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Power, control, and communication: An analysis of aggressive, violent, and abusive couples

Loreen Nyla Olson, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


Various theoretical orientations and methodological perspectives have yielded mixed results regarding the phenomenon of domestic violence. Sociologist, Michael Johnson (1995) argued that the reason for contradictory findings was because researchers are studying divergent phenomena. Johnson labeled two of these perspectives, “the family violence perspective,” and the “feminist perspective.” He also labeled the types of violence researchers within these perspectives were examining, “common couple violence,” and “patriarchal terrorism,” respectively. The present study focused on “common couple violence.” More specifically, the purpose of this analysis was (a) to create a general profile of “common couple violence,” taking into account its defining features, general communication patterns used by individuals experiencing “common couple violence,” and the communication correlates of power and control used by the individuals, and (b) to determine if multiple forms of “common couple violence” existed. Face-to-face interviews were conducted with thirty-one individuals (5 males, 26 females) who had experienced interpersonal aggression with their romantic, heterosexual partners. The 967 pages of data were analyzed to determine how violence issues related to gender symmetry/asymmetry, per couple frequency, reciprocity, and escalation contributed to a general profile of “common couple violence.” In addition, communication frameworks were used to assess the individuals' communication patterns. The specific patterns examined included conflict tactics, compliance-gaining tactics, and communication competence. Five trajectories of aggression were identified and labeled: chaotic, declining, stable, increasing, and cyclical. In addition, a new typology of violent couples was developed which consisted of four different types of violent couples: Aggressive, Episodically Violent, Systemically Violent, and Abusive. Theoretical and practical implications are discussed. ^

Subject Area

Psychology, Social|Speech Communication|Sociology, Individual and Family Studies

Recommended Citation

Olson, Loreen Nyla, "Power, control, and communication: An analysis of aggressive, violent, and abusive couples" (2000). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI9962065.