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J Abnorm Psychol. 1989 Aug;98(3):218-28.

Impact of distressed and aggressive behavior.


Two studies examined the hypothesis that distressed behavior induces negative emotions in others but also prompts solicitousness and deters aggression. In Study 1, 48 marital dyads rated various behaviors in terms of their feelings and reactions toward a spouse engaging in each behavior. Distressed behavior prompted both negative and solicitous emotions, but deterred hostile reactions. Aggressive behavior prompted negative feelings and hostile and argumentative reactions. In Study 2, 41 couples rated videotaped examples of a woman engaging in distressed, aggressive, or neutral behavior, with variations in verbal content and nonverbal affect. Examples of distressed behavior prompted more negative feelings and more solicitous feelings than neutral behavior. Aggressive examples prompted more negative feelings and hostile reactions. The studies indicate the importance of distinguishing between distressed and aggressive behavior.

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