UBC Theses and Dissertations

UBC Theses Logo

UBC Theses and Dissertations

Violence against intimates : toward a profile of the wife assaulter Browning, James Joseph


Recent incidence statistics have confirmed the impressions of clinicians, transition house workers and police that wife assault is a widespread and serious social problem. The last decade has witnessed a flurry of theoretical papers, interview studies and broad survey research in the area. While these efforts have significantly advanced public awareness and knowledge about the problem, the majority of the research to date has suffered from methodological shortcomings such as lack of standardized measures, lack of comparison groups, and inattention to the offender. Since some evidence suggests that many of these men are violent in more than one relationship, the lack of knowledge about assaulter characteristics represents an important gap in the literature. This research project attempted to test a number of clinically-derived hypotheses about the wife assaulter and his relationship by directly examining a sample of eighteen assaultive husbands. The responses of these men were compared to those of eighteen verbally aggressive, nonviolent men and eighteen nonaggressive men matched for age and socioeconomic status. Paper and pencil measures were used to assess conflict tactics, marital adjustment, childhood exposure to violence, general and spouse-specific assertive communication, emotional expressiveness, attitudes toward women, and need for power. The men's reactions to videotaped couple conflict scenarios which varied power dynamics and attempted intimacy movement, were assessed via affect checklists and physiological measures (i.e. skin conductance, heart rate, respiration and pulse transit time). The men's reports of violence were corroborated by their wives. The results showed a remarkable similarity among the three groups of men overall. Some potentially interesting differences emerged in terms of the relevance of abandonment fear as an instigation to wife assault and in terms of differences in perceptions of violence between husband and wife. The overall results were compared with those of several well-designed studies on child abuse which indicate that many of the assumed characteristics of abusive families' are also shared by demographically similar nonabusive families. Suggestions for further substantive research are made based on the results of this project. Finally, a number of methodological recommendations are made including the need to develop a taxonomy of wife assaulters, the utility of collecting couple data, and the- necessity for a broad-based approach to theory and measurement in the area.

Item Media

Item Citations and Data


For non-commercial purposes only, such as research, private study and education. Additional conditions apply, see Terms of Use https://open.library.ubc.ca/terms_of_use.