Many women and men begin new relationships never dreaming they could later be enmeshed in a cycle of intimate partner violence.
Now, a new study finds there are early behavioral warning signs from a partner that suggest the risk for violence is there. And the more signs a person sees in the partner, the higher the potential risk.
“These red flags could eventually be used in interventions to help people learn how to avoid abusive relationships or support loved ones who may be at risk for abuse,” said study lead author Nicolyn Charlot, of the University of Western Ontario in Canada.
The study had two parts. In the first part, Charlot’s group presented 147 young couples who had been together an average of six months with a list of 200 abusive and non-abusive thoughts, feelings and behaviors based on prior research. The participants then told researchers how often any of those had occurred since they started dating their partner.
In the second part, this time with 355 young couples who had been together an average of about four months, Charlot’s team identified thoughts, feelings and behaviors that appeared to predict violence in the relationship six months later.
Some of the warning signs in a partner uncovered by the study were:
a sense of arrogance or entitlement
negative reactions when a person said no to something
discounting a partner’s reasoning if they happened to disagree with something they said or did
Of course, not every romantic partner who exhibits these traits will go on to become violent, the Canadian team noted, and violence can also occur in the absence of these behaviors.
It’s important to never “victim blame” either, Charlot said in a news release from the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science, which published the findings on Dec. 11.
“While this research is meant to help educate potential victims of abuse and those around them, that does not in any way mean that people who experience violence are responsible for their abuse,” Charlot explained. “Similarly, if a person notices warning signs in someone else’s relationship, that does not mean they are responsible for any abuse that may occur.”
If you or a loved one are threatened by intimate partner violence, reach out for help to the National Domestic Violence Helpline.
SOURCE: Social Psychological and Personality Science, news release, Dec. 11, 2023
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