Components of psychological abuse of female victims in domestic violence




Thompson, Sue Ellen

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



Domestic violence is a major health problem with psychological abuse a critical aspect of this violence. Currently, few definitions of wife abuse include emotional or psychological components which often inflict more pain and long-term damage than some acts of physical violence. The purpose of this qualitative study was to develop conceptual categories of psychological abuse as an initial step in the generation of theory of psychological violence. The conceptual framework utilized was grounded theory.

A purposive sample of 30 women who had been abused by their husbands/partners was selected from volunteers or referrals made by crisis center counselors. The subjects participated in semi-structured, in-depth interviews.

A descriptive, constant comparative ethnographic design was used to investigate components of psychological abuse. Detailed descriptions of female victims' perceptions of psychological abuse in domestic violence were elicited. Constant comparative analysis was the method for organizing and processing data. Control, the major theme of abuse, emerged as the unifying factor for abuser behaviors and for responses of the abused.

The components of psychological abuse, intimidation, humiliation, deprivation, manipulation, and control, cause physical and emotional injuries through the use of physical and sexual assault as well as verbal abuse and other devaluing experiences. Psychological abuse was defined as any abusive behavior used for the purpose of controlling another or which results in control of another.

The findings of this study indicate that psychological abuse is the most widely experienced form of abuse in domestic violence. This data is crucial to health promotion and response to the problem of psychological abuse of women, allowing nurses to diagnose and intervene in the human response to the problem of psychological abuse through theory-based nursing practice. Based on the findings of the study, further research is needed to operationalize the components and to determine their linkages in order to move toward a theory of psychological violence.



Personality, Families & family life, Personal relationships, Sociology, Womens studies