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Relationship Violence Linked to Controlling Boyfriend

Know what it’s like to have a controlling boyfriend? You know the type — the kind who dictates everything you do, who you go out with, how late you can stay out, and just about every other aspect of your life. Most young women do, according to new research that found nearly 7 out of 10 women have experienced controlling behavior in their relationship.

Furthermore, the new study found that nearly 1 in 3 women report being in not only a controlling relationship, but also an abusive one — one where they are subjected to physical violence, sexual violence, or both in their relationship.

The study looked at the connection between relationship and sexual violence, and controlling behaviors by using an anonymous, self-administered computer-based interview at a reproductive health center.

Out of 603 women (ages 15-24 years old) who took the survey, 411 women — an astonishing 68 percent of the women surveyed — reported experiencing one or more episodes of controlling behavior.

Most of the controlling behavior reported is nothing more than that — just over 38 percent of the women surveyed reported no additional problems in their relationship.

But nearly 30 percent of the women surveyed reported something more disturbing — that they were the recipient of both controlling behaviors and physical or sexual abuse as well. Nearly 9 percent of those women reported both kinds of relationship violence.

The authors found that there were a number of risk factors that were associated with being in a controlling relationship: being a younger adolescent (between the ages of 15 and 18), Hispanic ethnicity, childhood exposure to domestic violence, having reported one or more pregnancies, recent physical or sexual victimization, and being uncomfortable asking for condom use.

Of women reporting controlling behaviors, approximately one in 10 reported receiving all forms of victimization — sexual and physical aggression and controlling behaviors by a partner. However, the proportion of women reporting controlling behaviors varied across the types of behaviors exhibited.

For example, 3.7 percent of women reported that their partner expected them to ask his permission before seeking health care, and 6.3 percent reported that their partner tried to restrict their contact with family.

Conversely, nearly 25 percent of the women surveyed reported that their partner ignored or treated them indifferently. An additional 26.5 percent reported that their partner tried to keep them from seeing friends.

“These data demonstrate the high frequency of controlling behaviors in the relationships of adolescents and young adults and support a nuanced approach to universal screening of controlling behaviors,” the authors conclude.

“In addition, this awareness of the high rates of controlling behavior and the overlap with relationship violence, particularly for young people, may affect how they view health care provider-based screening and how honestly they might answer screening questions.

“An awareness that young women may not be comfortable disclosing information honestly should prompt carefully crafted, repeated, and novel screening to improve identification, referral and treatment.”

Marina Catallozzi, M.D., of the Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University, and colleagues conducted the study, which appears in the April issue of Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

Source: Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine

Relationship Violence Linked to Controlling Boyfriend

Psych Central News Editor

The Psych Central News Editor is a member of the Psych Central staff with background in journalism and mental health reporting. This is a rotating position, but is filled with a qualified reporter with appropriate psychology and mental health news experience.

APA Reference
News Editor, P. (2018). Relationship Violence Linked to Controlling Boyfriend. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 28, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018 (Originally: 4 Apr 2011)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
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