Journal of Family Violence

, Volume 29, Issue 1, pp 51–65 | Cite as

“Intimate Terrorism” and Gender Differences in Injury of Dating Partners by Male and Female University Students

  • Murray A. StrausEmail author
  • Kristi L. Gozjolko


A version of the partner violence typology developed by Johnson (Journal of Marriage and the Family 57: 283-294, 1995) that more fully reflects the inherently dyadic nature of partner violence is presented, as well as a method of using the Conflict Tactics Scales to identify cases in the typology, including “Intimate Terrorists.” Analysis of 13,877 university student dating relationships found a similar percent of male and female “Intimate Terrorists.” This is consistent with other studies of general populations and reflects inadequacies in Johnson’s methodology. Bidirectional violence, including Intimate Terrorism, was associated with the highest probability of injury, especially for women. The results suggest that programs to reduce partner violence, including reducing violence against women, should address violence and coercive control by both partners.


Assault Domestic violence Injury Gender Control Coercion 



The work was supported by National Institute of Mental Health grant T32MH15161, and the University of New Hampshire


  1. Alexander, R. (1993). Wife-battering - An australian perspective. Journal of Family Violence, 8(3), 229–251.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Anderson, K. L. (2002). Perpetrator or victim? relationships between intimate partner violence and well-being. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 64(4), 851–863.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Archer, J. (1999). Assessment of the reliability of the conflict tactics scales: a meta-analytic review. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 14(12), 1263–1289. doi: 10.1177/088626099014012003.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Archer, J. (2000). Sex differences in aggression between heterosexual partners: a meta-analytic review. Psychological Bulletin, 126(5), 651–680. doi: 10.1031//0033-2909.126.5.651.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Belfrage, H., Strand, S., Storey, J. E., Gibas, A. L., Kropp, P. R., & Hart, S. D. (2012). Assessment and management of risk for intimate partner violence by police officers using the spousal assault risk assessment guide. Law and Human Behavior, 36(1), 60–67. doi: 10.1037/h0093948.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bogaerts, S., Van der Veen, H. C. J., & Van der Knaap, L. M. (2011). Aspects of intimate terrorism: a test of Johnson’s typology in a Dutch online panel. International Perspectives in Victimology, 5(2), 13–21.Google Scholar
  7. Capaldi, D. M., & Gorman-Smith, D. (2003). The development of aggression in young male/female couples. In P. Florsheim (Ed.), Adolescent romantic relations and sexual behavior: Theory, research, and practical implications (pp. 243–278). Mahwah: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Publishers.Google Scholar
  8. Capaldi, D. M., & Kim, H. K. (2007). Typological approaches to violence in couples: a critique and alternative conceptual approach. Clinical Psychology Review, 27(3), 253–265.PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Capaldi, D. M., Kim, H. K., & Shortt, J. W. (2004). Women’s Involvement in aggression in young adult romantic relationships: A developmental systems model. In M. Putallaz & K. L. Bierman (Eds.), Aggression, antisocial behavior, and violence among girls: A developmental perspective (pp. 223–241). New York: Guilford Publications, Inc.Google Scholar
  10. Cascardi, M., & Vivian, D. (1995). Context for specific episodes of marital violence: gender and severity of violence differences. Journal of Family Violence, 10(3), 265–293.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Catalano, S. (2006). Intimate partner violence in the United States. (BJS07007). Bureau of Justice Statistics, U.S. Department of Justice - Office of Justice Programs Retrieved from
  12. Clements, C. M., Ogle, R., & Sabourin, C. M. (2005). Perceived control and emotional status in abusive college students relationships: an exploration of gender differences. Journal Of Interpersonal Violence, 20(9), 1058–1077.Google Scholar
  13. Conley, A., & Berrick, J. D. (2010). Community-based child abuse prevention: outcomes associated with a differential response program in California. Child Maltreatment 15(4), 282–292.Google Scholar
  14. Desmarais, S. L., Reeves, K. A., Nicholls, T. L., Telford, R. P., & Fiebert, M. S. (2012). Prevalence of physical violence in intimate relationships, part 2: rates of male and female perpetration. Partner Abuse, 3(2), 170–198. doi: 10.1891/1946-6560.3.2.170.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Douglas, E. M., & Straus, M. A. (2006). Assault and injury of dating partners by university students in 19 countries and its relation to corporal punishment experienced as a child. European Journal of Criminology, 3(3), 293–318. Also Chapter Thirteen in Straus, Murray A., Emily M. Douglas and Rose Anne Medeiros. 2013. The Primordial Violence: Spanking children, psychologial development, violence, and crime. New York: Routledge. doi: 10.1177/1477370806065584
  16. Dutton, D. G. (2006). Rethinking domestic violence. Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press.Google Scholar
  17. Ehrensaft, M. K., & Vivian, D. (1999). Is partner aggression related to appraisals of coercive control by a partner. Journal of Family Violence, 14(3), 251–266.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Ehrensaft, M. K., Moffitt, T. E., & Caspi, A. (2004). Clinically abusive relationships in an unselected birth cohort: men’s and women’s participation and developmental antecedents. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 113(2), 258–271.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Feld, S. L., & Straus, M. A. (1989). Escalation and desistance of wife assault in marriage. Criminology, 27(1), 141–161. doi: 10.1111/j.1745-9125.1989.tb00866.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Felson, R. B. (2006). Is violence against women about women or about violence? Contexts, 5(2), 21–25. doi: 10.1525/ctx.2006.5.2.21.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Felson, R. B., & Outlaw, M. C. (2007). The control motive and marital violence. Violence and Victims, 22, 387–407.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Fiebert, M. S. (2010). References examining assaults by women on their spouses or male partners: an annotated bibliography. Sexuality & culture, 14, 49–91. doi: 10.1007/s12119-009-9059-9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Fiebert, M. S., & Gonzalez, D. M. (1997). College women who initiate assaults on thier male partners and the reasons offered for such behavior. Psychological Reports, 80, 583–590.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Follingstad, D. R., Wright, S., Lloyd, S., & Sebastian, J. A. (1991). Sex differences in motivations and effects in dating violence. Family Relations, 40(1), 51–57. doi: 10.2307/585658.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Gamez-Guadix, M., Straus, M. A., & Hershberger, S. (2011). Childhood and adolescent victimization and perpetration of sexual coercion by male and female university students. Deviant Behavior, 32, 712742. Also Chapter Sixteen in Straus, Murray A., Emily M. Douglas and Rose Anne Medeiros. 2013. The Primordial Violence: Spanking children, psychologial development, violence, and crime. New York: Routledge. doi: 10.1080/01639625.2010.514213
  26. Garcia-Moreno, C., Jansen, H. A. F. M., Ellsberg, M., Heise, L., & Watts, C. H. (2006). Prevalence of intimate partner violence: findings from the WHO multi-country study on women’s health and domestic violence. Lancet, 368(9543), 1260–1269.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Gelles, R. J., & Straus, M. A. (2006). Introduction to the 2nd edition of behind closed doors: Violence in the American family. In M. A. Straus, R. J. Gelles, & S. K. Steinmetz (Eds.), Behind closed doors: violence in the American family. New Brunswick: Transaction Publishers.Google Scholar
  28. Graham-Kevan, N., & Archer, J. (2004). Using johnson’s domestic violence typology to classify men and women in a non-selected sample. University of Central Lancashire, Department of Psychology.Google Scholar
  29. Hamby, S. L. (1996). The dominance scale: preliminary psychometric properties. Violence and Victims, 11(3), 199–212.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  30. Hamby, S. L., & Sugarman, D. B. (1999). Acts of psychological aggression against a partner and their relation to physical assault and gender. Journal of marriage and the family, 61(November), 959–979.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Hamel, J., & Nicholls, T. (Eds.). (2007). Family interventions in domestic violence: A handbook of gender-inclusive theory and treatment. NY: Springer.Google Scholar
  32. Hettrich, E. L., & O'leary, K. D. (2007). Females’ Reasons for their physical aggression in dating relationships. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 22(9), 1131–1143.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Hines, D. A. (2007). Predictors of sexual coercion against women and men: a multilevel, multinational study of university students. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 36, 403–422. doi: 10.1007/s10508-006-9141-4.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Hines, D. A., & Douglas, E. M. (2010). A closer look at Men Who sustain intimate terrorism by women. Partner Abuse, 1(3), 286–313. doi: 10.1891/1946-6560.1.3.286.PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Johnson, M. P. (1995). Patriarchal terrorism and common couple violence: Two forms of violence against women. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 57(May), 283–294.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Johnson, M. P. (2006). Conflict and control: gender symmetry and asymmetry in domestic violence. Violence Against Women, 12(11), 1–16.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Johnson, M. P. (2008). A typology of domestic violence: Intimate terrorism, violent resistance, and situational couple violence. Boston: Northeastern University Press.Google Scholar
  38. Johnson, M. P., & Ferraro, K. J. (2000). Research on domestic violence in the 1990’s: making distinctions. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 62(4), 948–963.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Johnson, M. P., & Leone, J. M. (2005). The differential effects of intimate terrorism and situational couple violence - findings from the national violence against women survey. Journal of Family Issues, 26(3), 322–349.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Kernsmith, P. (2005). Exerting power or striking back: a gendered comparison of motivations for domestic violence perpetration. Victims and Violence, 20(2), 173–185.Google Scholar
  41. Kessler, R. C., Molnar, B. E., Feurer, I. D., & Appelbaum, M. (2001). Patterns and mental health predictors of domestic violence in the United States: results from the national comorbidity survey. International Journal of Law and Psychiatry, 24(4-5), 487–508. doi: 10.1016/S0160-2527(01)00080-2.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Kim, H. K., & Capaldi, D. M. (2004). The association of antisocial behavior and depressive symptoms between partners and risk for aggression in romantic relationships. Journal of Family Psychology, 18(1), 82–96.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Krueger, R. F., Moffitt, T. E., Caspi, A., Bleske, A., & Silva, P. A. (1998). Assortative mating for antisocial behavior: developmental and methodological implications. Behavior Genetics, 28(3), 173–186.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Krug, E. G., Dahlberg, L. L., Mercy, J. A., Zwi, A. B., & Lozano, R. (2002). World report on violence and health. Geneva: World Health Organization.Google Scholar
  45. Kuijpers, K. F., van der Knaap, L. M., & Winkel, F. W. (2012). PTSD symptoms as risk factors for intimate partner violence revictimization and the mediating role of victims’ violent behavior. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 25(2), 179–186. doi: 10.1002/jts.21676.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Langhinrichsen-Rohling, J., McCullars, A., & Misra, T. A. (2012a). Motivations for Men and Women’s intimate partner violence perpetration: a comprehensive review. Partner Abuse, 3(4), 429–468. doi: 10.1891/1946-6560.3.4.429.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Langhinrichsen-Rohling, J., Selwyn, C., & Rohling, M. L. (2012b). Rates of bidirectional versus unidirectional intimate partner violence across samples, sexual orientations, and race/ethnicities: a comprehensive review. Partner Abuse, 3(2), 199–230. doi: 10.1891/1946-6560.3.2.199.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Laroche, D. (2005). Aspects of the context and consequences of domestic violence- situational couple violence and intimate terrorism in Canada in 1999. Quebec: Government of Quebec: Institut de la statistique du Québec.Google Scholar
  49. Leisring, P. A. (2013). Physical and emotional abuse in romantic relationships: motivation for perpetration among college women. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 28(7), 1437–1454. doi: 10.1177/0886260512468236.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Leisring, P. A., Dowd, L., & Rosenbaum, A. (2003). Treatment of partner aggressive women. Journal of Aggression, Maltreatment & Trauma, 7(1–2), 257–277. doi: 10.1300/J146v07n01_11.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Lorber, M. F., & O'Leary, K. D. (2011). Stability, change, and informant variance in newlyweds’ physical aggression: individual and dyadic processes. Aggressive Behavior, 37, 1–15. doi: 10.1002/ab.20414.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Marshall, L. L. (1996). Psychological abuse of women: six distinct clusters. Journal of Family Violence, 11(4), 379–409.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Medeiros, R. A., & Straus, M. A. (2007). Risk factors for physical violence between dating partners: Implications for gender-inclusive prevention and treatment of family violence. In J. Hamel & T. Nicholls (Eds.), Family interventions in domestic violence: A handbook of gender-inclusive theory and treatment (pp. 59–85). NY: Springer.Google Scholar
  54. Medeiros, R. A., & Straus, M. A. (2007b). Risk factors for physical violence between dating partners: Implications for gender-inclusive prevention and treatment of family violence. . In J. C. Hamel & T. Nicholls (Eds.), Family approaches to domestic violence: a practioners guide to gender-inclusive research and treatment (pp. 59–87): Springer (also available at
  55. Moffitt, T. E., & Caspi, A. (1999). Findings about partner violence from the Dunedin multidisciplinary health and development study. Washington DC: National Institute of Justice: Research in Brief.Google Scholar
  56. Moffitt, T. E., Caspi, A., Rutter, M., & Silva, P. A. (2001). Sex differences in antisocial behavior: Conduct disorder. Delinquency, and violence in the Dunedin longitudinal study. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Niolon, P. H., Whitaker, D. J., Feder, L., Campbell, J., Wallinder, J., Self-Brown, S., et al. (2009). A multicomponent intervention to prevent partner violence within an existing service intervention. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 40(3), 264–271.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. O'keefe, M. (1997). Predictors of dating violence among high school students. Journal Of Interpersonal Violence, 12(4), 546–568. doi: 10.1177/088626097012004005.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. O'Leary, K. D., & Williams, M. C. (2006). Agreement about acts of aggression in marriage. Journal of Family Psychology, 20(4), 656–662.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Oswald, D. L., & Russell, B. L. (2006). Percpetions of sexual coercion in heterosexual dating relationships: the role of aggressor gender and tactics. Journal of Sex Research, 43(1), 87–95.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Pence, E., & Paymar, M. (1993). Education groups for men who batter: The Duluth model. New York: Springer.Google Scholar
  62. Renner, L. M., & Whitney, S. D. (2012). Risk factors for unidirectional and bidirectional intimate partner violence among young adults. Child Abuse & Neglect, 36(1), 40–52. doi: 10.1016/j.chiabu.2011.07.007.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Rennison, C. M., & Welchans, S. (2000). Intimate partner violence (pp. 1–11). Washington, DC: Bureau of Justice Statistics.Google Scholar
  64. Stets, J. E. (1991). Psychological aggression in dating relationships: the role of interpersonal control. Journal of Family Violence, 6(1), 97–114.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Stets, J. E. (1995). Modelling control in relationships. Journal of Marriage and Family, 57(2), 489–501.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Stets, J. E., & Hammons, S. A. (2002). Gender, control, and marital commitment. Journal of Family Issues, 23(1), 3–25.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Stets, J. E., & Pirog-Good, M. A. (1990). Interpersonal control and courtship aggression. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 7, 371–394.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Stets, J. E., & Straus, M. A. (1990). Gender differences in reporting of marital violence and its medical and psychological consequences. In M. A. Straus & R. J. Gelles (Eds.), Physical violence in American families: Risk factors and adaptations to violence in 8,145 families (pp. 151–166). New Brunswick: Transaction Publishers.Google Scholar
  69. Stith, S. M., Smith, D. B., Penn, C. E., Ward, D. B., & Tritt, D. (2004). Intimate partner physical abuse perpetration and victimization risk factors: a meta-analytic review. Aggression and Violent Behavior, 10(1), 65–98. doi: 10.1016/j.avb.2003.09.001.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Straus, M. A. (1980). Victims and aggressors in marital violence. American Behavioral Scientist, 23(5), 681–704.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Straus, M. A. (1990). The conflict tactics scales and its critics: An evaluation and new data on validity and reliability. In M. A. Straus & R. J. Gelles (Eds.), Physical violence in American families: Risk factors and adaptations to violence in 8,145 families (pp. 49–73). New Brunswick: Transaction Publications.Google Scholar
  72. Straus, M. A. (1999). The controversy over domestic violence by women: A methodological, theoretical, and sociology of science analysis. In X. Arriaga & S. Oskamp (Eds.), Violence in intimate relationships (pp. 17–44). Thousand Oaks: Sage.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Straus, M. A. (2004). Cross-cultural reliability and validity of the revised conflict tactics scales: a study of university student dating couples in 17 nations. Cross-Cultural Research, 38, 407–432. doi: 10.1177/1069397104269543.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Straus, M. A. (2005). Women’s Violence toward men is a serious social problem. In D. R. Loseke, R. J. Gelles, & M. M. Cavanaugh (Eds.), Current controversies on family violence (2nd ed., pp. 55–77). Newbury Park: Sage Publications.Google Scholar
  75. Straus, M. A. (2008). Dominance and symmetry in partner violence by male and female university students in 32 nations. Children and Youth Services Review, 30, 252–275. doi: 10.1016/j.childyouth.2007.10.004.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. Straus, M. A. (2009). The national context effect: an empirical test of the validity of cross-national research using unrepresentative samples. Cross-Cultural Research, 43(3), 183–205. doi: 10.1177/1069397109335770.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  77. Straus, M. A. (2011a). Gender symmetry and mutuality in perpetration of clinical-level partner violence: empirical evidence and implications for prevention and treatment. Aggression and Violent Behavior, 16(4), 279–288. doi: 10.1016/j.avb.2011.04.010.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  78. Straus, M. A. (2011b). International Dating Violence Study, 2001-2006. Ann Arbor, MI: Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor]. Retrieved from
  79. Straus, M. A. (2012). Blaming the messenger for the bad news about partner violence by women: the methodological, theoretical, and value basis of the purported invalidity of the conflict tactics scales. Behavioral Sciences & the Law, 30(5), 538–556. doi: 10.1002/bsl.2023.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  80. Straus, M. A. (2013a). Addressing violence by female partners is vital to prevent or stop violence against women: Evidence from the multisite batterer intervention evaluation Violence Against Women, In press.Google Scholar
  81. Straus, M. A. (2013b). Dyadic types in the PASK project. Partner Abuse, 4(2), 1–10.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  82. Straus, M. A. (2013c). Dyadic victimization types: a simple but powerful approach to research and practice on victimization in family relationships world-wide. Barcelona, Spain: Paper presented at the IV Spanish Conference on Victomology.Google Scholar
  83. Straus, M. A., & Douglas, E. M. (2004). A short form of the Revised Conflict Tactics Scales, and typologies for seventy and mutuality. Violence and Victims, 19, 507–520.Google Scholar
  84. Straus, M. A., & Michel-Smith, Y. (2013). Mutuality, Severity, And Chronicity Of Violence Between Parents Experienced By University Students In 15 Nations. Child Abuse & Neglect.Google Scholar
  85. Straus, M. A., & Mouradian, V. E. (1999). Preliminary psychometric data for the Personal and Relationships Profile (PRP): A multi-scale tool for clinical screening and research on partner violence. Paper presented at the American society of criminology. Toronto: Ontario.Google Scholar
  86. Straus, M. A., & Sweet, S. (1992). Verbal symbolic aggression in couples - incidence rates and relationships to personal characteristics. Journal Of Marriage And The Family, 54(2), 346–357.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  87. Straus, M. A., Hamby, S. L., Boney-McCoy, S., & Sugarman, D. B. (1996). The revised conflict tactics scales (CTS2): development and preliminary psychometric data. Journal of Family Issues, 17(3), 283–316. doi: 10.1177/019251396017003001.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  88. Straus, M. A., Gelles, R. J., & Steinmetz, S. K. (2006). Behind closed doors: Violence in the American family (2nd Ed). New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publications. (Re-issue of 1980 book with a new Introduction).Google Scholar
  89. Straus, M. A., Hamby, S. L., Boney-McCoy, S., & Sugarman, D. (2010). Manual for the Personal and Relationships Profile (PRP). Durham, NH: University of New Hampshire, Family Research Laboratory. Available in:
  90. Stuart, R. B. (2005). Treatment for partner abuse: time for a paradigm shift. Professional Psychology-Research and Practice, 36(3), 254–263.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  91. Stuart, G. L., Moore, T. M., Hellmuth, J. C., Ramsey, S. E., & Kahler, C. W. (2006). Reasons for intimate partner violence perpetration among arrested women. Violence Against Women, 12(7), 609–621. doi: 10.1177/1077801206290173.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  92. Sugarman, D. B., & Hotaling, G. T. (1989). Dating violence: Prevalence, context, and risk markers. In A. A. Pirog-Good & J. E. Stets (Eds.), Violence in dating relationships: Emerging social issues (pp. 3–31). New York: Praeger.Google Scholar
  93. Whitaker, D. J., & Lutzker, J. R. (Eds.). (2009). Preventing partner violence: Research and evidence-based intervention strategies. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.Google Scholar
  94. Whitaker, D. J., Haileyesus, T., Swahn, M., & Saltzman, L. S. (2007). Differences in frequency of violence and reported injury between relationships with reciprocal and nonreciprocal intimate partner violence American Journal of Public Health, 97(5), 941–947.Google Scholar
  95. Winstok, Z., & Straus, M. A. (2011). Gender differences in intended escalatory tendencies among marital partners. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 26(18), 3599–3617.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  96. Wolfe, D. A., Wekerle, C., Scott, K., Straatman, A.-L., Grasley, C., & Reitzel-Jaffe, D. (2003). Dating violence prevention with at-risk youth: a controlled outcome evaluation. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 71(2), 279–291. doi: 10.1037/0022-006x.71.2.279.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Family Research LaboratoryUniversity of New HampshireDurhamUSA
  2. 2.Department of SociologyUniversity of New HampshireDurhamUSA

Personalised recommendations