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Gaslighting and its application to interpersonal violence

Prashansa Dickson (Department of Psychology, Georgia State University, Atlanta, Georgia, USA)
Jane L. Ireland (School of Psychology, University of Central Lancashire, Preston, UK and Ashworth Research Centre, Mersey Care NHS Trust, England, UK)
Philip Birch (School of International Studies and Education, University of Technology Sydney, Sydney, Australia)

Journal of Criminological Research, Policy and Practice

ISSN: 2056-3841

Article publication date: 25 January 2023

Issue publication date: 9 February 2023

1042

Abstract

Purpose

The study aims to examine the nature of gaslighting and how it relates to interpersonal aggression.

Design/methodology/approach

It does so first through application of a Rapid Evidence Assessment (REA) to understand how gaslighting is understood academically. This RAE captured 50 articles, with 12 retained for thematic review. Results were then used to develop a gaslighting behaviour measure, which was then applied in an online study of adults (n = 386; 77.2% women).

Findings

Five themes were identified from the REA: components of gaslighting; gaslighting as a tool for abuse; perpetrators as damaged manipulators; experiences and characteristics of victims; and institutional and racial gaslighting. In the ensuing study, results demonstrated that emotional abuse was broadly related both to the perpetration and experiencing of gaslighting, indicating that it may represent an extension of emotional abuse. The relationship to trait aggression was limited and primarily isolated to victims presenting with higher levels of trait aggression capturing more emotional components (e.g. anger/hostility).

Research limitations/implications

The importance of context in understanding the relationship between gaslighting, emotional abuse and aggression was indicated, with some complexity found. Suggestions for future research are made.

Practical implications

Accounting for context in understanding gaslighting is key. Developing and validating measures for gaslighting would assist with the evaluation of this behaviour. When working with those who have a history of emotional abuse, considering gaslighting as a further element is potentially important. It should not be assumed that gaslighting has an association with non-emotional aggression; the type of relationship where it is occurring is important.

Originality/value

This study is the first to consider the development of a gaslighting measure, which is informed by a methodological review of the literature.

Keywords

Citation

Dickson, P., Ireland, J.L. and Birch, P. (2023), "Gaslighting and its application to interpersonal violence", Journal of Criminological Research, Policy and Practice, Vol. 9 No. 1, pp. 31-46. https://doi.org/10.1108/JCRPP-07-2022-0029

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2022, Emerald Publishing Limited

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