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Common couple violence (CCV) is a type of domestic violence identified by researcher Michael Johnson as a relationship dynamic "in which conflict occasionally gets ‘out of hand’, leading usually to ‘minor’ forms of violence, and more rarely escalating into serious, sometimes even life-threatening, forms of violence” [1] Johnson contrasts CCV with "Patriarchal terrorism," (PT) a more unilateral form of domestic violence in which a husband engages in a pattern of abuse to control a wife, who does not reciprocate with physical aggression.

In CCV, acts of violence by men and women occur at fairly equal rates, with rare occurrences of injury, and are not committed in an attempt to control a partner.[2] It is estimated that around 50% of couples experience CCV in their relationships.[2]


CCV is characterized by a few main traits:

Mildly aggressive behavior such as throwing objects, ranging to more aggressive behaviors such as pushing, slapping, biting, scratching, or hair pulling.
Less frequent than PT, occurring once in a while during an argument or disagreement.
Milder than PT, rarely escalates over time from mild to more severe abuse, would not include injuries that were serious or caused one partner to be admitted to a hospital.
Violence is equally expressed by both partners in the relationship
Occurs out of anger rather than as a means for gaining control and power over the other partner.

Further research

In 2004, Graham-Kevan & Archer[3] were able to partly replicate Johnson's hypothesis. However, they identified three subtypes of domestic violence rather than Johnson's two: CCV; what they termed "intimate terrorism," (IT) noting that women and men can both use violence to control non-violent mates; and "mutual violent control" where both partners use IT-levels of violence. However, Graham-Kevan & Archer also stressed that their and Johnson's research sampling methods should be regarded as preliminary: their subjects were relatively few in number and were drawn from known crime victims or battered women, and thus may not be representative of randomized general population samples. Moreover, Graham-Kevan & Archer argued that, by relying entirely on analysis of data from one partner in an abusive relationship, Johnson's study was incomplete and skewed due to reporting bias.

In 1998, Milardo[4] reported that women are more likely to initiate CCV in common dating scenarios (83% of female subjects were "at least somewhat likely" to use mild to moderate violence, compared to 53% of men). Furthermore, men reported higher rates of fearing they'd suffer CCV (70% of men vs. 50% of women). When quizzed on the use of more serious violence analogous to Patriarchal or Intimate Terrorism, Milardo found that women were again more likely to approve of its use against a partner. However, women had higher rates of fearing they'd be seriously battered.


  1. Johnson, M. P., (1995). Patriarchal terrorism and common couple violence: Two forms of violence against women. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 57, 283–294.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Olson, L. N. (2002). Exploring Common Couple Violence in Heterosexual Romantic Relationships. Western Journal of Communication, 66, 104–125.
  4. Milardo, Robert M. (1998) Gender asymmetry in common couple violence. Personal Relationships, Volume 5 Issue 4, Pages 423 - 438
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