Traumatic bonding in victims of intimate partner violence is intensified via empathy

James Edem Effiong, Peace N. Ibeagha, Steven Kator Iorfa Iorfa*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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    Intimate partner violence (IPV) is an increasingly prevalent problem in most parts of the world including sub-Saharan Africa. However, little is known about the bonding patterns of IPV victims who decide to remain with the perpetrator despite the molestation. This study investigated the mediating role of empathy in the relationship between partner molestation and traumatic bonding among victims of IPV in Nigeria. Participants were 345 women purposively selected from female clients who visited the Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SART) Awka, Anambra State (n = 145) and the Lagos State Domestic and Sexual Violence Response Team, Lagos (n = 200). Their age ranged from 18-61 years (M=35.79; SD=8.6 years). They responded to the Composite Abuse Scale, the Basic Empathy Scale, and the Stockholm Syndrome Scale. Results of data analysis using the Hayes regression-based PROCESS macro showed that partner molestation was not significantly associated with traumatic bonding. Affective and cognitive components of empathy were positively associated with increased traumatic bonding. Estimates of indirect effects indicated that affective empathy and cognitive empathy served as pathways through which IPV was linked to dimensions of traumatic bonding. Empathy may engender tendencies that increase the likelihood for traumatic bonding. Findings highlight the dynamics of empathy in building and sustaining traumatic bonding in victims of IPV.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalJournal of Social and Personal Relationships
    Early online date2 Jun 2022
    Publication statusEarly online - 2 Jun 2022


    • Traumatic bonding
    • empathy
    • intimate partner violence
    • intervention
    • psychotherapy


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