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Partner Abuse

  1. Julie A. Schumacher1,
  2. K. Daniel O'Leary2

Published Online: 30 JAN 2010

DOI: 10.1002/9780470479216.corpsy0643

Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology

Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology

How to Cite

Schumacher, J. A. and O'Leary, K. D. 2010. Partner Abuse. Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology. 1–3.

Author Information

  1. 1

    University of Mississippi Medical Center

  2. 2

    Stony Brook University

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 30 JAN 2010


Partner abuse is variously referred to as domestic violence, battering, wife beating, spouse abuse, spousal assault, partner aggression, and intimate partner violence. Partner abuse is a very broad term, most typically referring to three distinct types of abusive behaviors that occur within the context of an intimate relationship: physical, psychological, and sexual. Physical abuse includes behaviors ranging in severity from those that are unlikely to result in injury, such as pushing and grabbing, to those that can be life-threatening, such as choking, kicking, beating, and using a weapon against a partner. The definition of psychological abuse is broad, encompassing behaviors that range from insulting or swearing at a partner, to threatening a partner, to engaging in jealous behaviors, to isolating a partner from friends and family. Sexual abuse refers to any undesired sexual contact that is psychologically or physically coerced and includes behaviors such as insisting a partner have sexual intercourse without a condom and using physical force or threat of force to obtain oral, anal, or vaginal intercourse. Because of the greater research emphasis on physical abuse than on psychological and sexual abuse, physical partner abuse is our focus here.


  • intimate partner violence;
  • dating violence;
  • partner abuse;
  • psychological aggression;
  • physical aggression