Abusive Relationships: Causes, Consequences & Prevention

Instructor: Holly DeLuca

Holly has taught special education students and has a master's degree in special education

In this lesson, we will look at why abusive relationships occur, what can happen as a result of them, and ways to prevent becoming a victim of an abusive relationship.

What Is an Abusive Relationship?

Relationship abuse occurs when there is a pattern of behavior used to gain control and power over an intimate partner. This can occur with both former and current partners. Abuse can come in many forms, such as emotional, physical, and financial. It can also extend to threats or intimidation. Abusers also tend to isolate their victim to further gain control over them.

Abuse comes in many different forms, and it is important to recognize the warning signs. For example, imagine you are a teenager, and you start to date a new partner. Over time, your partner starts to isolate you from your friends. Instead of going out with a group, you spend more and more time alone with just your partner. After that, they start to call you names and tell you that you are not allowed to see certain members of your social circle. An example such as this is a warning sign that the relationship is headed toward abuse.


There are many reasons that a person may become an abuser in a relationship. The most common attitudes of an abuser, which contribute to why they choose to abuse a victim include: a sense of entitlement, a belief of deserving control over a partner, belief that the abuser can 'get away with it,' belief that being abusive gets them what they want, and a belief that their wants, needs, and ideas should take priority over their victim's.

There has been a lot of research into the causes of relationship abuse. Research has shown that there are common misconceptions about what causes abuse. Abuse is not caused by being provoked, anger, mental health issues, or a 'loss of control' over one's actions. Being abusive is a choice that a person makes. When they choose to blame the abuse on something other than themselves, it is simply a means to try to justify the behavior.

Long Term Results

There are a number of effects of being in an abusive relationship. These include physical, psychological, and economic effects. Like the example above, if you are abused as a young person, the effects can be long term on your health. Imagine again you are in a relationship with a potentially abusive person. This can affect your physical health by leaving physical scars and bruises, affect your emotional well being if you are being called names, or affect you economically if you are forced to relocate or call off from work.

Physical Effects

There are many different physical effects that can occur to a battered victim. In addition to bruises or scars, long term effects include arthritis, high blood pressure, and heart disease.

Psychological Effects

Depression, suicide attempts, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and behavioral and emotional difficulties can occur as a result of being abused. Children, in particular, can suffer long term emotional and behavioral problems after being associated with a victim of relationship abuse.

Economic Effects

Loss of a job due to being absent, needing to move locations, and cost of health-related issues are all impacts that abuse can have on a victim in an economic sense. A victim may want to stay away from work due to these issues and may lose their job because of it. Moving is costly, but may be necessary to get away from an abuser. Finally, the cost of utilizing a health plan to deal with the effects of abuse are expensive as well.

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