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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The abusive personality in women in dating relationships Clift, Robert John Wilson


There is ample evidence to suggest that, in the context of dating relationships, female-perpetrated intimate abuse is as common as male-perpetrated intimate abuse (e.g., Archer, 2000). Despite awareness of this fact, female-perpetrated intimate abuse remains an understudied area. The current study adds to the available literature on female-perpetrated intimate abuse by examining Dutton’s (2007) theory of the Abusive Personality in a sample of 914 women who had been involved in dating relationships. This is the first study to examine all elements of the Abusive Personality in women simultaneously. Consistent with the Abusive Personality, recalled parental rejection, borderline personality organization (BPO), anger, and trauma symptoms all demonstrated moderate to strong relationships with women’s self-reported intimate psychological abuse perpetration. Fearful attachment style demonstrated a weak to moderate relationship with psychological abuse perpetration. With the exception of fearful attachment, all elements of the Abusive Personality demonstrated a relationship with women’s self-reported intimate violence perpetration. However, these relationships were comparatively weak. A potential model for explaining the interrelationships between the elements of the Abusive Personality was tested using structural equation modeling. This is the first study with either sex to examine all elements of the Abusive Personality simultaneously using structural equation modeling. Consistent with the proposed model, recalled parental rejection demonstrated a relationship with BPO, trauma symptoms, and fearful attachment. Also consistent with the model, trauma symptoms demonstrated a relationship with anger, and BPO demonstrated strong relationships with trauma symptoms, fearful attachment, and anger. Additionally, anger itself had a strong relationship with women’s self-reported perpetration of intimate psychological and physical abuse. Contrary to the proposed model, fearful attachment had a non-significant relationship with anger – when this relationship was examined using structural equation modeling. Based on findings from the current study, fearful attachment has a weaker relationship with college women’s perpetration of intimate abuse than it does with clinical samples’ perpetration of intimate abuse. Following a discussion of the results, limitations of the study are discussed in conjunction with possible future directions for this line of research.

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