Developmental Psychology | Personality and Social Contexts

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The present study examined whether witnessing interparental verbal aggression and/or experiencing emotional abuse during childhood were associated with emotional abuse in current or recent dating relationships in college students (M = 19.51 years; SD = 2.02). Participants (N = 715) completed the Conflicts Tactics 2-CA Scale (Straus & Donnelly, 2001), the Exposure to Abusive and Supportive Environments Parenting Inventory (Nicholas & Bieber, 1997), and the Emotional Abuse Scale (Murphy & Hoover, 1999). Results showed that witnessing interparental verbal aggression predicted males‟ self-use of Restrictive Engulfment and their partners‟ use of Restrictive Engulfment. For females, witnessing interparental verbal aggression predicted self-use of Dominance/Intimidation in dating relationships. Experiencing childhood emotional abuse predicted males‟ use of Denigration and Dominance/Intimidation in dating relationships. For females, experiencing childhood emotional abuse predicted self-use of Denigration, Hostile Withdrawal, and Dominance/Intimidation and their partners‟ use of Denigration and Hostile Withdrawal in dating relationships. These results suggest that exposure to interparental verbal aggression and experiences of emotional abuse by parents prior to age 16 are related to young adults‟ self-reports of emotionally abusive behavior in their dating relationships and, to a lesser extent, their partners‟ use of these emotionally abusive behaviors.

Research Advisor: Dr. Michelle Kelley, Psychology