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Missing the Trees for the Forest: Understanding Aggression Among Physically Victimized Women

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Research on physically victimized women's aggression has focused on distal predictors and correlates of aggression and on women's self-reported motivations for their aggression. The absence of examinations of contextual predictors of women's intimate partner violence has resulted in a limited understanding of the proximal circumstances in which physically victimized women perpetrate aggression. The purpose of this study was to elucidate the situational contexts in which physically victimized women use physical aggression in their relationships by analyzing a detailed narrative of a specific violent episode. Women were significantly more likely to use physical aggression under the following conditions: (a) when they were the first to initiate the physical aggression; (b) when their partners engaged in either moderate or severe violence as opposed to extremely severe physical violence; (c) when their partners were sober as opposed to drunk or high; and (d) when they were experiencing a specific emotion as opposed to a combination of emotions such as fear, anger, and sadness. Women's motivations for being aggressive were moderated by their partners' severity of aggression. When men perpetrated moderate physical aggression, women's aggression was largely emotion-driven. When men engaged in severe physical aggression, women's physical aggression was motivated by a combination of wanting to retaliate and emotional arousal. When men engaged in extremely severe physical aggression, there was a trend for women's physical aggression to be motivated primarily by self-defense. These results suggest that the context of a specific argument is important in understanding why physically victimized women perpetrate aggression.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: July 1, 2014

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