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Insecure Attachment Mediates Effects of Partners' Emotional Abuse and Violence on Women's Relationship Quality

NCJ Number
Journal of Family Violence Volume: 23 Issue: 6 Dated: August 2008 Pages: 483-493
Date Published
August 2008
11 pages

This study examined interrelationships among intimate partners’ emotional abuse and violence and women’s “insecure attachment” (composite of anxious-ambivalent and avoidant attachment) and relationship quality, along with the impact of women’s initial attachment style on the various factors analyzed.


The expected negative effect of insecure attachment on relationship quality was supported. This finding, combined with the lack of significance for a direct path from emotional abuse to relationship quality, suggest that insecure attachment fully mediated the effects of emotional abuse on relationship quality. For both women with an initial secure and insecure attachment style, their partners’ emotionally abusive behavior were associated with increased insecure attachment, which was a negative predictor of stability, increasing the instability of women’s relationships. The findings suggest that attachment experiences and styles provide women with a means for interpreting and responding to the actions of their partners. The various attachment styles of the victims influence their ways of coping with negative affect from the emotional abuse. Study data were drawn from Waves five and six of Project Health Outcomes of Women, a study of low-income community women in the Dallas metroplex. At Wave one, participants were required to be between 20 and 49 years old, in a long-term heterosexual relationship (at least 1 year), and have a household income less than twice the poverty level or be receiving public assistance. Men’s psychological abuse was measured with the Subtle and Overt Psychological Abuse Scale (Marshall, 2001). The Severity of Violence Against Women Scale assessed the threats and acts of physical violence and sexual aggression; and a modified version of Hazan and Shaver’s (1987) three paragraphs included in Wave five specified attachment to the partner. Experiences in Close Relationships measured insecure attachment, and relationship quality was measured with various relevant instruments. 4 tables, 2 figures, and 44 references

Date Published: August 1, 2008