Inconsistency in definition is the greatest in the area of non-physical violence. Even the terminology varies from professional to professional. Terms such as emotional abuse, psychological maltreatment, verbal abuse, mental abuse, emotional maltreatment and psychological violence are commonly used to describe non-physical aggression. Some view these terms as synonymous whereas others may make differentiations between forms. For example, emotional abuse may be defined as those behaviors that both partners may exhibit and are likely to include: name-calling, negative judgments or actions (such as yelling) that result in causing the other person psychological pain or discomfort. Psychological violence may be characterized as carrying an implied threat of physical violence, or attempt to intimidate or control the other person. Whether this distinction between psychological violence and emotional abuse is correct, the fact remains these distinctions is an attempt to begin to decipher the concept of psychological violence from marital disagreements.
The Psychological Violence towards Women Inventory, developed by Richard Tolman, is one of the first psychometric-type tests that have been developed for specifically measuring psychological violence by male batterers. After analyzing a fifty-eight-statement questionnaire using responses of both battered women and male batterers, Tolman found that statements fell into one of two categories: domination/isolation (which included isolation from resources, demands for subservience, and rigid observance of traditional sex roles) and emotional/verbal (which included verbal attacks, behavior that demeans the woman, and withholding of emotional resources).
The obvious clinical advantage to this measurement tool is the ability of the therapist to more accurately assess the types of psychological maltreatment occurring in a relationship. It provides for some consistency between clients with regard to both definitions and specific behaviors. A person can argue the flaws of different methods but this tool is useful in a clinical setting by assisting the therapist in identifying psychological violence in a therapeutic session.
It is clear from research that although there are still many important differences between the various definitions of psychological maltreatment, there is also a great deal of agreement between definitional approaches. What is still unanswered is what short and long term effects the various types of psychological abuse have on victims.