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Violence in Close Relationships: The Role of Emotion

NCJ Number
Aggression and Violent Behavior Volume: 8 Issue: 3 Dated: May-June 2003 Pages: 313-327
Robert F. Marcus; Bruce Swett
Vincent B. Van Hasselt
Date Published
May 2003
15 pages
Based on current literature and research on violence in close relationships, this paper examines close relationships and their emotion-related vulnerabilities and offers a different understanding of the relationship between couples’ relationships and violence.
The intimacy of couples’ relationships has often been romanticized as being a safe haven in a sometimes difficult and dangerous world and as a protective factor against violence. However, this paper presents a different understanding of the relationship between couples’ relationships and violence. This paper proposes that being in a close relationship, in itself, is not protective of violence and that there are specific emotional characteristics of close relationships that increase or decrease the probabilities of violence within a relationship. Couples’ emotional dynamics are described as systemic, looking at individual versus dyad, the dyad as a system, and the emotional dynamics of dyadic systems. The role of emotions and violence are examined and include both protective (i.e., empathy, intimacy, and positive emotionality) and risk (i.e., anger, jealousy and betrayal of trust, and negative affect) emotions. There are two programs of research pertinent to individual, pathological anger and jealousy in which results are promising, consistent and have potential importance for dyadic processes. The first is the detection of an emotionally volatile “attachment rage” that produces a proactive repetitive violence directed at intimates. The second concerns attachment insecurity and holds promise for expansion into a dyadic perspective. References