Category: Violence / Aggression
The current study examines, in high-risk partner violent couples, how one partner’s trouble with anger expression and emotion dysregulation may influence automatic attention to aggressive cues in the other. A romantic partner with a low threshold for experiencing and expressing intense anger and negative affect may potentiate the need for early detection of aggressive cues by their partner, so we hypothesized that partner trait-like anger experience and expression (Partner-TA) and emotion dysregulation (Partner-ED) will have direct effects on the activation of an aggression cue bias in their partner (i.e., the actor) in the context of partner provocation. Additionally, we expected Partner-TA and Partner-ED to affect aggression cue bias activation indirectly through their effects on actor trait anger and expression (Actor-TA) and actor state negative affect (Actor-SA).
High-risk partner-violent couples (N = 248) were recruited from the community; at least one member reported one or more acts of past-year minor physical partner aggression. Both members of each dyad completed measures of anger experience, expression and emotion dysregulation. Then, a physically aggressive member of each dyad experienced acute provocation by repeatedly receiving electric shocks that they believed were from their partner during a computer-based competitive reaction time task. Participants completed a state measure of negative affect and dot probe task to assess aggression cue bias. We used structural equation modeling with path analysis in an actor-partner interdependence framework to investigate the hypothesized model. The model showed a strong fit (χ2 = 0.66, p = .718; CFI/TLI = 1.00/1.00; SRMR = 0.01). Partner-ED and Actor-TA directly affected aggression cue bias (β = -0.24, SE = .08, p = .003.; β = -0.15, SE = .07, p = .020, respectively). Partner-TA directly affected Actor-TA, β = .19, SE = .08, p = .022. Actor-TA directly affected Actor-SA, β = .34, SE = .06, p < .001. While Partner-TA lacked direct and indirect effects on aggression cue bias through Actor-TA, it affected Actor-SA indirectly through Actor-TA (β = .06, SE = .03, p = .034).
The results suggest that the irascibility of one’s partner significantly influences one’s own chronic anger problems and provoked anger experience. However, these characteristics do not appear to affect one’s bias toward aggressive information. Instead, a partner’s emotion dysregulation may be the strongest predictor of aggression bias activation suggesting that the chronic influence of a labile romantic partner sensitizes activation of an aggression cue bias in the context of partner provocation, regardless of state or trait negative affect. This has important implications for intervention foci in partner-violent couples.
Joel Sprunger– Predoctoral Fellow, Purdue University
Andrea Massa– Graduate Student, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana
Molly Maloney– Graduate Student, Purdue University
Christopher Eckhardt– Professor, Director of Clinical Training, Purdue University
Dominic Parrott– Georgia State University