This investigation assessed whether subgroups of women who were abused by intimate partners could be identified based on dependence characteristics. Further, we evaluated whether high-dependence subgroups were more likely to experience outcomes associated with betrayal trauma theory (BTT).
Studies applying a betrayal trauma theory (BTT) framework to adult abuse have measured dependence by asking about the closeness of the victim–offender relationship. However, women’s experiences of dependence may vary even in close victim–offender relationships, such as in the case of abuse perpetrated by intimate partners. Using latent class analysis (LCA), we examined classes of dependence in a non-treatment-seeking community sample of 236 women who reported intimate partner abuse (IPA) to police. The validity of the dependence classes was evaluated from a BTT perspective using the classes to predict empirically supported betrayal-trauma outcomes. Results: Low-, medium-, and high-dependence subgroups emerged when dependence characteristics were analyzed using LCA. As hypothesized, greater dependence was linked with increased likelihood of women maintaining the relationship with the offender, higher self-report dissociation scores, and greater service disengagement. Counter to study hypotheses, dependence subgroups were unrelated to women’s revictimization and self-reported memory for the target IPA incident 12 months later. Findings suggest that dependence can vary even in close adult relationships. Further, we identified links between dependence subgroups and outcomes predicted by BTT. Implications for BTT research and IPA victim support and intervention are discussed. (Publisher abstract provided)