COMPARATIVE STUDY
JOURNAL ARTICLE

Psychological intimate partner violence: the major predictor of posttraumatic stress disorder in abused women

Maria Angeles Pico-Alfonso
Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews 2005, 29 (1): 181-93
15652265
Intimate partner violence (IPV) significantly impacts women mental and physical wellbeing and therefore represents a worldwide public health problem. A clear association between IPV and increased risk to develop posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) has been documented. However, few studies examined how different features of IPV (physical, psychological, sexual) interact with other traumatic stress experiences (physical, psychological and sexual childhood abuse and adulthood victimization by other/s than the partner) in determining PTSD. Women abused by the partner (n=75) were compared with non-abused control women (n=52). Information about sociodemographic profile and relevant personal characteristics was obtained through structured interviews. A comprehensive questionnaire was designed for a face-to-face interview in order to obtain detailed information about duration and frequency of the different types of violent acts above mentioned. The incidence and severity of symptoms of current PTSD were assessed with Echeburua's Severity of Symptom Scale of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, a structured interview based on DSM-IV criteria. Women suffering from IPV had a significantly higher rate of PTSD symptomatology as compared to control women, whereas childhood abuse variables did not explain PTSD score variance. In addition, the severity of IPV was significantly and positively correlated with the intensity of PTSD symptoms. Women involved in an abusive relationship were more frequently exposed to other experiences of adulthood victimization, suggesting that their higher PTSD vulnerability could be a result of cumulative traumatic experiences. A relevant result of the correlation analysis was the strong, positive association between PTSD and each different type of IPV. In particular, the psychological component of intimate partner violence was the strongest predictor of posttraumatic stress disorder. This study underlines the importance of separating the effects of the different types of intimate partner abuse when taking into account its effects on women mental health.

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