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Life-course development of reformed maritally violent men Riesen, Yuriko


How do boys grow up to be maritally violent? How do maritally violent men reform themselves and become violence-free? Little is known. The purpose of the study was to uncover reformed maritally violent men’s own accounts of (a) how they developed through life, and (b) how and why these men stopped being maritally violent. A life story was collected in telephone and/or face-to-face interviews from each of six reformed maritally violent men turned into counsellors specializing in marital violence issues. The men ranged in age from 35 to 60, and were not only physical violence-free but also psychological violence-free. The length of time physical violence-free ranged from 10 to 23 years. A life-story method was used in order to understand developmental trajectories of manifestation and cessation of marital violence. Specifically, several developmental themes that could explain the men’s use of violence/abuse in intimate relationships were identified: (a) communication difficulties, (b) distant relationships with fathers, (c) male socialization, (d) lack of proper role models, and (e) leaving home early. In addition, the processes of psychological as well as behavioural change were revealed. The study documented life-changing moments (i.e., turning points) and the nature of the therapeutic group counselling program that promoted transformation. Some of the results pertinent to cessation of violence/abuse and its maintenance can be explained by social controls such as (a) attachment to significant others, (b) commitment to societal goals and personal aspirations (e.g., social change, career), (c) involvement in conventional activities (e.g., work, family and social activities), and (d) moral belief (Hirschi, 1969). Finally, the life stories portrayed the men’s understanding of their current selves. The men not only ceased their violence/abuse, but also became generative adults who strove to be better persons. The study documented their generativity manifested in their fatherhood and the work they were doing as counsellors.

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