What is it about?

Poor communication skills and chronic social and economic disadvantage increase couples’ risk for having psychological aggression escalate into physical forms. The effects of poor communication and socioeconomic disadvantage act independently of one another and heighten risk for physical aggression whether couples are satisfied with their relationships or not.

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Why is it important?

Psychological aggression is common among intimate partners, yet only some of these psychologically aggressive couples also engage in acts of physical aggression. Knowing what factors increase psychologically aggressive couples’ risk for also experiencing physical aggression is important, because it can help us modify the conditions that heighten the likelihood of physical aggression.


Our findings support efforts to improve couple communication, especially for couples who show particular deficits in their communication skills. However, focusing on communication training alone may not be sufficient, because even couples with strong communication skills, when exposed to stressful environments, will be at risk for aggression escalation. For these couples, efforts that reduce economic hardship and stress, such as support in the form of financial or housing assistance, may help prevent aggression and violence.

Julia Hammett
Arizona State University

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: When does verbal aggression in relationships covary with physical violence?, Psychology of Violence, January 2021, American Psychological Association (APA),
DOI: 10.1037/vio0000311.
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