Understanding the Personality Science and Trait Elevations of Survivors

Other factors have contributed to the mis-, dis-, and non-identification of Pathological Love Relationships and atypical trauma related to theoretical assumptions commonly assigned to these survivors related to Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) theories and stereotypical victim profiles.

In the article on this website, ‘The Unidentified Victim,’ numerous identification problems and related theories wrongly applied to these survivors are noted. Victim profiles that have been studied since IPV theories of the 1970s show us how particular areas of study have been ignored including the sub group of trauma survivors who do not match stereotypical victim profiles.

Victims most studied were DV shelter populations which highlighted economic, mental health, addiction, and adverse early childhood traumas. Victim profiles (and corresponding theories) were highly predicated on the outcome of shelter studies and mostly studied psycho-social, mental health, and previous trauma schemas which formed the profiles. What was absent from those studies were studies on sub groups of victims who never utilized DV services (thus not in one localized setting for study), those without economic, mental health, addiction, or early traumas. Also absent were studies of personality.

Personality attributions of victim profiles were assigned rather than tested, based on DV victim studies where adverse childhood trauma would produce ‘learned helplessness’ contributing to ‘battered women’s syndrome,’ ‘codependency,’ ‘dependency,’ and/or ‘relationship addiction.’ But what has been missing is more concrete testing of DV victim personality traits that might better explain inter-relational dynamics arising from innate stable personality features in the victim than assumed ‘Nurture Theories’ of family of origin or adverse early childhood—that is, personality as causal, studying those in which family of origin and adverse childhoods are not applicable, and studying those who have not had mental health, economic, or addiction problems. Personality as an originating factor has been lacking.

Thirty years in the field led the Institute to question these outcomes. Over the years we were following the data on our clients. We performed our own in-house personality testing utilizing the Temperament and Character Inventory (TCI) and later collaborated with Purdue University testing 600 women in relationships with Cluster B/Psychopathic partners. The majority of our clients, in the past and in the research, were college educated, did not use DV services, did not have prior mental health, addiction, adverse early childhood experiences, or chronic economic hardships. They were in fact, completely opposite of DV shelter population profiles creating a sub-set of IPV victims. From the start, the factors most readily believed to be contributing causes to IPV were not applicable to our clients which made us ask, “Then what is it?”

The single unifying factor, when other believed contributing causes were eliminated, were two personality trait elevations shown in both the TCI and the Five Factor testing instruments. So strong was one of the personality trait elevations showing no wide sprinkling of outcomes across the spread creating a noteworthy and alarming (to Purdue) notation of consistent configurations.

These consistent trait elevations across two personality domains, and particularly one very strong domain, paint the picture of personality trait elevations in the high-normal range that predisposes victims to personalities that would be targeted by Cluster B/psychopathic partners and contribute from personality configuration to the longevity of the relationship (thus traumatic exposure), and the direct intensified traumatic impact experienced because of the personality constellation.

Now identified, these two trait elevations bring different information to be considered in both the theory of IPV in general, and specifically to victims who do not match the psycho-social and historical profiles of stereotypical victims. It also raises questions for the stereotypical victims who do have economic, mental health, and adverse childhoods if personality elevations should not also be considered as causal.

To date, IPV and trauma treatment have largely been predicated on the ‘experience’ of trauma without the consideration of innate and stable personality traits that may not lie in the normal range of personality and its effect on prevention, intervention, and its impact to how trauma is experienced when personality factors are on the other side of the bell curve.

Considering 60 million people are traumatically affected by Cluster B/psychopathic partners, it means the overwhelming majority of them carry these trait elevations identified by the Institute as ‘Super Traits’ that warrant understanding for appropriate trauma treatment.