Journal of Family Violence

, Volume 20, Issue 3, pp 131–139 | Cite as

“I didn’t do it, but if I did I had a good reason”: Minimization, Denial, and Attributions of Blame Among Male and Female Domestic Violence Offenders

  • Kris Henning
  • Angela R. Jones
  • Robert Holdford


Women are increasingly being arrested and prosecuted for assaulting an intimate partner. Whereas extensive research has been conducted to identify the treatment needs of male domestic violence offenders, few studies have examined females convicted of the same charges. In the present study 1,267 men and 159 women convicted of intimate partner abuse were compared on scales assessing attributions of blame for their recent offense, minimization, denial, and socially desirable responding. Research with male offenders has identified these factors as important treatment targets, as they appear to influence an offender’s risk for noncompliance and recidivism. The results of the study suggest that both male and female domestic violence offenders engage in socially desirable responding during court-ordered evaluations, that both attribute greater blame for the recent offense to their spouse/partner than they acknowledge for themselves, and that significant numbers of both genders deny the recent incident and/or minimize the severity of the offense. Areas for further research are highlighted along with a discussion of the implications of these findings for practitioners.


domestic violence female offenders attributions cognitive distortions 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Abel, E. (2001). Comparing the social service utilization, exposure to violence, and trauma symptomology of domestic violence female “victims” and female “batterers.” J. Fam. Violence 16(4): 401–420.Google Scholar
  2. Archer, J. (2000). Sex differences in aggression between heterosexual partners: A meta-analytic review. Psychol. Bull. 126(5): 651–680.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  3. Austin, J., and Dankwort, J. (1999). Standards for batterer programs: A review and analysis. J. Interpers. Violence 14(2): 152–168.Google Scholar
  4. Barbour, K., Eckhardt, C., Davison, G., and Kassinove, H. (1998). The experience and expression of anger in maritally violent and maritally discordant-nonviolent men. Behav. Ther. 29(2): 173–191.Google Scholar
  5. Barnett, O., Fagan, R., and Booker, J. (1991). Hostility and stress as mediators of aggression in violent men. J. Fam. Violence 6(3): 217–241.Google Scholar
  6. Barnett, O., Martinez, T., and Bluestein, B. (1995). Jealousy and romantic attachment in maritally violent and nonviolent men. J. Interpers. Violence 10(4): 473–486.Google Scholar
  7. Bograd, M. (1988). How battered women and abusive men account for domestic violence: Excuses, justifications, or explanations? In Hotaling, G., Finkelhor, D., Kirkpatrick, J., and Straus, M. (eds.), Coping With Family Violence: Research and Policy Perspectives, Sage, Thousand Oaks, CA, pp. 60–77.Google Scholar
  8. Bradbury, T., and Fincham, F. (1990). Attributions in marriage: Review and critique. Psychol. Bull. 107(1): 3–33.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  9. Bradbury, T., Fincham, F., and Beach, S. (2000). Research on the nature and determinants of marital satisfaction: A decade in review. J. Marriage Fam. 62(4): 964–980.Google Scholar
  10. Cantos, A., Neidig, P., and O’Leary, K. D. (1993). Men and women’s attributions of blame for domestic violence. J. Fam. Violence 8(4): 289–302.Google Scholar
  11. Cascardi, M., and Vivian, D. (1995). Context for specific episodes of marital violence: Gender and severity of violence differences. J. Fam. Violence 10(3): 265–293.Google Scholar
  12. Chesney-Lind, M. (1989). Girls’ crime and woman’s place: Toward a feminist model of female delinquency. Crime Delinq. 35(1): 5–29.Google Scholar
  13. Crowne, D., and Marlowe, D. (1964). The Approval Motive: Studies in Adaptive Dependence, Wiley, New York.Google Scholar
  14. Daly, J., and Pelowski, S. (2000). Predictors of dropout among men who batter: A review of studies with implications for research and practice. Violence Vict. 15(4): 137–160.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  15. Dutton, D. (1986). Wife assaulter’s explanations for assault: The neutralization of self-punishment. Can. J. Behav. Sci. 18(4): 381–390.Google Scholar
  16. Dutton, D. (1994). Behavioral and affective correlates of borderline personality organization in wife assaulters. Int. J. Crim. Just. Behav. 17: 26–38.Google Scholar
  17. Dutton, D., and Hemphill, K. (1992). Patterns of socially desirable responding among perpetrators and victims of wife assault. Violence Vict. 7(1): 29–39.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  18. Dutton, D., Saunders, K., Starzomski, A., and Bartholomew, K. (1994). Intimacy-anger and insecure attachment as precursors of abuse in intimate relationships. J. Appl. Soc. Psychol. 24(15): 1367–1386.Google Scholar
  19. Edleson, J. (1984). Working with men who batter. Soc. Work 29(3): 237–242.Google Scholar
  20. Gleason, W. (1997). Psychological and social dysfunctions in battering men: A review. Aggression Violent Behav. 2(1): 43–52.Google Scholar
  21. Greenfeld, L., Rand, M., Craven, D., Klaus, P., Perkins, C., Ringel, C., Warchol, G., Matson, C., and Fox, J. A. (1998). Violence by Intimates: Analysis of Data on Crimes by Current or Former Spouses, Boyfriends and Girlfriends (NCJ 167237), US Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Washington, DC.Google Scholar
  22. Greenwald, H., and Satow, Y. (1970). A short social desirability scale. Psychol. Rep. 27: 131–135.Google Scholar
  23. Hamberger, K. (1997). Cognitive behavioral treatment of men who batter their partners. Cognitive Behav. Pract. 4(1): 147–169.Google Scholar
  24. Hamberger, K., and Arnold, J. (1990). The impact of mandatory arrest on domestic violence perpetrator counseling services. Fam. Violence Bull. 6: 11–12.Google Scholar
  25. Hamberger, K., and Potente, T. (1994). Counseling heterosexual women arrested for domestic violence: Implications for theory and practice. Violence Vict. 9(2): 125–137.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  26. Healey, K., Smith, C., and O’Sullivan, C. (1998). Batterer Intervention: Program Approaches and Criminal Justice Strategies, US Department of Justice, Washington, DC.Google Scholar
  27. Heckert, A., and Gondolf, E. (2000). Predictors of underreporting of male violence by batterer program participants and their partners. J. Fam. Violence 15(4): 423–443.Google Scholar
  28. Henning, K., and Feder, L. (2004). A comparison of men and women arrested for domestic violence: Who presents the greater threat? J. Fam. Violence 19(2): 69–80.Google Scholar
  29. Henning, K., Jones, A., and Holdford, R. (2003). Treatment needs of women arrested for domestic violence: A comparison with male offenders. J. Interpers. Violence 18(8): 839–856.Google Scholar
  30. Holtzworth-Munroe, A., Bates, L., Smutzler, N., and Sandin, E. (1997). A brief review of the research on husband violence: Part I, Maritally violent versus nonviolent men. Aggression Violent Behav. 2(1): 65–99.Google Scholar
  31. Julian, T., and McKenry, P. (1993). Mediators of male violence toward female intimates. J. Fam. Violence 8(1): 39–56.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Katz, R. (2000). Explaining girls’ and women’s crime and desistance in the context of their victimization experiences: A developmental test of revised strain theory and the life course perspective. Violence Women 6(6): 633–661.Google Scholar
  33. Kropp, P. R., Hart, S. D., Webster, C. W., and Eaves, D. (1995). Manual for the Spousal Assault Risk Assessment Guide, 2nd edn., Institute on Family Violence, Vancouver, Canada, British Columbia.Google Scholar
  34. Martin, M. (1997). Double your trouble: Dual arrest in family violence, J. Fam. Violence 12(2): 139–157.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. McLeod, M. (1984). Women against men: An examination of domestic violence based on an analysis of official and national victimization data. Just. Q. 1: 171–193.Google Scholar
  36. Miller, F. G., and Lazowski, L. E. (1999). The SASSI manual, 2nd edn., The SASSI Institute, Springville, IN.Google Scholar
  37. Morash, M., Bynum, T., and Koons, B. (1998). Women offenders: Programming Needs and Promising Approaches (NCJ 171668), US Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Washington, D.C.Google Scholar
  38. Pan, H., Neidig, P., and O’Leary, K. D. (1994). Predicting mild and severe husband-to-wife physical aggression. J. Consult. Clin. Psychol. 62(5): 975–981.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  39. Pence, E., and Paymar, M. (1993). Education Groups for Men Who Batter: The Duluth Model, Springer, New York.Google Scholar
  40. Saunders, D. (1988). Wife abuse, husband abuse or mutual combat? A feminist perspective on the empirical findings. In Yllo, K., and Bograd, M. (eds.), Feminist Perspectives on Wife Abuse, Sage, Newbury Park, CA, pp. 90–113.Google Scholar
  41. Saunders, D. (1991). Procedures for adjusting self-reports of violence for social desirability bias. J. Interpers. Violence 6(3): 336–344.Google Scholar
  42. Saunders, D. (1995). The tendency to arrest victims of domestic violence. J. Interpers. Violence 10(2): 147–158.Google Scholar
  43. tate of California (1999). Report on arrest for domestic violence in California, 1998 (Office of the Attorney General). Crim. Just. Stat. Cent. Rep. Ser. 1(3): 1–20.Google Scholar
  44. Straus, M. (1993). Physical assaults by wives: A major social problem. In Gelles, R., and Loseke, D. (eds.), Current Controversies on Family Violence, Sage, Newbury Park, CA, pp. 67–87.Google Scholar
  45. Swan, S. (2000). Women Who Fight Back: Women’s Use of Violence in Intimate Relationships, or: In Search of the Female Batterer. In Paper presented at the Family Violence and Sexual Assault Institute, San Diego, CA.Google Scholar
  46. Tjaden, P., and Thoennes, N. (2000). Prevalence and consequences of male-to-female and female-to-male intimate partner violence as measured by the National Violence Against Women Survey. Violence Women 6(2): 142–161.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science + Business Media, Inc. 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kris Henning
    • 1
    • 4
  • Angela R. Jones
    • 2
  • Robert Holdford
    • 3
  1. 1.Portland State UniversityPortland
  2. 2.University of MemphisMemphisTennessee
  3. 3.Exchange Club Domestic Violence Assessment CenterMemphis
  4. 4.Administration of JusticePortland State UniversityPortland

Personalised recommendations