Academic journal article Violence and Victims

Borderline and Antisocial Personality Scores as Mediators between Attachment and Intimate Partner Violence

Academic journal article Violence and Victims

Borderline and Antisocial Personality Scores as Mediators between Attachment and Intimate Partner Violence

Article excerpt

Court-mandated male batterers (n = 192) attending an intervention program completed measures examining adult attachment orientations (anxious and avoidant), personality disorders (borderline and antisocial), type of violence (psychological and physical), and social desirability. Structural equation modeling was used to determine whether there were significant relationships between anxious attachment and physical and psychological violence that are mediated by either borderline or antisocial personality disorders. Social desirability was included in both models as a covariate. Results indicated that personality disorders fully mediated the relationship between avoidant attachment and physical as well as psychological violence. Personality disorders only partially mediated the relationship between anxious attachment and psychological violence. Implications for intervention are discussed.

Keywords: etiology; batterer; intervention; borderline personality disorder; antisocial personality disorder

The recognition of intimate partner violence (IPV) as a serious and pervasive problem has prompted research exploring factors contributing to such violence. The urgency to attend to IPV is further highlighted by findings that it permeates every race, religion, social class, and educational level (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 1995; National Institute of Justice, 1998, 2000; Straus & Gelles, 1986). Research exploring the origins of IPV has identified a wide range of predictors that account for IPV against women (Schumacher, Feldbau-Kohn, Smith Slep, & Heyman, 2001; Schumacher, Smith Slep, & Heyman, 2001). Adult attachment characteristics and personality disorders are two predictors of IPV that have received increasing attention in recent years.


Attachment theory provides a rich conceptual framework for understanding IPV. Attachment theory (Bowlby, 1973, 1980, 1982) posits that, for the purpose of safety and survival, humans are innately driven to seek attachments or close enduring emotional bonds with others. Moreover, through attachment processes, individuals develop an internalized set of beliefs about self and other, known as "internal working models" (Bowlby, 1973, 1988). The internal working model of self influences one's perceptions about his or her self-worth, competence, and lovability, whereas the working model of other is responsible for expectations about the availability and trustworthiness of others.

When caregivers are available and consistently responsive during childhood, secure attachments and corresponding positive internal working models of self and other develop and promote healthy developmental trajectories and relationship patterns (Ainsworth, Blehar, Waters, & Wall, 1978). By contrast, disruptions in the parent-child bond are the precursors to insecure attachment and corresponding negative models of self and/or others, thus promoting maladaptive relationship patterns that can continue to regulate relationship behavior into adulthood. Specifically, attachment theory maintains that insecurely attached individuals, compared with securely attached individuals, demonstrate more anxiety, avoidance, or both characteristics in their intimate relationships (Fraley & Waller, 1998).

Research supports the conceptualization of attachment as a two-dimensional structure (Bartholomew & Horowitz, 1991; Brennan, Clark, & Shaver, 1998; Brennan & Shaver, 1995; Lopez & Brennan, 2000). The first dimension (i.e., attachment avoidance) is characterized by a pervasive discomfort with intimate closeness and a strong orientation toward self-reliant and counterdependent relationship behavior. The second dimension (i.e., attachment anxiety) is represented by low self-esteem, pervasive fears of partner rejection and abandonment, and dependent relationship behavior. Whereas the avoidant dimension is closely related with a negative model of others, a negative model of self is associated with anxious attachment. …

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