Sex differences in antisocial behavior (part 2) intimate partner violence

Last week I introduced the Dunedin study a 30+ year look at the lives, behaviors and personalities of a group of New Zealanders born in 1972. We learned that a small percentage of males and females in the study population were responsible for a high percentage of the antisocial acts reported by the group. Next week, I will discuss the personalities and early histories of this group of people.

This week I want to tell you about the one exception to the observation that men were more antisocial than women. In the realm of intimate partner violence, women were as antisocial as men. Furthermore, a general tendency to be antisocial was found in both men and women who were violent toward their partners.

The results of the study support the contention that sociopathy leads to intimate partner violence.

At age 21 participants reported about partner violence over the past year (83%) or as part of their dating experience (8%). They were assessed by a structured interview that included questions about perpetration and victimization. The researchers also conducted identical interviews with partners of the study participants. They used the:
• Physical Abuse Scale- 13 items
— Physical twisted arm
— Pushed grabbed or shoved
— Slapped
— Physically forced sex
— Shake
— Throw
— Thrown object at
— Chocked or strangled
— Kicked, bit, hit with fist
— Hit with something
— Beat up
— Threaten with gun or knife
— Use of gun or knife

The study found that 8% of couples had clinical level of IPV. In the 30 cases that involved justice system, 80% of the abuse lead to injuries. Both male and female perpetrators were involved. Women with a history of conduct problems were more likely to become involved in a relationship with an abusive man; being involved with an abusive man contributed significantly to woman’s perpetration. However, even after controlling or partners’ physical abuse, women with a history of conduct problems were still likely to commit violence.

The researchers also found that these aspects of the antisocial propensity contributed to intimate partner aggression in both men and women:

— Approval of the use of violence
— Excessive jealousy and suspiciousness
— Intense and rapid negative emotions
— Poor self-control

They concluded, “Among men and women IPV perpetration is but another expression of an earlier-emerging antisocial propensity.”

There were other studies my class and I read that concluded men more frequently perpetrated domestic violence. The authors of these studies suggested that dominance motives on the part of men were important. My class and I then set about to search for other research regarding dominance motives and intimate partner violence. We found a paper that explains it all, Dominance and symmetry in partner violence by male and female university students in 32 nations by Murray A. Straus, Ph.D. of the Family Research Laboratory at the University of New Hampshire.

This paper addressed three questions:
1. Is partner violence primarily perpetrated by men, as compared to women, and as compared to both partners engaging in physical violence?
2. To what extent is dominance by the male partner associated with partner violence, as compared to dominance by the female partner?
3. In short is the risk factor male dominance or dominance by one partner, regardless of whether it is the male female partner?

Their first finding was that female university students around the world more frequently perpetrated partner violence, the gender gap was about 30%. They then set out to examine whether male or female dominance in the relationship was related to IPV.

Dominance by the partner who completed the survey was measured by the Dominance scale of the Personal and Relationships Profile. Examples of the items are “I generally have the final say when my partner and I disagree” and “My partner needs to remember that I am in charge.” The response categories are 1 = Strongly Disagree, 2 = Disagree, 3 = Agree, and 4 = Strongly Agree. The scale score is the mean of nine items.

The nation with the highest score for Dominance by male partners was Tanzania, which is also the least modernized of the 32 nations in this study. The four national settings which are the next most male dominant are Russia, Iran, Taiwan and mainland China. The national setting in which male students have the lowest average dominance score is Sweden, which is a nation that has led the way in steps to promote gender equality. The other four of the five least male dominant national settings are Netherlands, Canada, Switzerland, and Malta.

In relationships where only men were violent. Male dominance increased the odds of violence by 2.29. Each increase of one point on the four point Dominance scale increased the probability of violence by male students 2.29 times. Interestingly, of the other four variables in the Male-Only panel, only one—length of the relationship—is significantly related to Male-Only violence.

In relationships where only women were violent, male dominance increased the risk of Female-only violence by 1.96 times. Again for each one point increase in the male dominance scale Female —Only violence increased 1.96 times. The only other significant relationship in the Female-Only panel shows that the longer the relationship the higher the odds of Female-Only violence.

What about male dominance and bidirectional violence (relationships where both partners are violent)? First, dominance by the male partner is associated with a three-fold increase in the probability of both partners being violent. This is larger than the increase in the probability of Male-Only or Female-Only violence. That is, dominance by a male partner is more strongly associated with bidirectional violence than with Male-Only violence.

Now comes the most interesting part”¦ dominance by women. This is for all you great guys out there who know that women are not always sweet, lovely, submissive creatures. Female dominance was actually common in relationships around the world!

Overall, the Dominance scale scores are higher for women than for men in 24 of the 32 nations, and in all 12 of the nations with the lowest scores for male dominance. Although the differences are small, they are not consistent with the large body of evidence showing greater male power in intimate relationships in most societies. But keep in mind the subjects of this study were university men and women.

Female dominance as reported by women is associated with about a two and half times greater probability of the Male-Only pattern of IPV. The probability of Male-Only violence increases by 3% for each additional month the relationship has been in effect.

Female dominance is much more strongly linked to Female-Only violence than was shown for the relation of male dominance to Female-Only violence. That is, when there is dominance by either partner, it increases the odds of Female-Only violence, but the increase is much greater for female dominance.

Female dominance also increased bi-directional violence, but the effect of female dominance on the odds of bidirectional violence tends to be greater than the effect of male dominance. Age is related to a decrease in the odds of bidirectional violence, and the longer the relationship the greater the odds of bidirectional violence.

I think the research in IPV gives us very important messages about love and life. First sociopaths who are obsessed with power and dominance are not good relationship partners. Secondly, although the human dominance drive is there to energize us to compete and better ourselves, this drive if out of balance, can be very destructive.

What say you?

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76 Comments on "Sex differences in antisocial behavior (part 2) intimate partner violence"

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I’m maintaining a position that men are holding out here… chicken to admit they got taken.

Come on! Show yourselves!



Oh, yeah — the withholding. I know that story oh-so-well. The sex with S was explosive up-front. Then the withholding started. He would throw me a bone and put out everytime he knew I had about reached my limit. The last time we had sex, I knew exactly what he was up to and I vowed I wasn’t going to give him what he wanted afterwards. It was a revenge fuck on my part, pure and simple. Two weeks later he was history.

Hi FlatBrokeNow,
You’re probably right that “men are holding out here” chicken to admit they got taken”.

I grew up with a psychopathic mother, so my perspective is quite different. But there is a common thread in that the P/S is female. In my experience, particularly if the P is a mother, the notion of an “evil” woman goes against everything modern society seems to stand for. Feminism has done a wonderful job advancing women’s rights, but has done so in my opinion by going overboard and inappropriately demonizing men and sanctifying women. My experience has been that whenever or wherever (I’m talking therapy or self-help here – not speaking in general public) I try to speak about my experience with a sadistic mother the principle of “shoot the messenger” seems to invariably apply. Sometimes it’s subtle – people blink, nod, pause, and change the subject (ignore the messenger). The more ‘threatened’ go on to say something oblique that invalidates my reality – like “All mothers love their children”, or go on about how the mother/child bond is the strongest bond known to mankind. Or they trot out that old wonderful chestnut that I was “lucky” – that suffering abuse from a woman couldn’t have been that bad – nowhere near as bad as suffering abuse from a man. The most predatory inevitably get around – eventually – to making statements about how girls who grow up with bad mothers are inevitably borderline. So I’m very wary of the label “BPD” – not only because it can be a misdiagnosis of psychopathy, but also because it is frequently used as a threat to shut up a coherent rational individual who might otherwise speak the truth about things society would rather not hear.

LF seems to be the only place I can speak the truth without experiencing that blowback response. So I’m personally very glad you’re championing this cause (getting men to speak out). It’s not true that the truth needs no defence, if the truth breaks a cultural taboo. In this case there is truly strength in numbers.

So I imagine that quite a number of men are in a similar position to me – it is culturally unacceptable and frequently dangerous to ‘finger’ women as perpetrators, especially those that are “well-hidden”. Unless the woman is an over-the-top Glenn Close rabit-boiling type (I forget the name of that movie), society seems to be blind and dumb to her machinations. Most of my ‘damage’ didn’t come from my abuse, but from society’s denial that it was even possible from a woman, which makes a very long, lonely and difficult road to recovery.

I’m a big fan of Viktor Frankl’s philosophy that there are only two races of “man” in this world: the race of the decent man and the race of the indecent man. I’m advocating for the day that we can accept that this applies equally to gender, and that violence and abuse of power is wrong regardless of who commits it.

Hi Annie,

Well said, and Amen.

I haven’t mentioned that she has a 30 yo son, who I did meet briefly. Seems mature, and intelligent, a bit quiet around his Mom.
A former Marine… hmmm… loves the abuse?

She showed me a photo of her son as a 2 yo once, and it was kind of frightening… he was in some sort of harness suspended from the ceiling so he could not run around… Yikes!

Later I asked her how she did raising her son, she just said ” I was very strict with him”. I said oh, so you were loving as well? No comment.

Let’s face it. Men are not willing to come out and admit they got pu$$ywhipped. Just ain’t gonna happen. Not a manly thing to do.


Wow, Annie,

Dr. Viktor Frankl—my favorite author and hero. “Man’s Search for Meaning” was the turning point for me! the best book next to the Bible in my olpinon!

My S daughters ex told me recently that he was married when he met her, and she ‘set her cap at him”, was determined to have him. She was [and still is ] very good looking, and what she wants is usually what she gets. It was all about sex, but he told me there was no tenderness, ever. he said a few years back,”M, she never puts her arm round me and says,”Hi, darling, what kind of day have you had? ” he said”I feel Im dying fom lack of affection its always about her . her career, her needs”, She views her children as apaendages to service her needs.When Holly, my oldest Granddaughter was about 5 he said,”She is the reason I get up in the morning.” I thought then, it should be his wife being the reason he gets up in the morning.I stayed over one weekend and spent hours cleaning th e house, cooking, changing beds, etc. What a shit hole herhouse was, always!It never bothered her, but it bothered her ex. her attitude was, “if it bothers you, YOU clean it up! I used to say,”Why dont you try thanking him when he vacuums the house”. “Why the hell should I do that? he lives here too!” She totally didnt get that politeness, gratefulness and kindness oil the social wheels.Shenever bothered to wear make up, or dress nicely for me when she visited with the kids, she hardly talked to me. And I put up with it, making endless excuses,-” shes tired,and I dont mind waiting on her, its the only break she gets.”But on facebook, she is this “Lady in Red, bright red lipstick, phoney smile which doesnt reach her eyes, provocative sexy smile. It gives me the shudders. I notice her so called “Friends” ie, fresh prey, are getting younger and younger.her older real friends are no more, theyve been suckd dry once too often. On 8th of Dec, it will be one year NC {seeing her,} and Im now4 and a half months NC by phone or email.I must say its getting easier not to worry about her, and my blood pressure, my sanity, and my bank balance are all recovering!!!TOWANDA!!Thanks to all you awesome guys, esp . Oxy, Kathy, Erin, for your invaluable advice. NC NC NC –works for me!!{{HUGS!!}}}} GeminigirlXXX

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