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Motivations for Intimate Partner Violence in Men and Women Arrested for Domestic Violence and Court Referred to Batterer Intervention Programs

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Abstract

Research has attempted to elucidate men and women's proximal motivations for perpetrating intimate partner violence (IPV). However, previous research has yet to clarify and resolve contention regarding whether motives for IPV are gender-neutral or gender-specific. Thus, the purpose of this study was to compare motives for physical IPV perpetration among a sample of men (n = 90) and women (n = 87) arrested for domestic violence and court referred to batterer intervention programs. Results demonstrated that the most frequently endorsed motives for IPV by both men and women were self-defense, expression of negative emotions, and communication difficulties. With the exception of expression of negative emotions and retaliation, with women endorsing these motives more often than men, there were no significant differences between men and women's self-reported reasons for perpetrating physical aggression. The implications of these findings for future research and intervention programs are discussed.
Motivations for intimate partner violence in men and women
arrested for domestic violence and court referred to batterer
intervention programs
JoAnna Elmquist1, John Hamel2, Ryan C. Shorey3, Lindsay Labrecque4, Andrew
Ninnemann4, and Gregory L. Stuart1,4
1University of Tennessee-Knoxville
2John Hamel & Associates
3Ohio University
4Alpert Medical School of Brown University and Butler Hospital
Abstract
Research has attempted to elucidate men and women’s proximal motivations for perpetrating
intimate partner violence (IPV). However, previous research has yet to clarify and resolve
contention regarding whether motives for IPV are gender-neutral or gender specific. Thus, the
purpose of this present study was to compare motives for physical IPV perpetration among a
sample of men (n =90) and women (n =87) arrested for domestic violence and court-referred to
batterer intervention programs. Results demonstrated that the most frequently endorsed motives
for IPV by both men and women were self-defense, expression of negative emotions, and
communication difficulties. With the exception of expression of negative emotions and retaliation,
with women endorsing these motives more often than men, there were no significant differences
between men and women’s self-reported reasons for perpetrating physical aggression. The
implications of these findings for future research and intervention programs are discussed.
Keywords
motivations; intimate partner violence; aggression; domestic violence
Intimate partner violence (IPV), or acts of physical, psychological, and sexual aggression, is
a significant and prevalent problem that affects individuals of all ages (Bonem, Stanley-
Kime, & Corbin, 2008; Campbell, 2002). Given the alarmingly high prevalence rates and the
significant consequences associated with IPV, there has been a substantial growth in
research on the causes and correlates of IPV (Stuart, Moore, Hellmuth, Ramsey, & Kahler,
2006). To further understand the causes of IPV, numerous researchers have examined and
attempted to elucidate two important questions: (1) what are the proximal motivations for
Corresponding Author: JoAnna Elmquist, University of Tennessee, Department of Psychology, 1404 Circle Dr., Austin Peay
Building, 204, Knoxville, TN 37996, Phone: (214) 789-9486, Fax: (865) 974-3330, jelmquis@vols.utk.edu.
The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the NIAAA or the
National Institutes of Health.
NIH Public Access
Author Manuscript
Partner Abuse. Author manuscript; available in PMC 2015 October 01.
Published in final edited form as:
Partner Abuse. 2014 October 1; 5(4): 359–374. doi:10.1891/1946-6560.5.4.359.
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IPV? and (2) do these motivations differ for men and women? (e.g., Langhinrichsen-
Rohling, McCullars, & Misra, 2012). There is a lack of research on whether men and
women differ on their motivations for IPV perpetration, particularly motivations that are
proximally associated with specific violent episodes, and even less so among samples of
men and women arrested for domestic violence and court referred to batterer intervention
programs (BIPs).
Men’s Motivations for IPV
Early research examining men’s motives for IPV demonstrated that state anger was the most
commonly endorsed reason for physical aggression perpetration (e.g., Makepeace, 1986).
Subsequent research has shown that perpetrators often endorsed multiple motivations for
IPV (Harned, 2001; Hettrich & O’Leary, 2007; Straus, 2008), and that there is significant
variation among perpetrators regarding their motives for IPV perpetration (Bell & Naugle,
2008; Stuart et al., 2006). For example, Bonem and colleagues (2008) examined the self-
reported antecedents and consequences of IPV in a sample of male batterers. Results
indicated that the most common motive for IPV was partner behavior (e.g., partner annoyed
the assailant; partner yelled at the assailant; partner criticized the assailant). Furthermore,
Hamberger and colleagues (1994) interviewed men arrested for domestic violence prior to
their participation in court ordered BIPs and found that the most common reasons provided
by men for perpetrating IPV were power/control (e.g., assertion of dominance, control of
physical and verbal behaviors and emotional responses, punishment for unwanted
behaviors), pent up anger, and desire for control. In addition in a qualitative study of 36
martially violent couples, Cascardi, Vivian, and Meyer (1991) found that men were more
likely to report that they perpetrated severe IPV to control their partners.
Women’s Motivations for IPV
There is also a dearth of research that has examined women’s motivations for IPV. In his
landmark study on gender differences in dating violence, Makepeace (1986) found that the
most frequently endorsed reasons women perpetrated IPV was for self-defense (35.6% of
cases) and uncontrollable anger (24.2 % of cases). Furthermore, Olson and Lloyd (2005)
interviewed women in romantic relationships about their self-reported motives for
perpetrating IPV and found that the four most common reasons for perpetrating IPV were
for psychological factors (e.g., problems with aggression, stress, or depression), rule
violations (e.g., dissatisfaction with partners’ behavior/response, not following the
appropriate “rules” for intimate relationship), to gain attention and compliance (e.g., desire
to gain compliance-change behavior), and restoration of face threat (e.g., use of aggression
to restore face/self-image). Moreover, women in this sample reported that they frequently
perpetrated IPV because aggression was the only way to get their partners’ attention and/or
to make their partners listen or acknowledge their presence (Olson & Lloyd, 2005). Similar
results were found in a large British study (Carrado, George, Loxam, Jones & Templar,
1996), with “trying to get through” to a partner the most frequently endorsed motive for both
male and female respondents. In a study examining arrested women’s reasons for
perpetrating physical IPV, Stuart and colleagues (2006) found that the most frequently
endorsed reasons were self-defense, poor emotion regulation, provocation by a partner, and
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retaliation against a partner. Aside from being one of the few known investigations of
proximal motivations for IPV among women arrested for domestic violence, this study
examined the most extensive list of potential motivations to date. That is, Stuart and
colleagues (2006) provided 29 possible reasons for partner aggression, in contrast to other
empirical studies which assessed fewer motivations, such as 7 (Makepeace, 1986) and 12
(Harned, 2001; reviewed below).
Gender Differences in Motivations
The varied measures used to assess proximal motivations for IPV has resulted in discrepant
findings regarding men and women’s reasons for perpetrating IPV and the similarities and
differences among them (Shorey, Metlzer, & Cornelius, 2010). For example, Miller &
Meloy (2006) provided evidence indicating that women typically engage in violence against
their partners to either stop or escape their own victimization. Additionally, in their study on
women referred to treatment agencies for abusive behavior, Babcock, Miller, & Siard (2003)
found that the most frequently endorsed motive reported by female offenders for
perpetrating partner violence was self-defense (Babcock et al., 2003). However, in a study
examining men and women’s motives for perpetrating violence in dating relationships,
Harned (2001) found that men and women were equally likely to report perpetrating IPV in
self-defense. Additionally, in comparison to men, women in this sample reported that they
were more likely to perpetrate physical assault against a partner because of jealousy/anger
(Harned, 2001). In a sample of undergraduates, Shorey and colleagues (2010) developed a
contextual self-report measure of self- defensive IPV. Results indicated that men and women
did not significantly differ on any motivations for physical aggression, and women were not
more likely to use aggression in self-defense.
Numerous studies have shown that the primary motives provided by female perpetrators are
to gain control over their partner, as retribution, as part of a reciprocally violent relationship,
or out of anger, which are also motives frequently endorsed by male perpetrators
(Follingstad et al., 1991; Graham-Kevan & Archer, 2005; Langhinrichsen-Rohling, 2010).
Although extant research has examined and compared men and women’s motivations for
IPV, most of the existing research was obtained from undergraduate samples and did not
contain data that enabled direct gender comparisons in the motivations for IPV
(Langhinrichsen-Rohling et al., 2012). Thus, additional research that compares men and
women’s motivations for IPV in clinical samples (e.g., individuals arrested for domestic
violence) is needed. In an effort to evaluate the available literature on men and women’s
motives for partner violence and ultimately clarify the similarities and/or differences among
them, a number of systematic literature reviews have been conducted (Langhinrichsen-
Rohling et al., 2012). Malloy, McCloskey, Grigsby, & Gardner (2003) reviewed the extant
literature on motives for IPV perpetration and reported a number of gender differences.
Specifically, the authors found that women typically engage in IPV out of self-defense,
whereas men perpetrate IPV in order to control their partners (Malloy et al., 2003).
One framework to examine gender differences in proximal motivations for IPV perpetration
has been proposed by Langhinrichsen-Rohling and colleagues (2012). In a review
comparing men and women’s motivations for IPV, Langhinrichsen-Rohling et al (2012)
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reviewed all available papers related to men’s and women’s motives for partner violence. To
facilitate this gender comparison, the authors created seven broad categories of motives for
intimate partner aggression: (a) power/control, (b) self-defense, (c) expression of negative
emotion (i.e., anger), (d) communication difficulties, (e) retaliation, (f) jealousy, and (g)
other. In contrast to Malloy et al. (2003), the authors reviewed numerous studies that found
that men and women endorsed similar motives for perpetrating partner violence. Despite
evidence of this gender symmetry in motives, the authors concluded that there was
significant heterogeneity across studies in the measures used to assess the motives for
partner violence. Thus, according to the authors, there is a need for measures that not only
include a more comprehensive assessment of motives, but also that include motives that are
operationally defined more clearly (Langhinrichsen-Rohling et al., 2012). More important,
through their review of the literature, the authors concluded that “there continues to be a
need for researchers to collect quantifiable and analyzable data that can shed light on the
motives that underlie both men and women’s perpetration of IPV” (Langhinrichsen-Rohling
et al., 2012; p. 457). This need is especially relevant given the heterogeneity of findings
across empirical and review studies.
Current Study
In an effort to shed more light on the motives for IPV, the purpose of the current study was
to compare arrested men and women’s motivations for physical IPV using the seven
categories of motives for IPV identified by Langhinrichsen-Rohling and colleagues (2012).
Additionally, in order to ensure a more systematic assessment of motives, we used the
Reasons for Violence Scale (RVS; Stuart et al., 2006), which provides one of the most
comprehensive assessments of motives for IPV. Based on previous research that has
examined individual motives for partner aggression, it was hypothesized that men and
women would endorse multiple and varied reasons for IPV. However given the discrepant
findings across studies regarding men’s and women’s motives for IPV, no a priori
hypotheses were made regarding the similarities and/or differences in men and women’s
endorsement of the seven motive categories proposed by Langhinrichsen-Rohling and
colleagues (2012).
Method
Participants
The sample consisted of men and women, 18 years of age or older, arrested for domestic
violence and court-referred to batterer intervention programs (BIPs). For the male sample,
men were recruited from BIPs in California (n = 90). Participants reported a mean age of
40.30 (SD = 11.7), education of 13.67 years (SD = 2.56), and annual income of $ 49,538 (SD
= 20,000). The ethnic composition of the sample was 44.4% non-Hispanic Caucasian, 13.3%
non-Hispanic Black, 7.8% Asian or Pacific Islander, 21.1% Hispanic, 11.1% “More than
one race”, and 2.2% “Other”. At the time of the assessment, 15.6% of the sample reported
that they did not have a current relationship partner; 16.7% were dating; 23.3% were
married; 22.2% were living together, not married; 7.8% were separated; and 11.1% were
divorced.
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The sample of women was recruited from BIPs in Rhode Island (n =87). A detailed
description of the female sample can be obtained from Stuart and colleagues (e.g., 2006)
who previously reported these data.
Measures
Demographics Questionnaire—A demographics questionnaire gathered information
about each participant’s age, ethnicity, relationship status, employment status, income, and
number of violence intervention sessions attended.
The Reasons for Violence Scale—The Reasons for Violence Scale (RVS; Stuart et al.,
2006) was used to assess reasons for perpetrating physical aggression against relationship
partners. Participants were provided with 29 potential reasons and asked to identify the
percentage of violent episodes in which each reason was a factor in their decision to
perpetrate partner violence. The score for each item could range from 0% to 100%, which
indicates the percentage of time each reason was the cause of a violent episode. Given that
violence can occur for multiple reasons, participants could endorse multiple motivations for
violence. We then coded each item on the RVS into the seven categories proposed by
Langhinrichsen-Rohling and colleagues (2012). Table 1 presents the classification of the
questionnaire items.
The Revised Conflict Tactics Scales (CTS2)—Intimate partner violence was assessed
using the Revised Conflict Tactics Scales (CTS2; Straus, Hamby, Boney-McCoy, &
Sugarman, 1996). The CTS2 is a 78-item questionnaire that assesses the frequency of
negotiation, physical and psychological aggression, sexual coercion, and injury that has
occurred in an intimate relationship. The measure assesses both perpetration and
victimization rates for each of these acts. Total scores for each of the subscales were
obtained by summing the frequency of each behavior in the year before entrance into the
BIP. The score for each item can range from 0 to 25 with higher scores indicating more
frequent aggression (Straus, Hamby, & Warren, 2003). The CTS2 has demonstrated good
validity and reliability (Straus et al., 1996). In the sample of men, the internal consistencies
for IPV perpetration were .84 for psychological aggression and .97 for physical assault. The
internal consistencies for IPV victimization were .86 for psychological aggression and .94
for physical assault. In the sample of women, the internal consistencies for IPV perpetration
were .79 for psychological aggression and .95 for physical assault. For IPV victimization,
the internal consistencies were .83 for psychological aggression and .93 for physical assault.
Internal consistency data are comparable for the women sample and are reported in Stuart et
al. (2006).
Procedure
Participants in both samples completed the assessment during their regularly scheduled BIP
sessions. After informed consent was obtained, participants were provided with the study
measures. Participation was voluntary, and all participants were informed that none of the
information provided would be shared with the intervention facilitators or anyone in the
criminal justice system. Compensation was not provided to participants. Men had attended
an average of 25 intervention sessions (SD = 17.0) at the time of the assessment and the
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women had attended 8 intervention sessions (SD = 7.0). The number of intervention sessions
attended by men and women was not significantly correlated with any of the seven motive
categories. Procedures were approved by all relevant Institutional Review Boards.
Results
Raw scores were utilized in calculating means and standard deviations for the IPV variables
(psychological aggression and physical assault). In the year prior to entering the BIPs, the
men reported perpetrating a mean of 30.3 acts of psychological aggression (SD = 36.5) and
10.8 (36.8) acts of physical assault. In the year prior to their entrance to the BIPs, the men
reported that they were the victims of 36.5 (SD = 40.9) acts of psychological aggression and
10.07 (SD = 26.1) acts of physical assault. Women reported perpetrating approximately 20
more acts of psychological aggression and 14 more acts of physical violence than men. In
the year prior to entrance to the BIPs, women reported that they were the victims of
approximately 24 more acts of physical violence and 23 acts of psychological violence than
men.
T-tests were conducted in order to compare men and women’s reported IPV perpetration and
victimization. Natural log transformations were performed prior to analyses in order to
correct for skewed distributions. Men and women significantly differed on their reports of
physical assault perpetration, t(158) =5.21, p<.05 and victimization, t(155) = 4.14, p<.05 and
psychological aggression perpetration, t(165) = 4.57, p<.05 and victimization, t(162) = 4.06,
p<.05. Women reported perpetrating significantly more acts of psychological aggression and
physical assault than men, and they also reported more psychological aggression and
physical assault victimization than men.
Data from the RVS are presented in Table 1. Among the sample of men, the most common
reasons for perpetrating physical IPV were because “your partner provoked you or pushed
you over the edge” (33.0%), self defense (29.4%), because of stress (29.4%), to show anger
(27.0%), “to get away from your partner” (25.5%), and to “prove you love your partner”
(24.6). According to the classification system proposed by Langhinrichsen-Rohling et al.
(2012), the motivation groups most frequently endorsed by men in this sample were self-
defense (29.4%), communication difficulties (21.6%), and expression of negative emotion
(20.8%). Among the women, the categories of reasons most frequently endorsed were self-
defense (38.7%), communication difficulties (29.2%), and expression of negative emotions
(28.0%). Thus, men and women endorsed similar motivations for partner aggression
perpetration. For women’s endorsement of individual items on the RVS see Stuart et al.,
(2006).
T-tests were used to examine potential gender difference in the seven motivation categories
for physical IPV perpetration (see Table 1). Findings indicated that men and women
significantly differed in their endorsement of the motives of retaliation, t(167) = 2.11, p<.05,
and expression of negative emotions, t(164) = 2.78, p<.05, with women reporting more
frequent use of these reasons for perpetrating physical violence. Men and women did not
significantly differ on their endorsement of the other five motive groups.
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Discussion
The purpose of the present study was to elucidate the reasons for IPV among men and
women arrested for domestic violence using the seven broad categories of motives (i.e.,
power/control, self-defense, expression of negative emotion, communication difficulties,
retaliation, jealous, and other) proposed by Langhinrichsen-Rohling et al (2012). To our
knowledge, this is the first study to apply the seven motive categories to examine and
compare men’s and women’s perpetration of physical partner aggression.
Consistent with previous research, men and women in this sample endorsed multiple motive
categories at varying levels, thus highlighting the heterogeneity of violent men and women
and their reasons for perpetrating IPV. It is likely that the motives for IPV perpetration differ
across samples, as well as within and across relationships. In other words, within a
relationship, motives for violence perpetration are likely context dependent. For instance, an
individual might be motivated to perpetrate a single act of IPV because of specific
situational factors that are not present during other incidents of IPV. The context of IPV has
been highlighted in extant literature as being essential to the accurate conceptualization and
assessment of IPV perpetration and victimization (Bell & Naugle, 2008; Downs, Rindels, &
Atkinson, 2007; Kimmel, 2002). In addition, across different samples, some motives may be
more likely to be endorsed. For example, self-defense as a motive for IPV perpetration may
be more likely to be endorsed among women seeking help at a domestic violence shelter.
Results from this current study suggest that arrested men and women endorse similar
motives for violence. Specifically, in the current study, the most frequently endorsed motive
categories between both men and women were self-defense, communication difficulties, and
expression of negative emotions, and there were no significant gender differences in the
endorsement of these motive categories. These findings help elucidate a significant question
that still remains within the field, namely do men and women have different motives for
perpetrating violence? Previous reviews have reported mixed findings regarding whether
women are more likely to perpetrate relationship aggression because of self-defense and
men are more likely to perpetrate partner aggression because of a need to control their
partners. However, findings from the current study support that men report that they are
equally likely to engage in partner aggression in self-defense and women are equally likely
to engage in partner aggression for reasons other than self-defense. Furthermore, the finding
that self-defense is equally endorsed by men and women coupled with previous research
suggesting that women may initiate more violence but men are more likely to cause injuries
(Archer, 2000) indicates that self-defense may be important for both male and female
victims of IPV.
Furthermore, findings indicated that while there were similarities among men and women in
their endorsement of motives for partner violence, women were significantly more likely to
report that they were motivated to perpetrate partner violence out of retaliation and because
of problems with negative emotions (e.g., anger). This finding is consistent with previous
research showing that across samples (e.g., college students, BIP participants) the inability
to regulate emotions is associated with an increased likelihood of perpetrating partner
violence (McNulty & Hellmuth, 2008; Shorey, Febres, Brasfield, & Stuart, 2011). However,
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contrary to previous research (i.e., Langhinrichsen-Rohling et al., 2012), there were
significant gender differences in men and women’s endorsement of problems with negative
emotions as a motivator for IPV perpetration. One possible explanation for this finding is
that women in BIPs might be more likely than men to have personality traits or disorders
that are associated with emotion regulation problems. For example, Simmons and colleagues
(2005) examined and compared the personality profiles of men and women arrested for
domestic violence. Results indicated women were more likely than men to have elevated
histrionic, narcissistic, and compulsive scales and profiles indicating the presence of a
personality disorder. Varely Thornton and colleagues (2010) examined whether there were
sex differences in offending behavior and found that women’s IPV was predicted by Cluster
B personality traits (i.e., antisocial, borderline, histrionic, and narcissistic), whereas men’s
IPV was predicted by Cluster A personality traits (i.e., paranoid, schizoid, and schizotypal).
Moreover, Henning, Jones, and Holdford (2003) compared the psychological functioning of
men and women arrested for domestic violence and found that women were more likely than
men to score in the clinical range for delusional disorder, major depression, bipolar disorder,
and thought disorder. Women were also more likely to have compulsive, historic, and
borderline personality disorders. Taken together, these findings suggest that women in BIPs
might be more likely than men in BIPs to have elevated personality traits associated with
problems with emotion regulation. As a result, these women might be more likely to
perpetrate IPV when they are angry or when their needs are not met, which is consistent
with theories that individuals might engage in partner violence in order to regulate negative
emotional states, such as anger (Bell & Naugle, 2008; Jakupcak, 2003; Shorey, Cornelius, &
Bell, 2008).
A second possible explanation for the gender differences in this study is that men and
women might be socialized to believe that certain motives are more acceptable to admit to
than others. In the current sample, it is possible that men were socialized to believe that is
unacceptable to admit that they were motivated to perpetrate IPV in order to retaliate against
their partner or because of a difficulty expressing negative emotions (Langhinrichsen-
Rohling, 2010). In addition, it is possible that the gender differences in this study might have
been a product of underreporting. Previous research utilizing couples has consistently found
that men report significantly less IPV perpetration compared to their partners’ reports of IPV
victimization (Hamby, 2009). In contrast, women’s reports of IPV perpetration tend to be
more consistent with their partners’ reports of IPV victimization (Hamby, 2009). Thus, it is
possible that the men in this sample not only underreported their IPV perpetration but also
their motives for IPV. In the current study, arrested women reported significantly greater
frequency of IPV perpetration and victimization.
A final possible explanation for the difference in movies between men and women is that
women reported more violence perpetration and victimization. As a result, it is possible that
they also reported more motives for IPV perpetration than men, thus leading to the gender
differences.
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Implications
Although many questions regarding men and women’s motives for partner violence still
remain, the results of this present study may have important treatment implications. For
instance, the multiple and varied reasons reported by men and women for perpetrating
partner violence indicates that programs could benefit from tailoring interventions based on
the unique needs of the individual. Although individualizing treatments will be more time-
consuming than group interventions, the significant problems associated with group
interventions (see review by Murphy & Meis, 2008) and their lack of efficacy in reducing
IPV (Babcock, Green, & Robie, 2004; Feder & Wilson, 2005; Murphy & Eckhardt, 2005;
Murphy & Meis, 2008) indicate the need for more effective interventions that result in more
long-term behavior change. Given the lack of effectiveness of BIPs in decreasing IPV
(Babcock, Green, & Robie, 2004; Feder & Wilson, 2005; Murphy & Eckhardt, 2005;
Murphy & Meis, 2008), individualzed interventions, or even potentially couples counseling
when indicated (e.g, when violence is not severe; partners are not fearful of each other; both
partners are invested in the relationship and agree to therapy; both are committed to
nonviolence; safety plans are established and there are no weapons in the home; etc.), may
provide alternative formats that may increase the efficacy of services provided. In many
cases, individuals may be required by the criminal justice system to complete their BIP
before considering couples therapy. Moreover, although some researchers have advocated
for gender-specific interventions for IPV (e.g., Leisring, Dowd, & Rosenbaum, 2005), it
remains an empirical question as to whether gender specific programming is more or less
effective than gender-neutral programming. Given findings of gender symmetry in rates of
physical IPV, in emotional abuse and control, and in risk factors, and because men and
women in the current study overlapped on 5 of the 7 motivation categories, BIP
programming may prove most effective when it is primarily gender neutral (Capaldi,
Knoble, Shortt, & Kim, 2012; Careny & Barner, 2012; Desmarais, Reeves, Nicholls,
Telford, & Fiebert, 2012).
Finally, in addition to self-defense, the most frequently endorsed motives for partner
violence among both men and women were communication difficulties and expression of
negative emotions. Thus, intervention programs for both men and women should incorporate
interventions aimed at increasing emotion regulation and effective emotional expression. For
example, Shorey and colleagues (e.g., Shorey, Zucosky, et al., 2012 and Shorey, Cornelius,
& Idema, 2011) have suggested that mindfulness-based interventions, components of
acceptance and commitment therapy, and/or dialectical behavioral interventions could help
improve the expression and regulation of negative emotions, thus ultimately reducing the
likelihood of partner violence. For instance, Fruzzetti and Levensky (2000) and Walz (2003)
developed specialized dialectical behavioral therapies (DBT) to be used with partner violent
individuals. According to both authors, components of DBT, such as the hierarchy of
treatment targets and the focus on emotion regulation skills, are valuable and useful
interventions that could more effectively reduce and eliminate partner aggression (Fruzzetti
& Levensky, 2000; Waltz, 2003). Research has supported the effectiveness, acceptability,
and feasibility of dialectical behavioral interventions adapted for IPV (Baer, 2005;
Cavanaugh, Solomon, & Gelles, 2011; Fruzzetti, 2002). However, to our knowledge, there
have been no empirical investigations that have examined the efficacy of mindfulness-based
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or acceptance-based interventions in reducing and preventing IPV. Thus future research
should investigate whether such interventions help to improve IPV outcomes.
Limitations
It is important to consider the limitations of the current study when interpreting findings.
One limitation is that given the sensitive nature of the assessment measures it is possible that
reports of IPV and motives for partner violence may have been affected by social
desirability. Future research should include measures of social desirability and more
significantly, collateral information from relationship partners such as IPV perpetration, IPV
victimization, and partners’ motives for their own IPV. A second limitation of the study
pertains to the measures that we used to assess the reasons for IPV and violence perpetration
and victimization. Specifically, the RVS was based on participants’ retrospective self-
reports and the RVS does not assess the context in which the violent episodes occurred.
Furthermore, even though the CTS2 is the most widely used measure to assess for IPV, it
does not assess the context in which the violence occurred and who initiated the violent
episodes. For these reasons, we recommend that future research should include both
qualitative and quantitative assessments of the motives for partner violence and violence
victimization and perpetration. The inclusion of more comprehensive assessments will
enable a greater understanding of men and women’s motives for partner violence, the
heterogeneity and/or homogeneity underling the motives for partner violence, and the
contexts in which the motives occur. The generalizability of the findings is also limited by
our sample of primarily non-Hispanic, Caucasian participants and the nature of the
population. Future research should on the motives for men and women’s motives for partner
violence should include a more ethnically diverse sample.
Conclusions
In summary, the current study is one of the first known empirical investigations to use the
seven motive categories proposed by Langhinrichsen-Rohling and colleagues (2012) to
examine and compare men and women’s motives for partner violence. Results demonstrated
that men and women endorsed similar motives for partner violence for most categories.
Despite this gender symmetry, women were more likely than men to be motivated by
retaliation and expression of negative emotions. It will be important for continued research
to examine the context in which distinct motivations for violence occur.
Acknowledgments
This work was supported, in part, by grants F31AA020131 and K24AA019707 from the National Institute on
Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) awarded to the third and last authors, respectively.
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Table 1
Reasons for Partner Violence Perpetration Among Men and Women
Reasons for Violence
M% (SD)a
Men (n =90) Women (n =87)
Power/Control 16.1 (26.3) 17.8 (24.0)
To feel more powerful 19.8 (29.5)
To get control over your partner (e.g., show that you’re boss) 21.2 (30.3)
To get your partner to do something or to stop your partner from doing something (e.g., going out with
friends) 16.5 (27.6)
Because you needed to make your partner agree with you 18.3 (28.7)
To shut your partner up or to get your partner to leave you alone 20.8 (27.2)
To make your partner afraid or scared 10.2 (23.0)
Because you wanted to have sex and your partner didn’t 6.0 (17.6)
Self-Defense 29.4 (33.2) 38.7 (36.5)
To protect yourself (e.g., self defense) 29.4 (33.2)
Jealousy 18.0 (31.2) 25.1 (30.9)
Because you were jealous 18.0 (31.2)
Communication Difficulties 21.6 (29.4) 29.2 (31.3)
To show feelings that you couldn’t explain in words 23.7 (27.8)
To get your partner’s attention 21.9 (32.3)
Because your partner was going to walk away or leave the conflict before it was solved 19.1 (28.2)
Expression of Negative Emotions 20.8 (29.6) 28.0 (30.3)
To show anger 27.0 (28.5)
To prove that you love your partner 24.6 (36.2)
Because you were angry at someone else and took it out on your partner 11.8 (22.4)
Because you were afraid your partner was going to leave you 13.9 (25.5)
Because you didn’t believe your partner cared about you 17.0 (28.3)
Because you didn’t know what else to do with your feelings 22.1 (32.0)
Because of stress 29.3 (34.3)
Retaliation 18.9 (29.2) 27.4 (32.3)
To get back at your partner or to get revenge for being hit first 15.8 (28.8)
To punish your partner for wrong behavior 13.9 (26.1)
To get back at or to retaliate for being emotionally hurt by your partner 21.2 (31.0)
To hurt your partner’s feelings 14.9 (24.3)
Because your partner provoked you or pushed you over the edge 33.0 (34.4)
Because your partner cheated on you 14.4 (30.6)
Other 13.9 (24.7) 15.4 (25.0)
Because it was sexually arousing 9.1 (22.7)
Because you were under the influence of alcohol 15.8 (27.5)
Because you were under the influence of drugs 5.1 (16.7)
To get away from your partner 25.5 (32.0)
Note: Means and standard deviations for women’s individual motives for partner violence are reported in Stuart, Moore, Hellmuth, Ramsey, &
Kahler (2006).
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Elmquist et al. Page 15
aRefers to the percentage of perpetrated violence episodes for which the reason was endorsed.
Partner Abuse. Author manuscript; available in PMC 2015 October 01.
... Some researchers conceptualized violence perpetration as an attempt to ameliorate the experience of negative emotions (O'Neil & Harway, 1997). In fact, the expression of negative emotions was a cited motivation for IPV perpetration among a sample of men arrested for domestic violence and court ordered to BIP (Elmquist et al., 2014). However, the relationship between emotion dysregulation and IPV perpetration may not be direct. ...
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... Individuals with affect regulation difficulties are indeed more likely to use harmful behaviors towards others as a result of a more intense experience of negative affect and the absence of effective regulation skills (Langer & Lawrence, 2010). Consistently, men in batterer intervention programs often explain their use of violence as being the result of their inability to regulate their negative emotions (Elmquist et al., 2014). ...
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... Due to the fact women are often described as survivors, the term DV is often replaced by intimate partner violence, violence against women, spousal or ex spousal violence, family violence and wife assault or abuse. Although men are identified as the most frequent perpetrators, women can also perpetrate DV against their male partners, however with some differences regarding, backgroud causes/motivations, treatment/monitoring and penalties in male to female and female to men partners violence [6][7][8][9][10][11]. Although this type of violence is often described as being unidirectional (male-female or female-male), it must be recognised it can also be bidirectional or mutual. ...
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... Because of the many differences between men and women (e.g., physical size, use of violence), we think that there are potentially many differences in their motivations for offending. Although some work has been done to understand sex differences with respect to intimate partner violence (e.g., Elmquist et al., 2014) and white-collar crimes (e.g., Holtfreter, 2015), we would recommend continued research in this area. ...
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... [16] In the study of Giray et al., [53] the most common cause of violence was stated as an instant rage of the spouse and is consistent with the results of our research. When other studies are examined, financial problems, [6,17] interpersonal conflicts and communication difficulties, [6,3,49,54] cultural differences, [17] alcohol use of men [3,44,55,56] and jealousy [52,56] took place among the reasons of violence exposure. In a part of Altınay and Arat's study [48] included findings such as; beatings of men because of women's weakness and helplessness, use of violence because men's thought of being superior, or use of violence to ensure their supremacy. ...
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