This study is designed to evaluate the mechanisms by which """"""""abuse predisposing"""""""" contextual factors and affective/cognitive processes influence abusive couples conflictual communication. Negative communication and verbal aggression have been found to be the most significant precipitants of interspousal physical aggression, but no research has evaluated processes that mediate this negative communication in physically abusive spouses. To address this issue 240 married couples will be assessed on three broad classes of variables: (a) contextual factors related to environmental factors and intrapersonal characteristics; (b) affective/cognitive processes related to appraisal and attribution during problem solving; and (c) spouses' expressed affect and verbal communication during problem solving. A model of communication is presented hypothesizing that contextual factors will influence negativity in communication primarily through the mediation of affective and cognitive processes. The participants are three groups of clinic couples who seek marital therapy and a control group. The resulting four groups are as follows: (1) severe physical abuse/marital distress; (2) mild physical abuse/marital distress; (3) no physical abuse/marital distress; (4) no physical abuse/no marital distress. The criteria used for subject selection are based on reports of husband-to-wife abuse. To address the question of """"""""how"""""""" and """"""""what"""""""" abuse-predisposing contextual factors and affective cognitive variables influence negative communication in physically abusive couples, various tests of different components of the model will be conducted sequentially by evaluating first the effect of contextual factors on the spouses affective/cognitive processes concomitant with problem solving; second, the effect of the spouses affective cognitive processes on their communication patterns; and third, the combined effect of contextual and affective/cognitive variables on spouses negative communication patterns. Physical abuse is predicted to relate to negative contextual variables and attribution processes during problem solving. The degree of negativity in appraisal and attribution processes is expected to relate especially to negativity in conflictual interactions.
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