An exploration of men and women’s perceptions of emotional abuse and the general impact of the experience.


A wide range and types of abuse exist impacting on different people differently. While some types of abuse like physical abuse are quite evident in their consequences ranging from body harm, depression and withdrawal, emotional and psychological abuse on the other hand is more complex and difficult to identify or address most of the time until it is too late, this makes it a more dangerous type of abuse. Psychological and emotional abuse is quite difficult to identify due to lack of express physical evidence, psychological side effects like depression and withdrawal can be identified, however, without the acceptance and disclosure of the abused victim, most people relegate these effects to mental health problems as well as sicknesses which elicit the same effects. This highlights one of the reasons why emotional abuse is perceived as a non issue and even nonexistent to some people. This research looks to explore the perceptions of emotional abuse and its impact among both men and women.


Background of the Study

Despite the previous common assumption that physical abuse is more harmful than psychological abuse and that male abuse is more damaging than female abuse (Cappezza et al., 2017), a wide range of study in the psychological field has established emotional abuse as a key issue across all indulgences of the human race and that it impacts on an equal measure both female and males. According to Mathews (2016), psychological abuse refers to an attempt by an individual to control other individuals through abuse ranging from intimidation and threats, criticism, guilt tripping or even undermining. While individuals may feel emotionally abused in a wide range of situations and occurrences such as argument with loved ones and partners or a negative reaction to something one did. This highlights a blurred line regarding what exactly psychological abuse is and thus the varied perspectives of it. Gordon (2018) highlights that while in some situations arguing with ones partner may in fact constitute emotional abuse the intention and expectations of the entire occurrence baselines whether or not it is emotional abuse. The lack of understanding of this distinction outlines the varied perspective of emotional abuse among men and women and is guarantee to elicit different impacts on the individuals.

Gervis, Rhind and Luzar (2016) highlight that despite the possibility of any individual to be emotionally abused regardless of the situation they are in or whether they have a relationship with the abuser, most of emotional abuse occurs in broken relationships among married and unmarried partners. Stosny (2015) further emphasizes that domestic violence is often a precedent to emotional abuse. The abusive partners may limit and prevent themselves from physically abusing their partner but easily slides back to emotional abuse due to the need to be in control and justify themselves even though they may be wrong in the situation leading up to the abuse. This may be due to the abuser having identity problems based on their childhood. Kass (2019): Askin (2015) and Stosny (2015) are all in agreement that emotional abuse as a behavior has a high probability of rooting in an individual’s childhood due to bad parenting, parental neglect, and glorification of power by one parent over the other as well as observing abuse at a young age. Kass (2019) further points out low self esteem as a cause of emotional abuse. Abusing others helps the abusers to stop thinking about them and forces others to acknowledge their personal value and superiority in cases where they are obviously less superior.

Still emotional abuse may actually be as a result of mental health. Cappezza et al., (2017) premises that emotional abuse may also be rooted in a person’s genetic code, a wide range of personality disorders as a result of mental conditions including bipolar disorder and narcissistic personality disorder may cause individuals to be abusive both physically and emotionally due to the aggression and intensity with which they manifest on the individual. Other genetic constitution limit individual’s ability to be in control of their impulses as such, they end up both physically and emotionally abusing others unintentionally. Further emotional abuse can also be increased by substance abuse (Kass, 2019). This is also among the main propellers of domestic violence. These many aspects imply a wide range of perspectives with which instances of domestic violence can be perceived and baselines the purpose of this study which is not only aimed at exploring the different perspective of emotional abuse among men and women but also uncovering the consequences of these experiences and highlighting some of the coping mechanisms used by victims in these scenario.

Background of the Study

Gordon (2018) premises a wide range of characteristics that emotionally abusive people exhibit some including: being unrealistic in their expectations, thriving on creating chaos, using emotional blackmail for selfish gains or needs, acting superior and entitled as well as looking to isolate and control an individual. While these characteristics are fairly direct and clear, it is often difficult to point them out especially when the victim being abused imagines that they have a part in the occurrence such as the break up. Eventually the perspective of an individual with regards to the abuse validates whether or not it is emotional abuse. Often the abuser is dominant over the victim and consequently the victim becomes withdrawn and depressed, failing to speak out on the actual occurrence and thus leaving the judgment to a third parties perspective. The difference in perspectives of events that constitute emotional abuse often lead to its politicization which further impacts the victim highlighting a problem of emotional abuse perception and the impact it eventually has on the victims.

Research Aim and Objectives

Research Aim

The study aims to explore male and female perceptions of emotional abuse and the general impacts of these experiences. The study specifically delved into the investigation of the victims perspectives of emotional abuse looking to highlight whether they are aware of the different instances that include emotional abuse and how these experiences impact on them. The aim was further broken down into various specific objectives for direct investigation. These include:

Research Objectives

  • To find out whether emotional abuse victims are aware of what constitutes emotional abuse and their impacts.
  • To evaluate ways by which emotional abusers manipulate their victims into emotional abuse
  • To critically outline the various impacts and consequences of emotional abuse
  • To outline the various coping mechanisms adopted for use by the victims of emotional abuse.

Rationale of the Study

A wide range of research studies and scholarly literature has been established on domestic violence as well as physical abuse among partners, children and the elderly in dysfunctional familial relationships and the society at large. However, while physical abuse is a major cause of concern in the well being of humans, emotional abuse is also equally if not much more important. The limitation in the research pertaining emotional abuse however presents another reason why victims of emotional abuse remain quiet and rely on coping mechanisms to remain normal, subsequently it is then perceived as a non issue while it continues to impact people. This research provides a necessary step in the beginning of addressing emotional abuse and sparking the conversation so as to align the perceptions of emotional abuse as detrimental to the society not only in a short term but also in a permanent or long term basis due to the trauma that results from it as a consequence.


This study purposes to explore the perceptions of different individuals with regards to emotional abuse as well as the impact of these perspectives and experiences. It therefore adopted a qualitative research technique with a naturalistic paradigm. The method of data collection included the use of interviews with the victims of emotional abuse. The naturalistic paradigm works with an initial assumption of three considerations including an existence of multiple realities which allow space for different explanations of the same experiences, that the knower, in this case the perpetrator and the known (victim) are interactive and inseparable and that all entities are in a state of mutual simultaneous shaping, so that it is impossible to distinguish causes from effects (Lincoln & Guba, 1985, p. 37). This is effective due to the nature of the topic being handled which include an exploration of different perspectives of the same/almost the same experience and in an understanding that the life of the victims of emotional abuse is ongoing and can be potentially impacted by some aspect of the research.


The study was guided by specific objectives crafted from the research aim. The answering of these objectives led to the draft of an interview with 26 questions dividing the introductive questions that highlighted the participants information and a subsequent questions dividing the different themes captures in each objective.


Population of study

A wide range of population is available that suits the criteria for participation in this study. With the aim of highlighting the different perspectives of men and women with regards to emotional abuse, both victims and rehabilitated perpetrators of emotional abuse could effectively fit in as population of the study, in addition social workers and employees of mental health rehabilitation centers as well as various psychologists could also be fitting participants in the study. However the researcher chose to take up victims of emotional violence to further be able to highlight the individual first hand perspectives as opposed to the second hand and academic perspectives that would be offered by psychologists and mental health workers.

Participants and Sampling

The criteria used to identify respondents for the interview in the study were that the different individuals chosen: (a) be between the ages of 25-35, (b) have been in a serious relationship, (c) were no longer in an emotionally abusive relationship, and (d) had little or no experience of physical abuse. People between the ages of 25-35 were targeted because this group was more likely to be involved in emotionally stretching experiences whether in their relationship with partners or family members and have thus experienced emotional abuse. Individuals of this age cohort were more likely to have experienced the transition from home, to college (if they attended) and into the workplace. They were also better prepared to make retrospective comments about their life.

Data Collection

The process of data collection took up the use of interviews conducted by the researcher. Given the nature of the research and that the amount of information collected was dependent on how cordial the relationship between the interviewer and the participant was, interviews were conducted in a place that participants found comfortable. The interview took up a semi structured format that focused on different themes and subjects as relate emotional abuse and coping strategies and mechanisms. Semi structured interviews are particularly effective for qualitative research studies due to the fact that they allow the participants to be able to build up on their narrative of their experiences (Patton, 1990; Riessman, 1993).

Issues of Validity and Reliability

The ability of the researcher to persuade and convince his/her audience regarding the worthiness of their findings within a research project is critical in being able to enhance the impact created by the study (Lincoln & Guba, 1985, p. 290). The existence of internal validity of the story which highlights a consistency between the dependent and independent variable is analogous to creativity (Krefting, 1991). Because of this the researcher took considerable time with each respondent effectively analyzing the consistency of their internal validity which ensured the credibility of the findings. Another technique related to confirming data viability, credibility and reliability was the use of member checks, which involved “revealing research materials to the informants” in order to assure accurate translation of their viewpoints into data (Krefting, 1991, p. 219). This process required checking back with the participants about the information they provided so that they could comment, evaluate, and confirm that the recorded narrative reflected their experience.

Data Analysis Technique

Thematic analysis was the main tool for analysis for the primary data collected through the interviewing of the respondents. Thematic analysis involves a widely used qualitative research method of first hand data analysis which primarily focuses on the identification and relation of patterns, themes and connections within the data (Braun and Clarke, 2006). Through the analysis of first hand data which can be collected through a wide range of different methods such as questionnaires, observation as well as interviews, inferences that are accurate, effective, reliable and replicable can be obtained from the various patterns and themes to further explore the concept emotional abuse and its impact to the victims as well as the perpetrators.

Ethical Considerations

While the research study revolves around the use of human beings as a source of information, ethical consideration arise especially with specific concern to granting them relevant courtesy as pointed out by (Mason, 2010). Given the sensitivity regarding the issue of emotional abuse the researcher proceeded with caution asking questions in a non aggressive manner keeping in mind that words could easily impact the victims into feeling emotionally violated. The respondent’s identities were kept anonymous to ensure the preservance of their identities. In addition the interviews were carried out in a comfortable pace mostly chosen by the respondents themselves to enhance their comfort and dignity.

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  • Askin, C. (2015). Five Reasons People Abuse their Partners. [online] Psychology Today. Available at: [Accessed 30 Mar. 2019].
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  • Capezza, N., D’Intino, L., Flynn, M. and Arriaga, X. (2017). Perceptions of Psychological Abuse: The Role of Perpetrator Gender, Victim’s Response, and Sexism. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, p.088626051774121.
  • Gervis, M., Rhind, D. and Luzar, A. (2016). Perceptions of emotional abuse in the coach–athlete relationship in youth sport: The influence of competitive level and outcome. International Journal of Sports Science & Coaching, 11(6), pp.772-779.
  • Gordon, S. (2018). Invisible Wounds: How Emotional Abuse Impacts Victims. [online] Verywell Mind. Available at: [Accessed 30 Mar. 2019].
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  • Stosny, S. (2015). What Drives Emotional Abuse and How to Begin to Recover. [online] Psychology Today. Available at: [Accessed 30 Mar. 2019].

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