Identification of characteristics and patterns of male domestic partner abusers

Criminology Research Council grant ; (4/00-01)

One hundred men identified as domestic partner abusers were recruited from four community agencies in regional Victoria. Before participating in a men's behaviour change program, they were assessed on a range of physiological, psychopathological, personality and cognitive measures. Based on the direction of heart rate responses when participating in an analogue domestic conflict situation, two types of abusers were identified:

  • type 1 men were more assaultive, verbally aggressive and held stronger sexist attitudes than type¬†2 men; they were also more impulsive and more disinhibited than type¬†2 men; and
  • the second group (PG2) consisting of 44 men were characterised by disinhibited, impulsive behaviours and drug abuse.

Thirty of the 100 men were re-assessed after participation in a men's behaviour change program. Participation was associated with overall reductions in levels of anger, and apparent reductions in assaultiveness, and indirect and verbal aggression. However, after involvement in the program, the type 1 men evidenced more cynical hostility and the PG2 men reported stronger sexist attitudes. Fourteen women provided interviews after their partners had participated in the program. Their responses confirmed questionnaire results that participation was useful for many men but that results were variable. The research concluded that the men's behaviour change program was useful for many male domestic partner abusers, but other options need to be considered/developed for men with the characteristics identified above.