Why do people behave aggressively toward romantic partners, and what can put the brakes on this aggression? Provocation robustly predicts aggression in both intimate and nonintimate relationships. Four methodologically diverse studies tested the hypothesis that provocation severity and relationship commitment interact to predict aggression toward one's romantic partner, with the aggression-promoting effects of provocation diminishing as relationship commitment increases. Across all four studies, commitment to one's romantic relationship inhibited aggression toward one's partner when individuals were severely (but not mildly) provoked. Study 4 tested the hypothesis that this Partner Provocation × Commitment interaction effect would be strong among individuals high in dispositional tendencies toward retaliation but weak (perhaps even nonexistent) among individuals low in such tendencies. Discussion emphasizes the importance of understanding instigating, impelling, and inhibiting processes in the perpetration of aggression toward intimate partners.
- I theory
- Romantic relationships