Academic journal article Trends & Issues in Crime and Criminal Justice

Understanding Male Domestic Partner Abusers

Academic journal article Trends & Issues in Crime and Criminal Justice

Understanding Male Domestic Partner Abusers

Article excerpt

Research in the past decade has found that certain ways of responding to domestic partner abusers, particularly psycho-educational approaches, can be effective in modifying abusive behaviours. The study described in this paper sought to classify male domestic partner abusers by certain identified characteristics and determine whether they responded differently to a Men's Behaviour Change Program conducted by community agencies in regional Victoria. It was found that some types of male abusers appeared to derive greater benefits from the standard 12-week program than others. Those with antisocial personality disorders tended not to respond favourably. Further research work is now required to identify interventions that will be successful with abusers who have significant antisocial personalities.

Toni Makkai


Previous research has found that the psychological, behavioural and physiological characteristics of male domestic partner abusers may be used to assess suitability for interventions aimed at changing behaviours (Jacobson, Gottman & Shortt 1995). For example, it appears that men with antisocial personality characteristics may respond less favourably to certain psycho-educational interventions than men with other characteristics (Gottman et al. 1995; Walker 1995). A failure to match types of abusers to types of interventions can lead to less than optimal outcomes (Gondolf 1997; Gottman et al. 1995; Ornduff, Kelsey & O'Leary 1995; Walker 1995). The development of a well-defined typology of men who abuse their domestic partners is important for increasing positive intervention outcomes (National Crime Prevention 1999).

Abuser typologies

Research into the physiological reactions associated with male abusive behaviour has suggested there are two distinct types of abusers - type 1 and type 2 (Ornduff, Kelsey & O'Leary 1995; Walker 1995; National Crime Prevention 1999; Jacobson, Gottman & Shortt 1995). The typology is outlined in Table 1. However, more research is required to confirm the distinction between type 1 and type 2 and to investigate further the psychological, behavioural and emotional characteristics of these types. In particular, the roles of anger and hostility need to be clarified. Furthermore, while evidence seems to be accumulating that both types of abusers may benefit from different interventions, more research is required to clarify how each group responds to specific programs (Walker 1995).

The present study aims to:

1. investigate further the distinction between type 1 and type 2 abusers; and

2. investigate whether types of abusers responded differently to participation in the Men's Behaviour Change Program conducted by community agencies in regional Victoria.

The Men's Behaviour Change Program typically includes instruction around power and control issues, gender role attitude restructuring and anger management. That is, the focus is on the abuser assuming responsibility for his abusive behaviours, developing non-oppressive attitudes to women, and learning ways to manage and reduce angry and violent behaviours.

The study predicted that:

* type 1 abusers would exhibit characteristics associated with antisocial personality disorder, and type 2 abusers' characteristics would be associated with borderline personality disorder;

* measures of hostility, anger, sexist attitudes, tactics used in partner conflict, and measures relating to frequency and severity of violence would be different between type 1 and type 2; and

* type 1 abusers would be less responsive to the program than type 2.


Male participants

One hundred self-referred men participated in the study. They were recruited over a period of months through counsellors at four organisations adhering to the 'No to violence' guidelines. The men were invited to participate in the research after being identified by organisations during initial assessment interviews as current partner abusers. …

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