Women’s Psychological Aggression Toward an Intimate Male Partner: Between the Impulsive and the Instrumental

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The purpose of this article is to explore some underlying mechanisms of women’s psychological aggression in intimate partner violence (IPV), as a phenomenon that requires better understanding and intervention, even in cases when it does not lead to physical violence. Psychological aggression is known to be the most prevalent pattern of IPV for both genders, and its impact on many survivors is known to be equal and sometimes worse than that of physical harm. Despite the fact that most aggressive conflicts between couples do not escalate into physical violence, research mainly addresses psychological aggression in the context of its correlation with it. This article is based on qualitative interviews with 30 women who were in bidirectional abusive heterosexual relationships, who were at least psychologically aggressive toward their male intimate partner, and who were willing to be interviewed about this experience. Results of the phenomenological psychological method of analysis of the interviews are presented, focusing on the women’s personal accounts for using psychological aggression. These accounts are further analyzed from two perspectives: (a) the bimodal classification of impulsive, as opposed to instrumental, aggression; and (b) the client’s perceived need-to-control the partner as opposed to the ability to exercise self-control. The article also discusses implications for theory and practice, especially in the refining of relevant intervention goals with psychologically aggressive women.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)NP6526-NP6546
JournalJournal of Interpersonal Violence
Issue number11-12
StatePublished - Jun 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2018.


  • impulsive aggression
  • instrumental aggression
  • intimate partner violence
  • need-to-control
  • psychological aggression
  • self-control
  • women perpetrators

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Applied Psychology


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