Personality and motivational/situational influences in the decision to leave a physically abusive relationship: An examination of a theory of planned behavior

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


Counseling Psychology

First Committee Member

Carolyn S. Garwood - Committee Chair

Second Committee Member

Robin Buhrke - Committee Member


The three basic purposes of this study were to determine critical variables that (1) differentiate women who intend to leave physically abusive relationships from those who do not; (2) contribute to the achievement of the behavioral goal of leaving physically abusive relationships; and (3) differentiate women who actually leave physically abusive relationships from those who do not leave.Data were collected from a sample of 74 women from county shelters, a county correctional facility, a county domestic violence program, and private psychotherapy practice groups. Subjects completed a questionnaire constructed using guidelines specified by the Ajzen-Fishbein and Madden model of planned behavior. They also completed the Millon Clinical Multiaxial Inventory II, and responded to a one month follow-up contact. Procedures for data analyses included a stepwise multiple regression analysis, a discriminant analysis, and post hoc crosstabulations. Significant predictors of behavioral intention included measures of perceived behavioral control and attitude. Significant predictors of enactment of the behavioral goal, leaving the abusive relationship, included attitude and behavioral intention. Neither personality disorder scales nor self-efficacy scales were significant predictors of enactment of the behavioral goal. Post hoc analyses indicated that women from shelters, those not living with the partner, those not married, and those with a relationship duration of less than six years, were more likely to leave the relationship at least initially. Age, number of children, severity and frequency of abuse, and expected income showed no significant differences between expected and observed frequencies.In conclusion, the Ajzen-Fishbein and Madden model of planned behavior seems useful in predicting behavioral intention and enactment of the behavioral goal of leaving an abusive relationship. Personality traits do not appear to be directly related to the prediction of this behavior. Recommendations for future research include refinement of the study questionnaire and cross validation of these study results.


Women's Studies; Education, Guidance and Counseling; Psychology, Clinical; Psychology, Personality

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