Skip to main content

“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

Abstract

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.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

References

  • 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 

  • Archer, J. (2000). Sex differences in aggression between heterosexual partners: A meta-analytic review. Psychol. Bull. 126(5): 651–680.

    CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Austin, J., and Dankwort, J. (1999). Standards for batterer programs: A review and analysis. J. Interpers. Violence 14(2): 152–168.

    Google Scholar 

  • 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 

  • 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 

  • 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 

  • 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 

  • Bradbury, T., and Fincham, F. (1990). Attributions in marriage: Review and critique. Psychol. Bull. 107(1): 3–33.

    CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • 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 

  • 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 

  • 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 

  • 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 

  • Crowne, D., and Marlowe, D. (1964). The Approval Motive: Studies in Adaptive Dependence, Wiley, New York.

    Google Scholar 

  • 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.

    CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Dutton, D. (1986). Wife assaulter’s explanations for assault: The neutralization of self-punishment. Can. J. Behav. Sci. 18(4): 381–390.

    Google Scholar 

  • Dutton, D. (1994). Behavioral and affective correlates of borderline personality organization in wife assaulters. Int. J. Crim. Just. Behav. 17: 26–38.

    Google Scholar 

  • Dutton, D., and Hemphill, K. (1992). Patterns of socially desirable responding among perpetrators and victims of wife assault. Violence Vict. 7(1): 29–39.

    CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • 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 

  • Edleson, J. (1984). Working with men who batter. Soc. Work 29(3): 237–242.

    Google Scholar 

  • Gleason, W. (1997). Psychological and social dysfunctions in battering men: A review. Aggression Violent Behav. 2(1): 43–52.

    Google Scholar 

  • 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 

  • Greenwald, H., and Satow, Y. (1970). A short social desirability scale. Psychol. Rep. 27: 131–135.

    Google Scholar 

  • Hamberger, K. (1997). Cognitive behavioral treatment of men who batter their partners. Cognitive Behav. Pract. 4(1): 147–169.

    Google Scholar 

  • 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 

  • Hamberger, K., and Potente, T. (1994). Counseling heterosexual women arrested for domestic violence: Implications for theory and practice. Violence Vict. 9(2): 125–137.

    CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • 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 

  • 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 

  • 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 

  • 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 

  • 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 

  • Julian, T., and McKenry, P. (1993). Mediators of male violence toward female intimates. J. Fam. Violence 8(1): 39–56.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • 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 

  • 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 

  • Martin, M. (1997). Double your trouble: Dual arrest in family violence, J. Fam. Violence 12(2): 139–157.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • 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 

  • Miller, F. G., and Lazowski, L. E. (1999). The SASSI manual, 2nd edn., The SASSI Institute, Springville, IN.

    Google Scholar 

  • 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 

  • 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.

    CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Pence, E., and Paymar, M. (1993). Education Groups for Men Who Batter: The Duluth Model, Springer, New York.

    Google Scholar 

  • 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 

  • Saunders, D. (1991). Procedures for adjusting self-reports of violence for social desirability bias. J. Interpers. Violence 6(3): 336–344.

    Google Scholar 

  • Saunders, D. (1995). The tendency to arrest victims of domestic violence. J. Interpers. Violence 10(2): 147–158.

    Google Scholar 

  • 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 

  • 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 

  • 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 

  • 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 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Kris Henning.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Henning, K., Jones, A.R. & Holdford, R. “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. J Fam Viol 20, 131–139 (2005). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10896-005-3647-8

Download citation

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10896-005-3647-8

Keywords

  • domestic violence
  • female offenders
  • attributions
  • cognitive distortions