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Intimate Partner Aggression-related Shame and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Symptoms: The Moderating Role of Substance Use Problems

NCJ Number
Date Published
October 2016
14 pages
This study examined whether women's shame concerning their use of intimate partner aggression is associated with their posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms, and whether problems with drug and alcohol use moderate this association.
A dearth of literature has examined the consequences of women's use of aggression in intimate relationships. Women's use of aggression against their intimate partners, regardless of their motivation (e.g., self-defense, retaliation), may elicit shame. Shame, in turn, may contribute to the maintenance and/or exacerbation of PTSD symptoms, which are commonly experienced in this population. Further, emerging research suggests that emotionally avoidant coping strategies, such as substance use, may strengthen the relation between shame and PTSD symptoms. Participants in the current study were 369 community women who had used and been victimized by physical aggression in an intimate relationship with a male partner in the past six months. The study found that the severity of PTSD symptoms among this sample was significantly linked to shame and drug-use problems, but not alcohol-use problems. Analysis of simple slopes revealed that women's intimate partner aggression-related shame was positively associated with their PTSD symptoms when drug-use problems were high, but not when drug-use problems were low. Findings have implications for the potential utility of PTSD treatments targeting a reduction in shame and maladaptive shame regulation strategies (i.e., drug use) in this population. (Publisher abstract modified)

Date Published: October 1, 2016