Post-traumatic stress disorder and battered women

Muriel Stitt, Fordham University


The present study attempted to provide empirical support for the theoretical and anecdotal literature suggesting that large numbers of battered women suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The study predicted that for battered women, as for Vietnam War veterans, greater severity of battering would be associated with greater severity of PTSD symptomatology. It also predicted that women who had been raped in addition to being physically battered would exhibit more severe PTSD. Finally, the study investigated the relationship between perceived lack of success in stopping the violence and depression in battered women. Forty-one women using battered women's shelters and a support group were administered the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-III-R, Nonpatient Version, which yields DSM-III-R diagnoses of PTSD and Major Depressive Syndrome. They were also administered the Conflict Tactics Scales, to measure the amount of physical violence experienced during the most violent year of their relationship, and to assess the presence and frequency of marital rape. An Unsuccessful Attempts Scale was used to measure which of nineteen strategies they had attempted to stop the violence, and to rate their effectiveness on a five point scale, from "very effective" to "made things worse." Seventy-five per cent of the sample was suffering from PTSD at the time of the interview. Another ten per cent met the criteria for the disorder in the past. As predicted, greater severity of battering during the most violent year of the relationship was strongly associated with greater number of PTSD symptoms, r(39) =.49, $p<.001.$ Almost 60% of the sample was raped by their partner in addition to being battered. As hypothesized, greater frequency of rape was strongly associated with greater number of PTSD symptoms, r(39) =.50, $p<.001.$ Ninety-five per cent of the women had been clinically depressed at some time during their abusive relationship, and 51% were depressed at the time of the interview. As expected, women who experienced themselves as less successful in stopping the violence tended to be currently depressed, r(39) =.30, $p<.06.$ Treatment recommendations and social policy implications are discussed.

Subject Area

Psychotherapy|Womens studies

Recommended Citation

Stitt, Muriel, "Post-traumatic stress disorder and battered women" (1993). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9324630.