Male Soldier Family Violence Offenders: Spouse and Child Offenders Compared to Child Offenders

By Martin, Sandra L.; Gibbs, Deborah A. et al. | Violence and Victims, July 1, 2009 | Go to article overview

Male Soldier Family Violence Offenders: Spouse and Child Offenders Compared to Child Offenders


Martin, Sandra L., Gibbs, Deborah A., Johnson, RuE, Rentz, E. Danielle, Clinton-Sherrod, Monique, Walters, Jennifer L. Hardison, Sullivan, Kristen, Violence and Victims


Army data from 2000 to 2004 were used to compare two groups of married, male, Army soldier, first-time family violence offenders: 760 dual offenders (whose initial incident included both child maltreatment and spouse abuse) and 2,209 single offenders (whose initial incident included only child maltreatment). The majority (81%) of dual offenders perpetrated physical spouse abuse; however, dual offenders were less likely than single offenders to perpetrate physical child abuse (16% vs. 42%) or sexual child abuse (1% vs. 11%), but they were more likely to perpetrate emotional child abuse (45% vs. 12%). These findings may be, at least in part, explained in light of the Army Family Advocacy Program policy, which considers spouse offenders as also being emotional child abuse offenders since children may be traumatized by exposure to spouse abuse.

Keywords: Army; child maltreatment; domestic violence; family violence; military services; spouse abuse

Research has clearly established that family violence, including child maltreatment and intimate partner violence, is a widespread problem, with most of this research focusing on civilian families. Each year, approximately 1.5 million U.S. women experience physical intimate partner violence (Tjaden & Thoennes, 2000), while nearly 3 million U.S. children are reported to social services because of child maltreatment (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2006).

Not only are intimate partner violence and child maltreatment prevalent, but these two forms of violence frequently co-occur within civilian families. For example, studies of battered women have found that the women's children often have been maltreated (Jouriles & LeCompte, 1991; O'Keefe, 1995; Shipman, Rossman, & West, 1999). Similarly, studies of children who have been maltreated have found that the children's parents often have experienced intimate partner violence (Hartley, 2002; McKibben, DeVos, & Newberger, 1989). Community-based investigations also have found high rates of co-occurrence of intimate partner violence and child maltreatment (Edleson, Mbilinyi, Beeman, & Hagemeister, 2003; Ross, 1996; Zolotor, Theodore, Coyne-Beasley, & Runyan, 2007), as have literature reviews on this topic (Appel & Holder , 1998; Edleson, 1999; Osofsky, 2003).

A growing body of research on violence in military families documents that these families also experience intimate partner violence and child maltreatment (Gibbs, Martin, Kupper, & Johnson, 2007; Gibbs et al., 2008 ; Martin, et al., 2007; McCarroll, Newby, & Thayer, 1999; McCarroll, et al., 1999; McCarroll, Ursano, Fan, & Newby, 2004a, 2004b, 2004c; Mollerstrom, Patchner, & Milner, 1992, 1995; Newby et al., 2000; Raiha & Soma, 1997; Rentz et al., 2007; Rentz et al., 2008 ; Wasileski, Callaghan-Chaffee, & Chaffee, 1982). Although little research has focused on the co-occurrence of intimate partner violence and child maltreatment in military families, some research has found that military families with spouse abuse have elevated rates of child maltreatment relative to military families without spouse abuse (Rumm, Cummings, Krauss, Bell, & Rivara, 2000).

Research has documented that intimate partner violence and child maltreatment may co-occur within both civilian families and military families; however, there is a relative dearth of information concerning the male violence perpetrators within these families, in particular, how male "dual offenders" who offend against both their intimate partners and their children are different from (or similar to) male "single offenders" who offend against their children but not their intimate partners.

One investigation that included such a comparison studied parents in England and Wales who were assessed by a forensic psychology consulting service after allegations of child maltreatment (Dixon, Hamilton-Giachritsis, Browne, & Ostapuik, 2007). …

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