Psychology, Department of


Date of this Version



A DISSERTATION Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements For the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy, Major: Psychology, Under the Supervision of Professor David DiLillo. Lincoln, Nebraska: June 2014

Copyright (c) 2014 Rosalita C. Maldonado


Intimate partner aggression (IPA) is a serious public health concern that occurs with alarming frequency, results in both physical and psychological harm to victims, and costs billions of dollars per year due to healthcare costs and loss of productivity. These adverse consequences highlight the need to understand risk factors of IPA perpetration. Attempts to identify these risk factors have focused mostly on broad factors that may predispose someone to perpetrate aggression, including individual demographic and dispositional characteristics (e.g., low socioeconomic status, psychopathy). Although valuable, this knowledge cannot reveal the specific circumstances that may prompt an individual to perpetrate aggression against a partner (O’Leary & Slep, 2006). The present study addresses this issue by examining two important situational processes that may play important roles in predicting IPA. Drawing on the alcohol myopia model (Steele & Josephs, 1990), the present study utilizes an experimental approach to test a model in which attentional deficits in neurocognitive processing, which have been independently linked to IPA, are hypothesized to mediate associations between acute alcohol intoxication and partner aggression. This process model was examined in a community sample of individuals with and without histories of IPA perpetration. This project used an experimental design involving lab-based alcohol administration, as well as an assessment of neurocognitive processing using high density EEG technology to assess event related potentials (ERP). A well-validated paradigm for eliciting aggressive verbalizations in the context of romantic relationships is also employed. Results indicated a significant IPA and alcohol interaction in which only individuals with a history of IPA who were intoxicated exhibited increased aggressive verbalizations during anger arousal. Tests of the proposed mediated moderation model were not significant. The importance of targeting alcohol use in the treatment of IPA and implications for the development of intervention and prevention strategies will be discussed, as will possible explanations for the lack of mediated moderation.

Advisor: David DiLillo