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Perceptions of Physical and Psychological Aggression in Close Relationships: A Review

NCJ Number
Aggression and Violent Behavior Volume: 17 Issue: 6 Dated: November/December 2012 Pages: 489-494
Celestine Williams; Deborah South Richardson; Georgina S. Hammock; Adrian S. Janit
Date Published
December 2012
6 pages
This literature review examines different perceptions of psychological and physical aggression.
This review of the literature examines the effect of contextual variables (i.e., characteristics of the perpetrator and victims, observer characteristics) on perceptions of physical and psychological aggression in close relationships. Observers view physical aggression as more serious, harmful, abusive, and more deserving of punishment than psychological aggression, male aggression as more serious than female aggression, and aggression in committed, exclusive relationships as more serious than aggression in casual ones. Victims of psychological aggression, however, perceive it as more harmful than physical aggression and consider the effects to be longer-lasting. The disparity between observer and victim perceptions of physical and psychological aggression extends to mental health professionals, who tend to judge the severity of aggressive behaviors based on frequency and duration of the actions instead of perpetrator intent. This difference of opinion may influence the reporting of and intervention in physically or psychologically aggressive situations, and how these types of aggression are treated by legal professionals, especially if those legal professionals are informed about aggressive romantic relationships by third-party observers whose opinions of the situation differ from those of the victims. (Published Abstract)