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J Couns Psychol. 2013 Oct;60(4):641-7. doi: 10.1037/a0033406. Epub 2013 Jul 1.

Relationship self-efficacy protects against mental health problems among women in bidirectionally aggressive intimate relationships with men.

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Department of Psychiatry, Yale University School of Medicine.


Research examining predictors or correlates of mental health problems among women who experience or use aggression in intimate relationships typically assesses factors that confer risk. Such research has primarily examined intimate partner violence (IPV) victimization or aggression frequency or severity as central risk factors for mental health problems. In the general population, one factor demonstrating a protective effect on mental health problems is self-efficacy. Research on self-efficacy among women who experience or use aggression in intimate relationships is nearly absent. The purpose of this study was to determine if self-efficacy specific to a woman's ability to manage various relationship problems (i.e., relationship self-efficacy [RSE]) played a protective role against the severity of posttraumatic stress, depression, and anxiety symptoms among 354 community-residing women who were victimized and used aggression (bidirectional IPV). Regression analyses found that RSE uniquely predicted each mental health outcome above and beyond what was accounted for by the frequency of physical, sexual, and psychological victimization and aggression. Further, RSE fully mediated the relationships between psychological victimization and each mental health outcome. If replicated, and in circumstances where it is determined safe to do so, findings suggest RSE as a promising avenue for future research to improve the health and well-being of women in bidirectionally aggressive relationships.

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