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Sticks and Stones May Break My Bones, But Abusive Text Messages Also Hurt: Development and Validation of the Cyber Psychological Abuse Scale

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Psychological abuse between intimate partners is common and is an important area of inquiry. The present study sought to develop and validate the Cyber Psychological Abuse (CPA) scale to assess psychological abuse during arguments between romantic partners using cell phones, e-mail, computers, and through social networking sites. A sample of 271 undergraduate students who were currently in romantic relationships completed a series of measures in an online survey. Results indicated a 2-factor structure of the CPA scale (minor and severe cyber abuse). Cyber psychological abuse was very common with 93% of college students perpetrating and being victimized by minor cyber abuse (e.g., swearing, insulting, or “shouting” with capital letters) during arguments in their current romantic relationships. Severe cyber psychological abuse (e.g., threats or public humiliation) was less common with 12%–13% of college students reporting such abuse. No gender differences were found for minor cyber abuse, but males were more likely to report being victimized by severe cyber abuse than females. The CPA's victimization and perpetration scales showed an expected pattern of associations with previously validated abuse and aggression measures as well as with perceived stress levels. Minor cyber abuse on the CPA scale predicted levels of perceived stress over and above physical abuse. The results of the current study provide a preliminary demonstration of the validity of the CPA scale, which appears to be an internally consistent and valid measure for capturing psychological partner abuse as it occurs in an electronic context.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: July 1, 2014

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