Psychology, Department of


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A DISSERTATION Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy, Major: Psychology, Under the Supervision of Professor David DiLillo. Lincoln, Nebraska: August 2011

Copyright 2011 Jillian Panuzio


Intimate partner aggression (IPA) is a serious public health problem for both men and women in the United States. With aspirations of alleviating the significant negative effects of IPA, a substantial body of literature has been devoted to uncovering risk factors for IPA perpetration. Much of this research has focused on static, or relatively stable, factors that may influence IPA, such as life stress, distress tolerance, rumination, and jealousy. However, considering situational variables that influence individuals more proximally to aggressive acts, in conjunction with these static factors, may provide more precise prediction of partner aggression. Current theoretical and empirical work suggests that emotion regulation strategies, particularly expressive suppression and cognitive reappraisal, may be key situational processes in IPA perpetration. In light of this research, this study proposes the following hypotheses: each static risk factor (life stress, distress tolerance, rumination, jealousy) will be related to interpersonal aggression perpetration, expressive suppression will be related to greater aggression perpetration than will cognitive reappraisal, and emotion regulation strategy usage will moderate the association between the static risk factors and aggression. To examine these questions, the present investigation employed an experimental designed in which participants were assigned to use specific strategies to regulate negative emotions induced by a frustrating computer task. Participants then took part in an analogue aggression task involving the allocation of hot sauce to a purported other participant, followed by a self-report assessment of propensity to perpetrate IPA. Findings showed that reduced distress tolerance and increased jealousy were associated with increased IPA propensity for both men and women. Greater rumination was also related to higher past-year IPA perpetration and increased IPA propensity for men. Participants allocated marginally significantly more hot sauce if they were assigned to suppress their emotions in response to the frustrating computer task than if they were assigned to reappraise their emotions. Emotion regulation strategy use generally did not moderate relationships between static factors and forms of IPA perpetration. The implications of these findings as well as future directions for research are discussed; clinical implications with regard to IPA perpetration intervention are highlighted.