Journal of Family Violence

, Volume 15, Issue 4, pp 391–409 | Cite as

Attachment, Emotional Regulation, and the Function of Marital Violence: Differences Between Secure, Preoccupied, and Dismissing Violent and Nonviolent Husbands

  • Julia C. Babcock
  • Neil S. Jacobson
  • John M. Gottman
  • Timothy P. Yerington


The purpose of this study was to investigate behavioral differences among nonviolent, unhappily married husbands and violent husbands with different attachment classifications on the Adult Attachment Interview (AAI; Main and Goldwyn, 1994). Twenty-three Domestically Violent (DV) husbands and 13 maritally distressed but non-violent (DNV) husbands were interviewed using the AAI. Violent husbands (74%) were more likely than the distressed/nonviolent husbands (38%) to be classified into one of the insecure categories on the AAI. As predicted, during laboratory arguments with their wives, dismissing husbands were the most controlling and distancing, and preoccupied husbands the least distancing, during marital interactions. Secure husbands were significantly more defensive than the two insecure types. Sequential analyses of reports of violent arguments at home revealed different patterns among different types of batterers. For the preoccupied batterers only, wife withdrawal was a significant predictor of husband violence. For the dismissing batterer only, wife defensiveness was a significant precursor to husband violence. It is theorized that preoccupied batterers' violence and emotional abuse is related to expressive violence in response to abandonment fears; whereas dismissing batterers use instrumental violence to assert their authority and to control their wives. The overlap between this and other typologies of violent men is explored.

attachment emotional regulation function of marital violence 


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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • Julia C. Babcock
    • 1
  • Neil S. Jacobson
    • 2
  • John M. Gottman
    • 3
  • Timothy P. Yerington
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of HoustonHouston
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyUniversity of WashingtonSeattle
  3. 3.Department of PsychologyUniversity of WashingtonSeattle

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