The Domestic Assault of Women: Psychological and Criminal Justice Perspectives

By Donald G. Dutton | Go to book overview

3
The Social Psychology of the Wife
Assaulter: The Theory

The core of sadism, common to all its manifestations, is the passion to have absolute and unrestricted control over a living being ... It is transformation of impotence into omnipotence.

- E. Fromm, The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness


Power and Intimacy in Male-Female Conflict
Against the backdrop of demographic descriptors provided by sociologists, psychological perspectives focus on the individual who uses violence against his wife. In the language of the nested ecological theory described in the last chapter, the psychological focus is on the ontogenetic level (where individual habits of aggression are acquired) and on the interaction of these individual habits with the microsystem or family unit. Clearly, not all men who assault their wives have the same etiology. In the next chapter we will examine some of the subcategories of assaultive males. In this chapter, however, we will concentrate on the development of a general psychological theory of wife assault. The requirements for such a theory are as follows:
1. It must account for the use of violence in the majority of wife assaulters and show how, as a group, wife assaulters differ from non‐ assaultive males.
2. It must originate with the individual and attempt to develop theoretical constructs from his lifespace.
3. It must account for the development of wife assault as a habitual behavioral response and must indicate how the habit is sustained (and, by implication, how it could be changed).
4. It must make predictions that can be subjected to experimental testing.
5. It must be non-reductionistic; that is, it must explain behavior at the psychological, not the neurological, level.

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