Domestic Violence and Psychology: A Critical Perspective

Domestic Violence and Psychology: A Critical Perspective

Domestic Violence and Psychology: A Critical Perspective

Domestic Violence and Psychology: A Critical Perspective


This book rethinks the way psychological knowledge of domestic violence has typically been constructed. It puts forward a psychological perspective which is both critical of the traditional 'woman blaming' stance, as well as being at odds with the feminist position that men are wholly to blame for domestic abuse and that violence in intimate relationships is caused by gender-power relations. It is rather argued that to neglect the emotions, experiences and psychological explanations for domestic violence is to fail those who suffer and thwart attempts to prevent future abuse.

Paula Nicolson suggests that domestic violence needs to be discussed and understood on several levels: materialcontexts, including resources such as support networks as well as the physical impact of violence, the discursive, as a social problem or gendered analysis, and the emotionallevel which can be both conscious and unconscious.

Drawing on the work of scholars including Giddens, Foucault, Klein and Winnicott, and using interview and survey data to illustrate its arguments, Domestic Violence and Psychologydevelops a theoretical framework for examining the context, intentions and experiences in the lives of women in abusive relationships, the men who abuse and the children who suffer in the abusive family. As such this book will be of great interest to those studying social and clinical psychology, social work, cultural studies, sociology and women's studies.


This has been the most difficult book I have ever written. Thinking and talking about psychology and domestic violence and abuse is harrowing. The experiences women describe are brutal, malicious and unforgiveable. Even as I am writing this, more stories of domestic violence flash up on the home page of my computer screen. Twenty-five minutes ago for example the trial of a man in Bedfordshire (England) for killing his ex-girlfriend by stabbing her more than forty times was reported as postponed until November 2009. His counsel have pleaded diminished responsibility and the court has requested psychological reports. What could possibly cause a man to inflict such a vicious and frenzied attack on someone he was once so close to? Just a few days ago in the English Midlands a 9-year-old girl was found strangled in a lorry and the driver (her mother’s boyfriend) was found hanged in a field nearby having presumably taken his own life after killing the young girl. A couple of days later:

Detective Chief Inspector Tricia Kirk, of Northamptonshire Police,
said today that police could not rule out that there was some sexual
touching involved in the incident that led to her death. Ms Kirk also
revealed Walker, 40, the boyfriend of Stacey’s mother Roxanne, had
a history of a domestic incident involving his wife of three years who
he was currently in the process of divorcing. She said: ‘He was
cautioned for that offence and we have no other criminal records for
him.’ She said the incident involved an assault on his wife in 2006.

It is sickening to hear of such things and domestic abuse and violence seem to be all around us. But writing about domestic violence and abuse has been made much harder because of the politics surrounding it and how I have understood my own position within them. In the past I have found it (relatively) easy to take a clear stand across the complex matters which have involved women’s psychological and physical oppression by individual men, patriarchal institutions and professions (such as universities, psychiatry or . . .

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