The Domestic Assault of Women: Psychological and Criminal Justice Perspectives

By Donald G. Dutton | Go to book overview

4
The Social Psychology of the Wife
Assaulter: The Research Studies

Sit down before fact like a little child, and be prepared to give up every pre-conceived notion.

— Thomas Henry Huxley, quoted in Aldous Huxley,
The Human Situation

In Chapters 2 and 3 we examined several theoretical explanations for wife assault. In Chapter 2 we established a framework for a nested ecological theory of wife assault that concentrated on the interaction of individually acquired dispositions with social-contextual features of the family, the subculture, and the broader culture. Using this framework, we established a hypothetical profile of an assaultive male that incorporated individually acquired factors such as: (1) the desire to have control over or dominate women, (2) exaggerated anxiety about control over the amount of intimacy in a relationship, (3) violent role models for conflict resolution, and (4) poor verbal conflict resolution skills. To this profile were added contextual factors from the microsystem (coercive interactions), the exosystem (unemployment, job stress, and social isolation), and the macrosystem (beliefs in patriarchal rights, double standards, etc.).

In Chapter 3 we developed a social learning analysis of the individual assaulter and examined the acquisition and maintenance mechanisms of the habit of assault. We suggested that for men who assault their wives, but who are not generally assaultive, some special categories of aversive stimuli or instigators to assault may exist. These categories include (1) the man's perception that his wife wishes to change the degree of intimacy with him and (2) his perception that he is powerless to stop her.

In this chapter we will describe some experiments conducted with wife assaulters and control subjects in order to test hypotheses generated by the aforementioned theoretical notions. Our objective in doing this research has been to examine general instigators to aggression specific to

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