Academic journal article Hong Kong Journal of Psychiatry

Jealousy and Violence

Academic journal article Hong Kong Journal of Psychiatry

Jealousy and Violence

Article excerpt


The evidence linking jealousy to violence is reviewed. The violence of jealousy is predominantly vented on the partner rather than the actual or supposed rival. Men are responsible for the majority of the killings and serious injuries resulting from jealousy, though this may reflect less a quality of male jealousy and more the qualities of male aggression. A number of the judgements constitutive of jealousy are associated with feelings and predispositions to behave which impel the jealous individual towards aggression. In morbid jealousies the risks of violence occurring appears to be increased. There is a tradition in Common Law courts of regarding jealousy either as a potentially mitigating factor or as laying a basis for both mental health defences and a defence of provocation. It should be remembered, however, that in those who resort to violence when jealous it is often not the quality of the jealousy which is critical but the individual's other characteristics such as impulsiveness, insensitivity and substance abuse.

Keywords: jealousy, violence, aggression, morbid jealousy, legal defences


Sexual Jealousy is part of the experience of most adults at some time in their lives, and for many it creates significant disturbance and distress. Jealousy is all too often associated with threats and violence directed at the suspected partner. This paper will address the problems created by the violence of jealousy.

The contribution of jealousy to domestic violence and spousal homicide will be discussed but it is important to remember that violence usually emerges from a complex concatenation of influences in which jealousy may be prominent, but is rarely of itself sufficient. Jealousy is common and infidelity is common, but violence, though far too common, occurs in only a minority of such cases with killing as an extreme rarity. Jealousy may well be the prime motivation for an act of violence but this still leaves open why this individual, on this particular occasion, resorted to force. In considering the forensic implications of an offender's jealousy, it is not just a matter of establishing whether that jealousy is part of a mental disorder or considered morbid in it's own right, it is also a question of the relevance of such jealousy to the pleas being advanced.


In a recent community study of jealousy 15% of both men and women reported that they had, at some time, been subjected to physical violence at the hands of a jealous partner (Mullen & Martin 1994). The role played by jealousy in both initiating domestic violence and in attempts by perpetrators to justify their violence cannot be overstated. In a study carried out in Scotland nearly half of the 109 battered women interviewed identified their partner's excessive possessiveness and sexual jealousy as the typical precipitant of violence (Dobash & Dobash 1980). Two thirds of the women at a refuge for battered women in the London area reported that their partner's excessive jealousy was the primary cause of the violence and that in many cases the partner's suspicions were entirely Without foundation (Gayford 1975, 1979). Studies from North America produced similar results with for example Hilberman and Manson (1977) reporting that extreme jealousy contributed to the violence in most of their group of 60 battered women; and Rounsaville (1978) noted similar findings with 52% of the battered women listing jealousy as the main problem and no less than 94% naming it as a frequent cause. Interesting in one of the few studies to ask men why they battered their partners, they most often nominated anger at supposed infidelity (Brisson 1983). Whitehurst (1971) reporting on 100 cases of spousal violence noted in newly every case, the husband appeared to be responding out of frustration at his inability to control the partner, and that the overt accusation was that the partner was sexually unfaithful. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.