Autonomic arousal and relational aggression in heterosexual dating couples

Authors

  • DIANNA MURRAY-CLOSE,

    Corresponding author
    1. University of Vermont
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    • Dianna Murray-Close, Department of Psychology, University of Vermont;

  • ASHLEY S. HOLLAND,

    1. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
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    • Ashley S. Holland and Glenn I. Roisman, Department of Psychology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

  • GLENN I. ROISMAN

    1. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
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    • Ashley S. Holland and Glenn I. Roisman, Department of Psychology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.


  • This study was sponsored by a grant by the National Science Foundation (0443783) to R. Chris Fraley and a Research Board award to G.I.R. from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Dianna Murray-Close, 210A John Dewey Hall, Department of Psychology, University of Vermont, Burlington, VT 05405, e-mail: Dianna.Murray-Close@uvm.edu.

Abstract

This study investigated the association between romantic relational aggression and autonomic nervous system (ANS) arousal in the context of heterosexual dating couples (N = 115 couples). Results indicated that romantic relational aggression was associated with low resting sympathetic arousal, high resting parasympathetic arousal, and exaggerated fight or flight responses to a conflict discussion (sympathetic activation and parasympathetic withdrawal). However, ANS activity was more strongly associated with romantic relational aggression in the context of low-quality romantic relationships, and sympathetic activity was more strongly associated with aggression among females, whereas parasympathetic activity was more strongly associated with aggression among males. Results indicate that psychophysiological functioning may serve as a risk factor for the perpetration of relational aggression against romantic partners.

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