Psychological Abuse

This entry focuses on psychological abuse, which has alternatively been called psychological maltreatment, and a host of other related terms that may be conceptually similar (e.g., nonphysical abuse) or dimensions of a broader construct (e.g., verbal abuse, emotional abuse). Broadly defined, psychological abuse, in the context of intimate relationships, can be defined as any psychological behavior (i.e., not physical aggression) that is harmful or intended to be harmful to the well-being of a partner. But given that emotional pain and lack of cooperation are present to some degree in all relationships, a critical question is “When does negative behavior in relationships constitute a pattern of maltreatment or abuse?” It may be productive to think of psychological abuse as existing on a continuum. On one end ...

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