The Relationship of Men’s and Women’s Partner Violence to Personality and Psychopathology

Bates, Elizabeth Anne (2012) The Relationship of Men’s and Women’s Partner Violence to Personality and Psychopathology. Doctoral thesis, University of Central Lancashire.

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The aim of the current project was to test two competing views on the study of Intimate Partner Violence (IPV), namely the feminist and violence perspectives. The feminist perspective views IPV as having an individual etiology and should not be considered within the context of other types of aggression (see for example, Dobash & Dobash, 1979). The violence perspective sees IPV as something to be studied alongside other aggression by examining the characteristics and psychopathology of the perpetrator (see for example, Felson, 2002; 2006; 2010). The first part of the thesis used IPV and same-sex aggression measures (a modified version of the Conflict Tactics Scale; Straus, 1979) alongside a measure of controlling behavior (Controlling Behavior Scale; Graham-Kevan & Archer, 2005) to test a number of hypotheses derived from the feminist theory of IPV – including Johnson’s (1995) typology. Results provided contradictory evidence for this theory including, but not limited to, women’s preponderance to perpetrate IPV and controlling behaviors at a greater frequency than men, the lack of significant differences in classification for Johnson’s typology and the finding that same-sex aggression perpetration was associated with controlling behaviors towards a partner.
The second part of the thesis then went onto to explore studying IPV within a violence perspective. This involved examining associations between aggression and other personality and psychopathology variables to determine their predictive power. These chapters were further presented within Finkel’s (2007) I3 framework as either impelling or inhibiting forces. The series of studies involved examining both stable and dynamic risk factors that have been found in the previous literature to be associated with IPV and same-sex aggression namely: (1) attachment styles and psychopathic traits; (2) self-control, empathy, anxiety and perceived physical retaliation and (3) paired variables of cost-benefit assessment and instrumental-expressive beliefs. Results revealed several important findings for the theoretical literature and implications for treatment and interventions. Firstly, IPV and same-sex aggression shared similar significant risk factors; this indicates the similar etiology of aggression in general and provides support for studying IPV within the “violence perspective”. Secondly, men and women shared some similar risk factors. The differences supported the view that women have better inhibiting control than men and that the inhibiting forces within Finkel’s framework may be more useful in predicting women’s aggression with the impelling forces being more useful for men’s aggression. Thirdly, it demonstrated the importance of both impelling and inhibiting forces in predicting aggressive behavior, the latter of which has received relatively less research attention. Finally, and following on from the previous point, the current project has drawn attention to the research potential of Finkel’s framework. The implications here involve the way IPV perpetrators are treated within both the criminal justice system and in terms of intervention programmes. This project has provided contradictory evidence to the feminist theory that underpins the current treatment programs in use. Suggestions for future research and how interventions can be improved are discussed.

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