In this series of article reviews, we will dissect the latest research papers important to mental health education and advocacy.

October 30, 2023 – 6 min read

Partner psychological abuse: Can you leave home at work? by Merideth J Thompson, Kaylee Hackney, Wayne Crawford, Julena M. Bonner, Dawn S Carlson

Introduction to Article

This study by Thompson et al. was conducted in 2023 and published in the Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology. The authors considered the role of partner psychological abuse in self-esteem and how that influenced job performance. Additionally, the authors focused on whether psychological detachment could buffer the relationship between psychological abuse, self-esteem, and job performance.


The authors surveyed 176 heterosexual couples where both partners worked full-time. They were then asked to complete various surveys to measure self-esteem, job performance, and psychological abuse. Psychological abuse was measured using the emotional/verbal abuse scale from the Psychological Maltreatment of Women Inventory. Self-esteem was measured using Rosenberg’s self-esteem inventory. Psychological detachment was measured with the Recovery Experience Scale, specifically modified to focus on detachment from family. Finally, job performance was measured using Liden et al.’s scale. All of these were self-reported, and the respondents were asked a series of questions and asked to indicate to what extent they agreed with the statements.


For both husbands and wives, psychological abuse was found to have a significant adverse effect on self-esteem. If someone reported higher levels of psychological abuse, they would also have lower self-esteem. The authors also found that self-esteem was significantly and positively related to job performance: higher self-esteem means the employee will perform better. Additionally, the authors found that psychological abuse was a significant factor in explaining the relationship between self-esteem and job performance in both husbands and wives. Interestingly, only the husband could buffer the relationship between psychological abuse and job performance through psychological detachment. In other words, when the husband’s psychological detachment from the family was high, the relationship between psychological abuse and job performance decreased.


The first issue with the study is the smaller sample size. Only 176 couples responded to the survey, so it may be difficult to generalize this to the general population. Additionally, the couples were overwhelmingly white and college-educated, reflecting a relatively narrow demographic segment of the American population. Each variable was also self-reported, meaning people may not have been truthful when answering survey questions, and there would be no way to verify the answers.

ARE U Takeaways

  • The first takeaway from this study is that employers need to understand that events in the home could have a significant effect on job performance. Because of this, employers should offer services to employees that encourage them to feel empowered at home and while on the job.
  • Employers could try and encourage psychological detachment in their male employees experiencing psychological abuse to avoid adverse effects on job performance.


Thompson, M. J., Hackney, K., Crawford, W., Bonner, J. M., & Carlson, D. S. (2023). Partner psychological abuse: Can you leave home at work? Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 96(2), 457–472.