Monash University
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Intimate partner violence: conservative masculine attitudes, personality, and romantic attachment style

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posted on 2017-02-28, 23:16 authored by Vincenzi, Simon
Intimate partner violence (IPV) is becoming increasingly recognised as a severe mental and physical health concern. Recidivism rates are higher among individuals who engage in IPV than any other violent offenders, and existing treatment programs have minimal effect on the reduction of recidivism beyond the impact of being arrested. Additionally, IPV is not an issue that affects women exclusively. The most common violent relationship is one in which both partners engage in IPV (labelled mutuality), and, overall, an equivalent number of females as males have been found to engage in IPV (labelled symmetry). Several factors have been found to be associated with male perpetrated IPV, including insecure romantic attachment styles and personality pathology. Borderline and antisocial personality are the most commonly investigated personality variables. Few studies have investigated the role that psychopathy might play; particularly the sub-factors of psychopathy. Additionally, there has been a lack of research on the effects of traditional conservative masculine attitudes, although there is some evidence to suggest a relationship with IPV. Typologies have been created to categorise men who engage in IPV into groups based on combinations of variables. However, less is known about which variables can be used to reliably distinguish men who engage in IPV from those who do not. A sample of 49 men from the general community, and an additional 49 men from Men's Behaviour Change Programs (MBCPs) across Victoria were recruited for the study. The participants were then assigned to either a Physically Violent (PV) or Physically Non-Violent (PNV) group based on a positive endorsement of any physical assault toward their partner within the past 12 months—using the Conflict Tactics Scale 2. Based on this method, 45 men were assigned to the PV group, and 53 men were assigned to the PNV group. Participants then completed a battery of tests measuring romantic attachment style, pathological personality traits, and conservative masculine attitudes. They were also assessed on what motivated their violence. The results of the study were consistent with the findings of previous research that found, among violent couples, the most common relationship was one in which both the male and female partners were violent (mutuality). Gender symmetry was also found. Additionally, among men who engaged in IPV, those who were motivated by impulsive aggression tended to have higher scores on a measure of borderline personality, whereas those who were motivated by premeditated aggression tended to score higher on the behavioural factor of psychopathy. The results of a logistic regression revealed that borderline personality traits and conservative masculine attitudes best predicted physical IPV. When borderline personality was deconstructed into the nine criteria outlined in the DSM-IV, the identity disturbance criterion was found to be most significant. Total psychopathy score did not reliably discriminate between the two groups, nor did the individual sub-factors of psychopathy. The theoretical implications of these findings shed new light on what might be contributing to the violent behaviour in men who engage in IPV. Men who have a fragile sense of identity and, also, a set of beliefs consistent with traditional conservative ideals about masculinity, may look to that set of beliefs to help define their identity. Therefore, if their partner behaves in a manner that violates these expectations of gender roles (either by behaviour that contradicts these expectations, or by pressuring the male partner to behave contradictory to these expectations), it could be interpreted as a direct challenge or threat to their already fragile sense of identity. If, implicit in these conservative masculine attitudes, is the belief that engaging in physically aggressive behaviour to solve problems is acceptable male behaviour, it seems likely that their interpretation of their partner's behaviour would lead them to engage in IPV.


Principal supervisor

James Ogloff

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Psychological Sciences

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Doctor of Philosophy

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Faculty of Medicine Nursing and Health Sciences

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