Primary Theoretical Frameworks For Discussing Intimate Partner Violence Criminology Essay

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Discuss the primary theoretical frameworks-feminist, psychological (including biological hypotheses), or sociological-for understanding intimate partner violence and how each perspective might influence the development of intervention with perpetrators, or counseling with victims? Use examples from the readings to demonstrate the relationship between theory and practice.


Intimate partner violence is a multi-causal, multifaceted phenomenon and no single theoretical approach has proven sufficient in adequately explaining it. Fortunately, the field of intimate partner violence research has evolved to a point where now the interactive nature of the various relevant factors may be considered. Studies have identified possible determinants of intimate partner violence. Several of these possible causes are salient across diverse cultural and social contexts. Still theories to give reasons for intimate partner violence remain relatively limited. This regrettable lack of a theoretical perspective could possibly limit efforts to better understand intimate partner violence and to develop an effective and sustainable intervention with the perpetrators. This lack of perspective is particularly disconcerting at the level of primary prevention. This writer will examine the principal theoretical frameworks that constitute intimate partner violence.

Feminist theories of violence against women tend to place much emphasis on the societal structures of gender-based inequality. The feminist framework argues that as the predominant social class, men have differential access to material and symbolic resources. Women, conversely are devalued as secondary and inferior (Bograd, 1988). As a consequence, women's experiences are often defined as inferior as a result of male domination, a trait that femininist argue influences all aspects of life. The violence, rather than being an individual psychological problem, is instead an expression of male domination of females. Violence against women, in the feminist view, includes a variety of "control tactics" meant to control women.

Much feminist research is based on the premise that gender inequality is the source of violence against women, and that the social institutions of marriage and family are special contexts that may promote, maintain, and even support men's use of physical force against women.  Researchers in this tradition tend to rely heavily on qualitative interviews for data; and most of them have reached the conclusion that violent men are more likely to adhere to an ideology of familial patriarchy (Dobash and Dobash 1979). Gender analysis tackles the belief system that convinces male perpetrators that they have a right to control women in intimate relationships. Failure to address this belief system means that men may simply switch from physical to emotional abuse, and women and children will continue to live in fear.

The contributions of psychology to violence in the intimate relationship have received much attention. The majority of research on the topic of intimate partner violence centers on personality disorders and early experiences that will increase the risk of future violent behavior (Buzawa, 2003). Although psychologists have long investigated the factors that predispose one to violence, an individual personality trait has not been found that influences someone to domestic partner violence. perpetrators do not share a set of personality characteristics or a psychiatric diagnosis that distinguishes them from people who are not abusive (Buzawa, 2003). There are some perpetrators who suffer from psychiatric problems, such as depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, or psychopathology. Yet, most do not have psychiatric illnesses, and caution is advised in attributing mental illness as a root cause of domestic violence.  On the contrary, there exists a complicated combination of factors that predispose an individual to violent behavior (Buzawa, 2003).

The psychological framework extends these factors onto the influence of children growing up within a combination of these external forces.  Usually, men who batter are seeking a sense of power and control over their partners or their own lives, or because they are tremendously dependent on the woman and are threatened by any moves on her part towards independence. Some men batter because that's the only way they know how to be close to or relate to a partner. Some men grew up in violent households, where they watched their mothers abused by their fathers and where they themselves were abused. Some men become violent under the influence of drugs or alcohol, although the substances themselves do not cause the violence.

Many psychological approaches view violence as a learned behavior that can be unlearned as apposed to a consequence of individual pathology, stress, or alcohol abuse. In order to institute an effective intervention, individuals must be able to confront their anger without resulting to violent interactions. According to Buzawa & Buzawa (2003), a major conflict is that batterers have yet to develop alternative strategies to control their anger. They contend that "batterers generally are less capable or adapt to at argumentative self expression" (p.34).

One compelling premise is that violence in men is not only natural, but an essential trait that was developed through an evolutionary process. As argued by Dobash & Dobash (1998), Men have a greater propensity for violence than women. They further maintain that violence is embedded in male physicality, culture and experience (Dobash, 1998). To further extend this argument, Buzawa & Buzawa (2003) contend that, "It has been empirically established that although both genders commit acts of domestic violence, men commit far more serious violence than do women"(p.39). Research on the historical and biochemical links to aggression has considered other pathways, one of which is evolutionary. Daly & Wilson (1998) maintain that, "violent capabilities and inclinations arose in our male ancestors in response to the demands of male on male competition" (Dabash,p.200). Further, Newborn & Stanko (1994) maintain that "young men learn to do violence and within some cultural expressions it plays an important role in their social place and personal identity" (p.165). The question arises, if there is in fact an inherent basis for violence, can there also be a biochemical basis for violence toward women?

Domestic violence was found to be all-pervasive among all women but varying in volume and frequency across class, age and education level. As stated by Jewkes, (2002), "Women's susceptibility to intimate partner violence has been shown to be greatest in societies where the use of violence in many situations is a socially accepted norm" (p.359). Thus family violence will take place more often in violent societies.  With this in mind, it is not uncommon to see more cases of domestic violence reported in communities plagued with violence such as underprivileged inner cities. As stated by Buzawa & Buzawa (2003), "although domestic violence is present in all social strata and ethnic groups, it is disproportionately concentrated in population subgroups that are stressed with poverty" (p.40). Some subcultures develop norms that permit the use of physical violence to a greater degree than the dominant culture. For instance, if a particular community has a significantly high violent crime rate, than it is to be expected that violence will in some way manifest in the home. Often, people in these economically depraved communities develop peer relationships that promote male dominance in the community as well as the use of violence to support a culture of violence against women.

Ultimately, domestic violence is a complicated interplay of social, genetic, and environmental factors. Male violence against women in intimate relationships is a social problem condoned and supported by the customs and traditions of a particular society.