Intimate partner violence (IPV) occurs in alarming numbers throughout the United States and the world. The broad field of human services (HS) makes it inevitable that HS workers will encounter people that are being (or have been) affected by this type of violence. As such, HS workers will be more effective in helping victims of violence by being equipped with a more focused understanding of IPV. This manuscript is derived from a review of the literature that examined the recent advances in the scientific understanding and explication of IPV. Understanding types of violence in intimate partnerships facilitates a more nuanced understanding of the relational dynamics in the partnership. This understanding then allows for intervention strategies that are more appropriate to end the violence and improve interpersonal functioning.
Intimate Partner Violence and the Human Services Professional
The nature of human services work entails helping professionals interacting with people in varying degrees of distress on a daily basis. The people we help have similarities, as well as differences; yet, they are all seeking services from us, the human services professional. I have worked in the human services field for over 16 years in several diverse treatment milieus. As a chemical dependency counselor, I encountered many patients discussing how domestic violence affected their emotional outlook as they grew up in homes affected by alcohol, drugs, and violence. As a marriage and family therapist, I have treated clients in intimate partnerships that contained physical, emotional, and sexual abuse. As a counselor working for a family court, I have encountered cases with intimate partner violence (IPV) on a daily basis. After every interaction with cases containing IPV, I knew I needed to understand the dynamics more fully in an effort to provide the best possible support to the family members. I needed to develop a finer-grained view of the dynamics in these families, and local professional workshops were not providing this deeper, more nuanced understanding with which to approach these tragic and dangerous cases. Though a focus in this manuscript is on IPV in the context of family court processes, the theoretical understanding of the violence types can be applicable to almost any human services environment. My hope is that this information provides a more comprehensive understanding of IPV to inform the human services practitioner in their many areas of helping.
Purpose of the Review
Scholars have agreed that the practice of using a “one size fits all” approach for families experiencing IPV who were asking the family courts for assistance is no longer effective (Ver Steegh & Dalton, 2008). The prevalence of IPV in relationships (Ellis, 2008; Niolon et al., 2009) is increasing and there is evidence that violence after family court litigation can be lethal (Elias, 2010). Additionally, scholars have recognized a need to differentiate violence types to assist in improving court processes and intervention strategies (Holtzworth-Munroe & Stuart, 1994; Holtzworth-Munroe et al., 2000; Jaffe et al., 2008; Johnson, 1995; Johnson, 2005; Kelly & Johnson, 2008; Ver Steegh & Dalton, 2008). Kelly and Johnson (2008) provided a violence typology upon which to begin the process of developing programmatic batterer intervention programs (BIP). Kelly and Johnson argued that using a feminist-based curriculum such as the Duluth model (Pence & Paymar, as cited in Kelly & Johnson, 2008) is clinically contraindicated for situational couple violence because those men do not normally use a coercive controlling style in the context of the IPV. Therefore, the purpose of this review is to provide an indeph review of the scientific literature regarding the recent advances and controversies in the study of IPV to inform human services professionals.
Kelly and Johnson (2008) provided a coherent typology that differentiates violence type to assist with improving IPV screening and intervention strategies. Other scholars have offered useful batterer typologies (Holtzworth-Munroe & Stuart, 1994; Holtzworth-Munroe et al., 2000), which provided subtypes of specific categories of batterers such as the borderline/dysphoric batterer, who oftentimes employs coercive controlling violence (Kelly & Johnson, 2008).
Kelly and Johnson (2008) differentiated IPV typologies based upon the type of violence used against the victim in the context of the setting of the violence. Kelly and Johnson argued that the usefulness of differentiating types of violence would demonstrate value in improving the efficacy of IPV screening tools for family court processes, as well as batterer intervention programs. Noting the controversy in the field regarding batterer type, gender issues, and treatment programs, Kelly and Johnson provided useful typologies while balancing effectively the controversy regarding gender. For example, scholars have viewed IPV as mostly male initiated violence (Bemiller, 2008), and insist the family court process oftentimes abuses the victim. Conversely, other researchers (Dutton, 2005; Holtzworth-Munroe, 2005; Johnson, 2005) have questioned the validity of many studies with respect to issues of operational definitions of domestic violence, as well as the homogeneity of the sample populations. Ultimately, Kelly and Johnson concluded, “Based on hundreds of studies, it is quite apparent that both men and women are violent in intimate partner relationships” (p. 480). Based upon the reasoning of Kelly and Johnson (2008), it seems important to remain aware that women are initiating IPV as well as men. Consequently, more than one paradigm, or lens through which to view IPV dynamics was used during this review of the literature.
Kelly and Johnson (2008) found that large national surveys most likely detected a different type of violence than smaller surveys of women’s shelters or medical facilities. For example, Kelly and Johnson defined coercive controlling violence as predominantly committed by males, and their female victims largely populated the shelters and sought medical care. Kelly and Johnson hypothesized that larger national surveys likely captured a specific and different kind of violence identified as situational couple violence.
Johnson (1995) discussed the problematic research and generalization issues associated with using convenience samples such as women’s shelters as opposed to larger, more representative surveys to investigate the issue of IPV. Johnson argued that the larger national surveys captured different samples, which in turn, showed different results. Essentially, Johnson argued shelter samples looked at a specific sample of participants that are not representative of the larger population.
Thus, shelter data showed that men perpetrate violence more than women because women seek assistance with these shelters and men do not, thereby not capturing male input to the study(s). This lack of masculine input to the shelter data sets leaves important data out of the analyses thereby biasing the study(s).
Subsequent researchers (Jaffe et al., 2008; Johnson, 1995; Johnson, 2005; Kelly & Johnson, 2008) have postulated that the larger national surveys revealed a different type of violence, situational couple violence, or conflict instigated violence. Those researchers (Jaffe et al., 2008; Johnson, 1995; Johnson, 2005; Kelly & Johnson, 2008) explicated situational couple violence to be different in terms of perpetrator and victim characteristics, more couples were likely to experience this kind of violence, (i.e., Kelly and Johnson), and appeared to conclude that situational couple violence is more representative of the general population. Johnson (1995; 2005), Jaffe et al. (2008), Kelly and Johnson (2008) elucidated a difference between types of violence; herein resides the usefulness of their models for the present review.
For example, identifying patterns or types of violence might assist in understanding, accurately identifying, and screening coparents with IPV as a factor in their case seeking parenting plans from family court.
Accurate screening of violence types may assist in creating appropriate parenting plans, which might then minimize the risk of harm coming to a child vis-à-vis the court orders.
Kelly and Johnson’s work (Kelly & Johnson, 2008) will provide a coherent framework for this review of the literature regarding IPV. The four violence types are, (a) coercive controlling, (b) violent resistant, (c) situational couple violence, and (d) separation-instigated violence (Kelly & Johnson, 2008). Please see Figure 1 for a quick reference display.
Coercive controlling violence. Coercive controlling violence is characterized by the perpetrator, predominately a male (although Hamel  provided an argument against this assumption), interacting relationally with the partner through the context of power and control (Kelly & Johnson, 2008). These batterers use one or more of the following methods or behaviors to enforce power and control: intimidating, isolating, asserting male privilege, emotionally abusing, blaming, minimizing, coercing, and threatening (Kelly & Johnson, 2008). This violence type generally results in more frequent violence than the other types of violence.
Violent resistant. Kelly and Johnson (2008) described the violent resistant type as being characterized by violence perpetrated by the victims of coercive controlling males in heterosexual relationships toward the batterer. These persons are predominantly female and reacting to feeling trapped; the extreme of this type of violence is the woman who murders her partner (Kelly & Johnson, 2008). Some of the violent resistant persons are males; however, the paucity of research prevents more specificity regarding this piece.
Situational couple violence. Situational couple violence happens during an argument or situation in which the escalation of intensity and emotion erupts into violence (Kelly & Johnson, 2008).
Kelly and Johnson (2008) argued that this type of violence differs from coercive controlling violence because it lacks the fixed elements of the chronic relational dynamic of the abuser asserting power and control over the victim. According to Kelly and Johnson’s (2008) review of the literature, both males and females initiated this type of violence in similar numbers.
Separation instigated violence. Separation instigated violence is atypical violence perpetrated by a person with no history of violent behaviors toward their partner. Kelly and Johnson (2008) articulated this violence type occurred in reaction to traumatic separation, public humiliation (e.g., service of legal papers at the workplace), walking in on one’s partner having sexual intimacy, and so on. The essential elements in this type of violence were the lack of history of violence in the relationship and the loss of “psychological control” (Kelly & Johnson, 2008, p. 487).
The following definition of IPV was derived from the California Code, Family Code (§3044), and included additional descriptors from other recent research (Archer, 2000; Archer, 2002; Hamel, 2009; Jaffe et al., 2008; Johnson, 1995; Johnson, 2005; Kelly & Johnson, 2008). IPV consists of either a one-time occurrence or a chronic pattern of the following behaviors by one partner toward the other: pushing, carrying, shoving, grabbing or restraining one partner, slapping with an open hand or hitting with a closed hand or fist, the pulling of a partner’s hair on any part of the body, dragging or throwing a partner, biting or kicking a partner (Archer, 2000; Archer, 2002; Hamel, 2009; Jaffe et al., 2008; Johnson, 1995; Johnson, 2005; Kelly & Johnson, 2008). This definition includes a partner using derogatory names, cursing at, or otherwise using shaming or humiliating language as IPV(Archer, 2000; Archer, 2002; Hamel, 2009; Jaffe et al., 2008; Johnson, 1995; Johnson, 2005; Kelly & Johnson, 2008). Moreover, IPV consists of the hitting of a partner on the head, face, breasts/chest, or the genital area, as well as choking, strangulation, smothering, and the use of objects to hit a partner (Archer, 2000; Archer, 2002; Hamel, 2009; Jaffe et al., 2008; Johnson, 1995; Johnson, 2005; Kelly & Johnson, 2008). Keeping a partner from friends, family, or employment, disabling the telephone, car, and/or withholding keys, not allowing personal contacts, phone calls, or mail, in addition to the stalking of a person is included in this definition (Archer, 2000; Archer, 2002; Hamel, 2009; Jaffe et al., 2008; Johnson, 1995; Johnson, 2005; Kelly & Johnson, 2008). Lastly, demanding knowledge of a partner’s whereabouts and one partner being actively afraid of the other partner for any reason constitutes IPV (Archer, 2000; Archer, 2002; Hamel, 2009; Jaffe et al., 2008; Johnson, 1995; Johnson, 2005; Kelly & Johnson, 2008).
A Review of the Controversies in Previous Research
The IPV controversies. Kelly and Johnson (2008) proposed a violence typology based on a review of the literature (Graham-Kevan & Archer, 2003; Holtzworth-Munroe, Meehan, Herron, Rehman, & Stuart, 2000; Johnson, 1995, 2006; Johnson & Ferraro, 2000; Johnston & Campbell, 1993; Leone, Johnson, Cohan, Lloyd, as cited in Kelly & Johnson, 2008) and identified four types or categories of violence as discussed above. Nearly every one of those authors addressed the contested gender symmetry/asymmetry debate, as well as the controversies with respect to the biases of the existing empirical evidence regarding IPV in one form or another. For example, Johnson (1995; 2005) articulated the problematic data interpretation issues from the use of large national surveys versus convenience samples. Johnson’s contention (Johnson, 1995, 2005; Johnson & Ferraro, 2000) was that the survey types largely determined the outcome of the data based on sample bias. For instance, Johnson (1995, 2005) explicated that data from a shelter containing mostly women seeking services from a shelter identified one type of violence, whereas larger national surveys identified a different type of violence and were likely more representative of the larger population.
Another of Johnson’s (2005) contentions was that some scholars based arguments upon faulty logic and ignored established science. Johnson argued, “It is no longer scientifically or ethically acceptable to speak of domestic violence without specifying the type of violence to which one refers” (p. 45). Johnson pointed to articles, which sought to test his theoretical postulations of violence typology, and appeared to garner some empirical support (Graham-Kevan & Archer, 2003).
Johnson (2005) furthermore explicated agency samples such as those from courts, battered women’s shelters, hospitals, and crime surveys which pointed to a particular predominantly male perpetrated violence – intimate terrorism (p. 45). However, Johnson asserted there were two other categories or types of violence from the extant data: violence resistance, which is used by the victim of the intimate terrorist to resist that violence (i.e., self-defense), and situational couple violence, a violence type that is not “embedded in a general pattern of power and control” (Johnson, 2005, p. 45). For Johnson’s (2005) postulations, power and control were the key elements that defined the intimate terrorist violence type. Johnson (1995, 2005) viewed power and control from the relational level as opposed to specific situations. Essentially, Johnson (2005) seemed to be saying the relationship centered on power and the use of controlling behaviors perpetrated predominately by the male against the female (p. 45).
Johnson (2005) buttressed his argument regarding male dominated intimate terrorist violence based on the Archer (2000) study. Dutton (2005) also used the Archer data in opposing Johnson’s thesis of gender symmetry and asymmetry. Johnson stated that the Archer meta-analysis found males from the agency samples to be more likely to be the perpetrators of violence (d = .86). Johnson also cited data from a British sample in which men (see Graham-Kevan & Archer as cited in Johnson, 2005) perpetrated 87% of intimate terrorist violence. Johnson linked the controlling behaviors of the intimate terrorist to the agency samples, and then linked the larger showing of males perpetrating this type of violence to his category of intimate terrorist. However, Johnson also stated that there existed a different type of violence – situational couple violence.
Johnson identified this type of violence as coming from the gender symmetric studies from larger national surveys which showed females to be as likely to commit violence as males were. Johnson stated that those surveys caught violence between couples and was more representative of the general population.
Many of the gender symmetry arguments used the Archer (2000, 2002) meta-analyses in some manner to fortify their arguments. This is problematic for at least one significant reason: Half of the sample in the Archer 2002 study was college and high school students. Furthermore, the researchers involved in the Archer meta-analyses indicated that this was essentially an issue in their first meta-analysis. That one could consider generalizing the findings of immature adolescents who have no firm sense of self developmentally to the general population is untenable, especially in the context of a controversial debate regarding generalizability. Scholars commonly agree that quasi-experimental designs in quantitative studies essentially apply to the specific group being studied and have limited, if any, generalizability to a larger population (Gravetter & Wallnau, 2007; Horn, Synder, Coverdale, Louie, & Roberts, 2009). Therefore, based upon extant data, one cannot confidently say with any empirical support that IPV as a whole has gender symmetry or asymmetry. Rather, researchers, as did Johnson and others (1995; 2005; Johnson & Ferraro, 2000; Kelly & Johnson, 2008), must link together separate, different studies, and make educated guesses with respect to gender symmetry/asymmetry.
Dutton, Nicholls, and Spidel (2005) argued that researchers and policy makers, which championed funding for the victims of IPV (i.e., only women), had prevented the reporting of female perpetrated battering.
They stated, “until very recently, political correctness and concerns that reports of female perpetrated abuse might decrease funding and other sources of support for female… victims” (p. 2) has essentially prevented publication of research revealing IPV with female perpetrators. Other scholars have echoed this assertion (Babcock, Miller, & Siard, 2003).
Additionally, most of the studies claiming gender symmetry or asymmetry relied on self-reports and as such, are subject to self-report bias. The positivist paradigm would likely eschew making bold, conclusive arguments for the generalizability of those studies regarding gender symmetry/asymmetry. Based upon this review of the controversies, it appears research in the field of IPV is in need of uncontaminated studies using qualitative investigation or mixed-method designs to obtain a richer understanding of the IPV phenomenon.
Moving forward from the gender symmetry/asymmetry issue, disagreement yet exists upon similar arguments for violence typologies. However, Johnson (2005) pointed out that one researcher using a British sample essentially provided empirical support for his violence typologies (Graham-Kevan & Archer, 2003). Graham-Kevan and Archer (2003) sought to test Johnson’s typologies using a sample expected to contain evidence of intimate terrorism – battered women’s shelters and a prison. However, Graham-Kevan and Archer developed a new instrument they derived from the Conflict Tactic Scales they called the Controlling Behaviors Scale (p. 1252). Graham-Kevan and Archer reported the Cronbach’s alpha scores for some of the four item scales were as low as .48. This alone exposes reliability issues for that study. Yet Graham-Kevan and Archer (2003) reported that their research appeared to find support that intimate terrorism is predominantly male perpetrated and common couple violence was gender symmetric.
Gender specific versus gender inclusive. Hamel (2009) addressed each perceived flaw in Johnson’s (1995, 2005) theoretical typology citing various authors and articles that dissented with Johnson’s thesis. Hamel preferred a largely intrapersonal gender inclusive model of IPV, stating Johnson’s model did not, “incorporate the impulsive and [emphasis in original] severe violence characteristic of those with borderline personality disorder” (p. 44). Hamel highlighted the fact that Johnson’s research did find gender symmetry in the form of common couple violence; however, Hamel appeared to take umbrage with Johnson’s embracement of the feminist viewpoint of patriarchal terrorism for the severest form of violence. Hamel cited a statistic from the National Violence Against Women Survey (NVAWS) which found that 36% of the IPV victims were men (Tjaden & Throennes, 2000). Hamel did not follow through with the analysis of the sample, except to say that some scholars (Straus as cited in Hamel, 2009) theorized that male IPV would be underreported in that survey for various reasons such as embarrassment and so on (p. 44).
Hamel (2009) presented comparison tables (see Tables 1 & 2 in his article) denoting the theoretical underpinnings of each model and the concomitant policy and treatment implications that logically stemmed from each research paradigm. While each of the authors discussed in this review of the literature mentioned policy implications, Hamel’s charts appeared particularly helpful in placing the important aspects of treatment and policy issues and concomitant project funding dollars in a context to appreciate how these issues might have influenced bias in the research(er).
A researcher in the field of IPV made a similar comment when discussing the gap between practice and research. In a personal communication that discussed the gap between research and practice, Hardesty stated that the gap between research and practice existed for many complicated reasons, including competition for research funding dollars (J. Hardesty, personal communication, April 23, 2010).
Individual versus systemic views and a movement toward batterer typology. Hamel (2009) offered a case for envisioning IPV in terms of individual psychopathology (p. 46), proximal factors such as socioeconomic influences, type of relationship, and age (p.47). Therefore, Hamel stated IPV consisted of interpersonal, situational, and relationship developmental issues, and should be viewed holistically in those terms. Interestingly, Hamel’s formulation of IPV appeared similar to Capaldi and Kim’s (2009) dynamic systems model of IPV. Capaldi and Kim apparently desired to include individual psychopathology into their theoretical models of IPV, especially in terms of the etiology of IPV. However, that thinking seemed to be an extension of the batterer typology explicated by Holtzworth-Munroe and Stuart (1994). Holtzworth-Munroe and Stuart’s erudite model meticulously explicated a batterer typology that included developmental aspects of the individual; the psychopathology of the individual; as well as proximal and distal factors (including relational dynamics, and situational factors) thought to have influenced a batterer’s etiology, including attachment style (pp. 482-494).
Holtzworth-Munroe and Stuart (1994) made a statement that provided logical organizational sense in terms of progressive research regarding IPV and batterer typology:
Perhaps an appropriate analogy from the field of medicine is that of cancer: All cancer patients share a common underlying pathology; however, the features of each type of cancer vary tremendously, each having its own causes, risk factors, and treatments. Given this viewpoint, it may no longer make sense to conduct studies that involve comparisons between violent and nonviolent husbands. Rather, future researchers should identify subtypes of batterers and then compare each subtype with the others and with nonviolent comparison groups. (Holtzworth-Munroe & Stuart, 1994, p. 494)
Support for Holtzworth-Munroe and Stuart’s (1994) batterer typology model comes from two later studies, Holtzworth-Munroe et al. (2000) and Eckhardt, Holtzworth-Munroe, Norlander, Sibley, and Cahill, (2008). In a study specifically designed to test the largely theoretically based batterer typology of Holtzworth-Munroe and Stuart (1994), Holtzworth-Munroe et al., (2000) undertook an extensive study with concomitant exhaustive statistical analyses of the different data collected from various instruments and measures. The Holtzworth-Munroe et al. (2000) analyses revealed support for the original three categories of batterers, the (a) generally violent antisocial batterer, (b) the borderline/dysphoric batterer, and (c) the family only batterer. However, the subsequent results of that study comparing groups of violent men and nonviolent men revealed a new cluster, (d) the low-level antisocial batterer.
The strengths of the study were that Holtzworth-Munroe et al. (2000) compared violent and non-violent men, used several measures including the Conflict Tactic Scales Revised (CTS-2; Straus, Hamby, Boney-McCoy, & Sugarman, 1996, as cited in Holtzworth-Munroe et al., 2000), included objective documentation such as police arrest records and court documents, and also incorporated spouse reports – an innovative aspect not seen in the literature of IPV at that time.
However, the samples were not randomly assigned; the sample size was relatively small (n = 102 in husband violent group, n = 62 in nonviolent husband comparison group), and the use of self-reports were a mainstay of data collection Holtzworth-Munroe et al. (2000). One additional criticism is that Holtzworth-Munroe et al. (2000) appeared to accept, a priori, that men were the predominant batterers (from the same controversial data sets discussed previously in this section), and therefore, required specific focus as batterers. In this paper, I assert that despite this gender bias, the data from the Holtzworth-Munroe and Stuart (1994) and Holtzworth-Munroe et al. (2000) studies are essential to understanding one aspect of IPV – how men batter women. How women might fit a particular batterer typology as yet remains unclear.
Eckhardt et al. (2008) provided additional support for the batterer typology originally presented in Holtzworth-Munroe and Stuart (1994) and refined in Holtzworth-Munroe et al. (2000). Eckhardt et al. sought to understand why male batterers had such poor batterer intervention completion (BIP) rates. Eckhardt et al. hypothesized that some of the men were not ready to embrace change, therefore, rendered the BIP treatment ineffective. They used the transtheoretical model of behavior change (TTM; Prochaska as cited in Eckhardt et al., 2008) to see if stages of change were meaningful in understanding the poor completion rates of male batterers. Eckhardt et al. also wanted to know if batterer type was meaningful in understanding poor BIP completion rates.
The second author of that study was Holtzworth-Munroe, a principal investigator for two of the batterer typology studies discussed in the present study. Essentially, Eckhardt et al. conducted cluster analyses of 199 participants that took the same measures originally given to the participants in the Holtzworth-Munroe studies Eckhardt et al. (2008). The participants clustered into the same four types Eckhardt et al (2008). However, Eckhardt et al. found that the generally violent antisocial group was somewhat smaller than the other groups (6%). Eckhardt et al. suggested that the generally violent antisocial males were most likely not seeking treatment or had more severe criminal issues and thus, were underrepresented in their sample of BIP treatment seeking (or ordered) persons. Limitations of this study were that the sample was largely African American males, Eckhardt et al. assumed a priori men to be the batterers, and the sample was not randomly assigned, thereby, limiting the generalizability of the results of that study.
A precedent for a female batterer typology? Female batterer typologies were examined in previous research (Allen-Collenson, 2009; Babcock, Miller, & Siard, 2003; Dutton, Nicholls, & Spidel, 2005) that tended to view the female perpetrated violence in terms of women resisting the violence of men with some semblance of self-defense. Dutton et al. (2005) provided a review of literature that examined female perpetrated IPV. For example, Dutton et al. reported the results of a few studies, one in particular (Babcock, Miller, & Siard, 2003), that used the male IPV batterer typology paradigm from the Holtzworth-Munroe and Stuart (1994) study. Dutton et al. argued that the Babcock et al. study provided empirical support for the position that females are batterers as well. In that study, Babcock et al. found two predominant types of female batterers, generally violent perpetrators and partner only perpetrators.
Babcock et al. compared 60 women that were receiving treatment for perpetrators of IPV, which included lesbian and heterosexual participants. The measures were designed to capture several aspects of the violence including, (a) reasons for violence, (b) proximal antecedents for violent episodes, (c) general violence, and (d) intimate partner abuse and self-defense (Babcock et al., 2003, pp. 155-156). One important facet to their study as it related to the IPV controversies was that those researchers sought to investigate the feminist paradigm of women using violence for self-defense (see Dutton et al., 2005; Johnson, 1995; Johnson, 2005; Kelly & Johnson, 2008). Using a Likert-type survey in addition to a modified version of the CTS-2, Babcock et al. found no significant correlation between the use of self-defense by the female batterers in their study and independent measures of perpetrated violence. Babcock et al. acknowledged that a simple frequency count of violence committed due to self-defense was not a valid way to capture that important information in light of self-report bias (p. 159). Using the Trauma Symptoms Checklist, Babcock et al. also sought to understand how, or if, past trauma acted as a contextual variable in causing violent behavior in their sample. Babcock et al. found that the generally violent women endorsed more trauma symptoms than partner only women did. Additionally, experiencing child abuse was not a significant difference between the two groups.
Another interesting finding developmentally, was that generally violent women indicated having watched their mothers being harmed by males more so than did the partner only group. Those authors subsequently hypothesized that female batterers were more likely to have learned to be violent through social learning as opposed to the paradigm of the feminist proffered patriarchal terrorist theory (p. 159). This essential observation by the authors provides central support for the position of the present review – female and male batterers are naturally different.
This difference is without any type of pejorative attribution. Male and female differences simply are factual.
Nevertheless, I agree with the statement from Johnson (2005) in that it seems important to differentiate between violence types when discussing IPV since it assists the researchers and helping professionals with obtaining a more focused and nuanced understanding of the IPV dynamics (Kelly & Johnson, 2008). Moreover, Johnson and Ferraro (2000) stated, “We believe that the major advances in our understanding of the origins of partner violence will come from bringing together and extending the work on types of violence and types of perpetrators” (p. 950).
Toward a possible use for typologies. Though extant research of IPV remains controversial and lacking of clear empirical support for any particular position regarding gender symmetry, violence typology, or batterer typology, viewing IPV through the lens of violence and batterer typologies may have usefulness in future studies (Johnson 2005). For example, child custody mediators can take appropriate safety measures for the children of parents with a history of IPV based upon the type of violence (Jaffe et al, 2008). The idea being one type of violence may inherently contain more danger for children than a different type of violence (see Jaffe et al., 2008).
Relevance to Human Services Professionals. This application logically extends to human services workers helping individuals and families in the many different treatment milieus to screen for IPV as a factor in their case. The human services worker equipped with the knowledge of violence types can quickly and accurately identify the type of violence, understand how power and control influences the violence, and take steps to initiate appropriate intervention strategies to stop the violence.
For example, a human services case manager might notice the single mother assigned to them is cancelling appointments and showing up with noticeable bruises. Asking appropriate questions regarding her injuries and relationship dynamics might reveal she has become linked with an intimate terrorist. Additional information can be obtained vis-à-vis a risk assessment for the likelihood of future or more lethal violence and safety measures can be implemented.
Nonetheless, some in the research community criticized the use of typologies based on the following arguments. Capaldi and Kim (2009) argued that certain key issues existed in understanding IPV – degree of violence versus type, couples versus individual, and instrumental versus hostile aggression. Capaldi and Kim (2009) opined that each of these areas, if examined closely, rendered the usefulness of typologies inadequate for explaining fully the mechanisms underlying IPV (pp. 4-7). Capaldi and Kim (2009) argued that typologies are too simplistic to understand violence patterns between people. Capaldi and Kim (2009) asserted that contextual, situational, developmental characteristics, and relational factors all combined to influence IPV. As such, Capaldi and Kim (2009) postulated a different way in which to study IPV, which was through dyadic observation (p. 8) with a dynamic developmental systems approach. Capaldi and Kim (2009) explained, “The approach emphasizes the importance of considering first the characteristics of both partners as they enter and then move through the relationship, including personality, psychopathology, ongoing social influences (e.g., peer associations), and individual developmental stage” (p. 8). Capaldi and Kim ensured that both persons involved in the violence were evaluated in terms of behaviors, inter and intra personal deficits, and as well as situational, contextual, and developmental points in the relationship. General Systems Theory practitioners would agree with Capaldi and Kim in their focus on dynamic interactions of many things converging to influence the individual (Thomas, 1994).
Yet, a contrasting viewpoint comes from the wisdom found in the axiom, “Occam’s Razor” (n.d.) which recommends the use of the simplest of competing theories.
Recent advances in our understanding of IPV provide a finer-grained view of the violence dynamics between intimate partners. Research suggests that violence is taking place in large numbers of intimate relationships. As such, human services workers equipped with the recent advances in knowledge can begin practically applying this knowledge by being aware of the following: (a) understanding the prevalence rates of IPV in intimate relationships, (b) differentiating the type of violence, (c) identifying type of perpetrator, (d) performing a risk assessment regarding the possibility for escalation and/or lethality of violence, and (e) recommending appropriate interventions for their clients and their families to stop the violence and begin the healing process.
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