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J Marriage Fam. 2015 Jun;77(3):697-711.

Empathic Accuracy and Aggression in Couples: Individual and Dyadic Links.

Author information

1
Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard Medical School.
2
Bryn Mawr College.
3
Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard Medical School *

Abstract

The authors examined links between intimate partner aggression and empathic accuracy-how accurately partners can read one another's emotions-during highly affective moments from couples' (N = 109) video recall of laboratory-based discussions of upsetting events. Less empathic accuracy between partners was generally related to higher levels of aggression by both partners. More specific patterns emerged based on the type of aggression and emotion being expressed. Women's poorer ability to read their partners' vulnerable and positive emotions was linked to both men's and women's greater physical and psychological aggression. Moreover, women's inaccuracy in reading their partner's hostility was linked to women's greater psychological aggression toward the men. Men's inaccuracy in reading their partner's hostility was linked to women's (not men's) greater physical and psychological aggression. The results suggest important nuances in the links between empathic inaccuracy and aggression, and implications for prevention and treatment of partner aggression are discussed.

KEYWORDS:

couples; empathic accuracy; empathy; intimate partner aggression

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