Psychological Factors Linked to Intimate Partner Violence and Childhood Maltreatment: On Dissociation as a Possible Bridge Symptom

Publication Name

Journal of Interpersonal Violence


Intimate partner violence (IPV) is a serious health concern, occurring worldwide in various forms and settings. Over the past years, multiple sources reported an increase of IPV globally, partly related to COVID-19 restrictions. Childhood maltreatment enhances the risk of IPV, possibly via alterations in emotion regulation, attachment, maladaptive core beliefs, dissociation, and psychopathological symptoms. However, studies investigating these associations simultaneously are still needed. This study aimed to investigate association between IPV, childhood maltreatment severity, maladaptive schemata (mistrust, alienation, enmeshment), attachment anxiety, social support, emotion regulation, dissociation, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and borderline personality disorder (BPD) symptoms. We further explored the complex interplay of all factors, accounting for their shared associations. An anonymous online survey was posted on international online platforms for people experiencing domestic violence and on research platforms. Regression analyses and graph-theoretical network analysis were used to explore associations between all variables. N = 434 participants (40% in treatment) completed the survey. IPV perpetration and victimization were highly correlated. Both were significantly associated with childhood maltreatment severity, early maladaptive schemata, dissociation, BPD features, and PTSD symptoms. When including all variables in one model, IPV was associated with dissociation, which indirectly linked it to childhood maltreatment experiences, PTSD symptoms, withdrawal, and self-blame. Our findings suggest that IPV perpetration and victimization often co-occur. Dissociation may be an important bridge symptom, linking IPV to childhood maltreatment experiences, PTSD symptoms, and maladaptive coping. Prospective studies are needed to corroborate these findings and to establish psychological mechanisms underlying IPV.

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