In their review of data from the Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study (a longitudinal birth cohort study) Moffitt et al. report that while men exhibit more aggression overall, sex is not a reliable predictor of interpersonal aggression, including psychological aggression. The study found that no matter what gender this person is, aggressive people share a cluster of traits, including high rates of suspicion and jealousy; sudden and drastic mood swings; poor self-control; and higher than average rates of approval of violence and aggression. Moffitt et al. also argue that antisocial men exhibit two distinct types of interpersonal aggression (one against strangers, the other against intimate female partners), while antisocial women are rarely aggressive against anyone other than intimate male partners.
Male and female perpetrators of emotional and physical abuse exhibit high rates of personality disorders, particularly borderline personality disorder, narcissistic personality disorder, and antisocial personality disorder. Rates of personality disorder in the general population are roughly 15%-20%, while roughly 80% of abusive men in court-ordered treatment programs have personality disorders.
Abusers may aim to avoid household chores or exercise total control of family finances. Abusers can be very manipulative, often recruiting friends, law officers and court officials, even the victim's family to their side, while shifting blame to the victim.
Emotional abuse of a child is commonly defined as a pattern of behavior by parents or caregivers that can seriously interfere with a child’s cognitive, emotional, psychological, or social development. Some parents may emotionally and psychologically harm their children because of stress, poor parenting skills, social isolation, and lack of available resources or inappropriate expectations of their children. They may emotionally abuse their children because the parents or caregivers were emotionally abused during their own childhood. Straus and Field report that psychological aggression is a pervasive trait of American families: "verbal attacks on children, like physical attacks, are so prevalent as to be just about universal." A 2008 study by English, et al. found that fathers and mothers were equally likely to be verbally aggressive towards their children.
Choi and Mayer performed a study on elder abuse (causing harm or distress to an older person), with results showing that 10.5% of the participants were victims of "emotional/psychological abuse," which was most often perpetrated by a son or other relative of the victim. Of 1288 cases in 2002–2004, 1201 individuals, 42 couples, and 45 groups were found to have been abused. Of these, 70 percent were female. Psychological abuse (59%) and material/financial (42%) were the most frequently identified types of abuse