Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Criminal Justice

First Advisor

Dr. Dean A. Dabney

Second Advisor

Dr. Mary A. Finn

Third Advisor

Dr. Leah E. Daigle

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Mark D. Reed


Intimate partner violence (IPV) is an enduring public health, social, and criminal justice problem with immediate and long-term negative effects on family health and the economy. To date, only some of the abusive behaviors involving IPV have been criminalized despite the correlation of nonphysical coercive controlling behaviors with serious and escalating IPV (Beck & Raghavan, 2010; Tanha, Beck, Figueredo, & Raghavan, 2010). Breiding, Basile, Smith, Black, & Mahendra (2015) and Breiding, Chen, & Black (2014) offer a model of IPV, which includes both physical violence and nonphysical abuse. This study appropriated the nonphysical abuse components of Breiding et al.’s IPV model to define a new coercive control framework. This framework was then used to analyze the descriptions of aggressive and abusive behaviors of intimate partners provided by a sample of 266 women whose partners or ex-partners were arrested for misdemeanor family violence offenses in Georgia. These interviews generated 581 distinct narratives of IPV incidents. Content analysis was used to capture themes derived from Breiding et. al.’s coercive control framework. Cases were coded for women having experienced only physical or sexual violence, only coercive control, or co-occurring physical and/or sexual violence and coercive control. The largest percentage of women (72% or n=191) reported incidents of co-occurring physical violence and coercive controlling behaviors. About one quarter (26.3% or n = 70) reported experiencing physical or sexual violence with no coercive control. Few women (7.5% or n = 20) reported only experiencing coercive control. Findings and discussions support elevating coercive controlling behaviors from a sub-subtype of IPV to a structural framework through which most IPV unfolds, as over 7 in 10 women experienced coercive control in the context of IPV. Recommendations for more effective system identification and management of coercive control as the IPV framework are included.