Abusive Men Called Dependent Most Who Batter Women Can't Handle `Unmanly' Feelings, Study Says

By Alison Bass 1994, Boston Globe | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), January 2, 1994 | Go to article overview

Abusive Men Called Dependent Most Who Batter Women Can't Handle `Unmanly' Feelings, Study Says


Alison Bass 1994, Boston Globe, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


Most men who batter women are heavily dependent on the women in their lives for their emotional needs.

The surprising finding may explain why battered women are most at risk of being killed or seriously injured when they attempt to leave the relationship.

Research indicates that men who batter are not cast from a single mold. Some use intimidation and violence in a cold-blooded effort to control and subjugate their spouses, and research shows that trying to treat these men may be a waste of time. But other men become most violent when they are feeling vulnerable and needy; they strike their wives in an attempt to control feelings they consider unmanly.

New studies show that, regardless of their motivation, most men who batter are unusually needy and depend on their wives to express emotions they consider unacceptable for males.

"We have data showing that violent men are more preoccupied with and dependent on their relationships than non-violent men," says Amy Holtzworth-Munroe, assistant professor of psychology at Indiana University in Bloomington. "The violent men felt they would fall apart if they didn't have the relationship, so they may see rejection or loss as a real threat."

Battered women also may be a more heterogeneous group than anyone suspected. Although many conform to the standard picture - a woman who is passive, subdued and afraid to do anything that might provoke another onslaught - a number of women in such relationships turn out to be just as belligerent as their men.

"We were surprised to find that battered women dished it out in arguments as much as the men did," says Neil Jacobson, a professor of psychology at the University of Washington in Seattle. He did one of the first controlled studies comparing violent couples with non-violent couples.

In addition, it appears that not all battered women who remain in violent relationships do so out of fear or economic necessity. A surprising number stay because they are deeply attached to the men and see a positive, loving side to the relationship, according to clinicians who work with violent relationships. …

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