Study: Male and Female DV Perpetrators Similar Psychologically

This is news, but it’s hardly surprising (Sify News, 8/11/10).

It seems that British Columbia University researcher Zach Walsh and others analyzed data from the MacArthur Violence Risk Assessment Study. The participants were 567 civil psychiatric patients including 138 women and 93 men with histories of domestic violence.

“Intimate partner violence is a major public health concern. Examining subtypes of perpetrators is an important way of learning more about why people are violent in close relationships. Understanding why different people are violent may be crucial for developing new ways to reduce violence in relationships,” said the study’s lead author Zach Walsh, assistant professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia’s (UBC) Okanagan campus.

And what they learned is that male and female perpetrators of DV are surprisingly alike.

“Although both men and women engage in substantial levels of domestic violence, fewer studies have examined female perpetrators. These new findings are among the first to highlight similarities between subtypes of domestically violent men and women,” said Walsh.

The study provides preliminary evidence that the following three subtypes also exist among female perpetrators-antisocial perpetrators are often violent outside the relationship and have high levels of psychopathic personality traits.

Dysphoric perpetrators may have high levels of anxiety, depression and other forms of mental illness.

Low Pathology perpetrators have generally normal personalities and are rarely violent outside of intimate relationships.

Obviously, this is a study that suggests much, but can’t be extrapolated to the general population. The cohort consisted of psychiatric patients, after all. But the fact that the people studied who had a history of DV commission were psychologically similar to those of other studies, suggests that Walsh’s study has wider applicability than it otherwise would. His findings clearly call for further research.

Men and women commit domestic violence about equally and under similar circumstances. Likewise, they tend to have witnessed or been subject to DV in childhood. Family dynamics – the interplay of personalities between husband and wife – are an important component as well. So it wouldn’t be a surprise to learn that similar personality types tend to commit DV.

Our knowledge about DV grows daily. We actually understand most aspects of it pretty well. The yawning chasm between, our scientific knowledge about DV on one hand, and public policy and discourse on the other, is nothing short of astonishing. It’s like trying to analyze and treat disease using the “four humors” approach and wondering year after year, why it’s not working.

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