Can positivity be counterproductive when suffering domestic abuse?: A narrative review

Ellen Sinclair, Rona Hart, Tim Lomas


Positive Psychology has been criticized for making people feel pressured to remain positive irrespective of circumstances.  This narrative review specifically investigates the relationship between positive attitudes and denial in the context of domestic abuse, in order to examine whether there is research evidence to support the critique on the adverse upshots of positivity. The search yielded 29 studies. Overall the literature suggests that misdirected or overgeneralized positivity exacerbates harm and abuse: an optimistic bias can put victims in danger; empathy, hope, acceptance and resilience are associated with refraining to leave abusive relationships; and forgiveness increases the likelihood of further transgressions. We therefore argue that scholars and practitioners need demonstrate care in promoting positivity, since it can be detrimental within a toxic context.


Domestic Abuse, Positivity, Denial, Critical Systematic Review

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