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J Consult Clin Psychol. 1989 Oct;57(5):579-82.

Psychological aggression predicts physical aggression in early marriage.


Psychological aggression by self and partner, physical aggression by the partner, and marital dissatisfaction were examined as longitudinal predictors of first instances of physical aggression during marriage. Subjects who were not physically aggressive at a premarital assessment were selected from a sample of 393 engaged couples. Couples participated in three subsequent assessments over the first 30 months of marriage. As hypothesized, individuals' own psychological aggression predicted their initial incidents of physical aggression in marriage. Psychological aggression by their partners also predicted initial incidents of physical aggression. Prior physical aggression by their partners was inconsistently associated with first instances of physical aggression. Contrary to our hypothesis, previous levels of marital dissatisfaction did not predict initial incidents of physical aggression. These findings were consistent across sexes. The results underscore the progression from psychological to physical abuse and have clear implications for understanding the development and prevention of interspousal aggression.

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