators of abuse before it occurs. New research identifies several warning signs that preceded and predicted intimate partner violence.
The results of the study were published in Social Psychological and Personality Science.
Intimate partner violence: Are there signs that predict abuse?
“Although future research is needed to fully understand the associations between warning signs and abuse, these warning signs could eventually be used in interventions to help people learn how to avoid abusive relationships or support loved ones who may be at risk of abuse,” says the manager. author Nicolyn Charlot, of Western University, Canada.
Researchers have also shown that the number of warning signs a person experiences and the frequency with which they experience them predicts abuse. In other words, Dr. Charlot explains, experiencing one or two warning signs occasionally may not be concerning, but experiencing multiple warning signs repeatedly may be cause for concern.
The researchers presented 147 participants with a list of 200 violent and nonviolent thoughts, feelings and behaviors based on a review of existing research. Participants indicated how often each item had occurred since they began dating their partner. In a second study with 355 participants, researchers identified warning signs that predicted violence six months later.
The researchers concluded that possible warning signs of abuse may include a partner acting arrogant or cocky, reacting negatively when the partner says no to something he or she wants, or ignoring a partner's reasoning or logic because he or she is not agree with his.
Dr. Charlot notes that although these warning signs have been shown in research to predict violence, this does not mean that all people who notice them will experience violence or that these indicators precede all violence.
“Although this research is intended to help educate potential victims of abuse and those around them, this in no way means that people who experience violence are responsible for their abuse,” says Dr. Charlot. “Likewise, if a person notices red flags in someone else's relationship, that doesn't mean they are responsible for any abuse that may occur.”
The list of warning signs is not definitive, and researchers have identified key areas for future study, including how warning signs may differ in marginalized populations, how different warning signs predict different types of violence, and how people they can address warning signs if they appear.
“We hope that other researchers will seek to replicate our findings in different populations and eventually integrate robust warning signals into violence prevention programming,” says Dr. Charlot.
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