Forms of psychological abuse in heterosexual and homosexual romantic relationships

Simon Ghinassi, Lucia Ponti, Franca Tani


Background: Psychological abuse is a widespread form of Intimate Partner Violence and has harmful consequences for the wellbeing of the victim. Despite the theoretical and clinical relevance of this form of abuse, few studies have taking into consideration its multidimensional nature together with one of its defining essential characteristics, which is the systematic nature of abuse behaviors. The aim of this study was to analyze the prevalence of perpetrated and suffered psychological abuse in heterosexual and homosexual men and women, considering its multidimensional nature and repetitiveness, in the following terms: absent, occasional, and repeated abuse.

Methods: Our sample included 1026 participants (406 heterosexual men, 488 heterosexual women, 65 homosexual men, 67 homosexual women), aged 18–30 years (M = 23.93; SD = 2.75), involved in a romantic relationship. A series of chi-squared tests were performed to explore differences between the four groups.

Results: In line with previous studies, results showed that most of participants reported to have perpetrated (95%) and suffered (94%) at least one behavior of psychological abuse. However, considering the repetitiveness of the acts, the prevalence of repeated abuse is around 14%, with no significant differences among groups. However, significant differences emerged considering the different forms of psychological abuse and their repetitiveness.

Conclusion: Overall, these results highlight the forms of abuse most commonly perpetrated and suffered in relation to gender and sexual orientation. The distinction between less frequent and systematic cases of abuse provides important implications for clinicians dealing with couples and victims. These results are relevant for the implementation of possible supportive intervention policies.


Psychological abuse; Intimate partner violence; Sexual orientation; Homosexuals; Heterosexuals.

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