Journal of Family Violence

, Volume 13, Issue 4, pp 315–344 | Cite as

Interactive and Unique Risk Factors for Husbands' Emotional and Physical Abuse of Their Wives

  • Gayla Margolin
  • Richard S. John
  • Louise Foo


Predisposing risk factors of husband to wife physical and emotional abusiveness were assessed in 175 community volunteer couples. Negative life events, marital dissatisfaction, attitudes regarding aggression, and employment status accounted for unique variance in the prediction of husbands' total abusiveness. Alcohol impairment, while not in itself a significant predictor, moderated the effects of life stress and marital dissatisfaction. Men reporting alcohol impairment, combined with high negative life events or with high marital dissatisfaction, exhibited greater abusiveness than predicted by the additive effects of these individual risk factors. Men exhibiting emotional abuse, compared to those without emotional abuse, scored higher on hostility and attitudes condoning aggression, whereas men exhibiting severe physical aggression, compared to those without severe physical aggression, reported more negative life events, more marital dissatisfaction, more hostility, and more exposure to abuse in their family of origin. The present data highlight the importance of variables that fluctuate over time, as well as the co-occurrence of such variables in understanding husband to wife abusiveness.

risk factors emotional abusiveness physical abuse husbands 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Aldarondo, E., and Sugarman, D. B. (1996). Risk markers analysis of the cessation and persistence of wife assault. J. Consult. Clin. Psychol. 64: 1010-1019.Google Scholar
  2. Alexander, R. (1993). Wife-battering—An Australian perspective. J. Fam. Viol. 8: 229-251.Google Scholar
  3. Armor, D. J., Polich, J. M., and Stambul, H. B. (1976). Alcoholism and Treatment. (R-1739-NIAAA), Rand Corp., Santa Monica, CA.Google Scholar
  4. Barling J., and Rosenbaum, A. (1986). Work stressors and wife abuse. J. Appl. Psychol. 71: 346-348.Google Scholar
  5. Barnett, O. W., and Fagan, R W. (1993). Alcohol use in male spouse abusers and their female partners. J. Fam. Viol. 8: 1-25.Google Scholar
  6. Barnett, O. W., Fagan, R. W., and Booker, J. M. (1991). Hostility and stress as mediators of aggression in violent men. J. Fam. Viol. 6: 217-241.Google Scholar
  7. Baumgartner, M. P. (1993). Violence networks: The origins and management of domestic conflict. In Felson, R. B., and Tedeschi, J. T. (eds.), Aggression and Violence: Social Interactionist Perspectives. American Psychological Association, Washington, DC, pp. 209-232.Google Scholar
  8. Biden, J. R. (1993). Violence against women: The Congressional response. Am. Psychologist 48: 1059-1061.Google Scholar
  9. Browne, A. (1993). Violence against women by male partners: Prevalence, outcomes, and policy implications. Am. Psychologist 48: 1077-1087.Google Scholar
  10. Burman, B., Margolin, G., John, R. S., and Doumas, D. (in preparation). Test-retest reliability of the Domestic Conflict Inventory.Google Scholar
  11. Buss, A. (1961). The Psychology of Aggression, Wiley, New York.Google Scholar
  12. Buss, A., and Durkee, A. (1957). An inventory for assessing different kinds of hostility. J. Consult. Psychol. 21: 343-349.Google Scholar
  13. Cascardi, M., and Vivian, D. (1995). Context for specific episodes of marital violence: Gender and severity of violence difference. J. Fam. Viol. 10: 265-295.Google Scholar
  14. Coleman, D. H., and Straus, M. A. (1983). Alcohol abuse and family violence. In Gottheil, E., Druley, K. A., Skoloda, T. E., and Waxman, H. M. (eds.), Alcohol, Drug Abuse and Aggression, Springfield, IL, Thomas, pp. 104-124.Google Scholar
  15. Cordova, J. V., Jacobson, N. S., Gottman, J. M., Rushe, R., and Cox, G. (1993). Negative reciprocity and communication in couples with a violent husband. J. Abnorm. Psychol. 102: 559-564.Google Scholar
  16. Council on Scientific Affairs, American Medical Association (1992). Violence against women: Relevance for medical practitioners. J. Am. Med. Assoc. 267(23): 3184-3189.Google Scholar
  17. Doumas, D., Margolin, G., and John, R. S. (1994). The intergenerational transmission of aggression across three generations. J. Fam. Viol. 9: 157-175.Google Scholar
  18. Dutton, D. (1988). The Domestic Assault of Women: Psychological and Criminal Justice Perspectives, Allyn and Bacon, Boston.Google Scholar
  19. Dutton, D. G., Starzomski, A., and Ryan, L. (1996). Antecedents of abusive personality and abusive behavior in wife assaulters. J. Fam. Viol. 11: 113-132.Google Scholar
  20. Dutton, M. A. (1992). Empowering and Healing the Battered Woman: A Model for Assessment and Intervention, Springer, New York.Google Scholar
  21. Fagan, J. A., Stewart, D. K., and Hansen, K. V. (1983). Violent men or violent husbands? Background factors and situational correlates. In Finkelhor, D., Gelles, R. J., Hotaling, G. T., and Straus, M. A. (eds.), The Dark Side of Families: Current Family Violence Research, Sage, Beverly Hills, CA, pp. 49-68.Google Scholar
  22. Flanzer J. P. (1993). Alcohol and other drugs are key causal agents of violence. In Gelles, R. J., and Loseke, D. R. (eds.), Current Controversies on Family Violence, Sage, Newbury Park, CA, pp. 171-181.Google Scholar
  23. Follingstad, D. R., Rutledge, L. L., Berg, B. J., Hause, E. S., and Polek, D. S. (1990). The role of emotional abuse in physically abusive relationships. J. Fam. Viol. 5(2): 107-120.Google Scholar
  24. Frieze, I. H., and Browne, A. (1989). Violence in marriage. In Ohlin, L., and Tonry, M. (eds.), Family Violence: Crime and Justice, A Review of Research, Chicago, University of Chicago Press, pp. 163-218.Google Scholar
  25. Ganley, A. L. (1989). Integrating feminist and social learning analyses of aggression: Creating multiple models for intervention with men who batter. In Caesar, P. L., and Hamberger, L. K. (eds.), Treating Men Who Batter: Theory, Practice, and Programs, Springer, New York, pp. 196-235.Google Scholar
  26. Gelles, R. J. (1993). Alcohol and other drugs are associated with violence—They are not its cause. In Gelles, R. J., and Loseke, D. R. (eds.), Current Controversies on Family Violence, Sage, Newbury Park, CA, pp. 182-196.Google Scholar
  27. Gelles, R. J., Lackner, R., and Wolfner, G. D. (1994). Men who batter: The risk markers. Viol. Update 4(12): 1-2, 4, 10.Google Scholar
  28. Gelles, R. J, and Straus, M. A. (1979). Determinants of violence: Toward a theoretical integration. In Burr, W., Hill, R., Nyer, I., and Reiss, I. (eds.), Contemporary Theories About the Family: Vol. 1, Free Press, New York, pp. 549-581.Google Scholar
  29. Gondolf, E. W. (1994). Demonology revisited: The portrayal of batterers in the Simpson media. Viol. Update 5(2): 5, 8.Google Scholar
  30. Gondolf, E. W., and Russell, D. (1986). The case against anger control treatment programs for batterers. Resp. Victimization Wom. Child. 9(3): 2-5.Google Scholar
  31. Greenblat, C. S. (1985). 'Don't hit your wife...unless...': Preliminary findings on normative support for the use of physical force by husbands. Victimol. Int. J. 10: 221-241.Google Scholar
  32. Hastings J. E., and Hamberger, L. K. (1988). Personality characteristics of spouse abusers: A controlled comparision. Viol. Vict. 3: 31-47.Google Scholar
  33. Heyman, R. E., O'Leary, K. D., and Jouriles, E. N. (1995). Alcohol and aggressive personality styles: Potentiators of serious physical aggression against wives? J. Fam. Psychol. 9: 44-57.Google Scholar
  34. 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. Aggress. Viol. Behav. 2: 65-99.Google Scholar
  35. Holtzworth-Munroe, A., and Stuart, G. L. (1994). Typlogies of male batterers: Three subtypes and the differences among them. Psychological Bull. 116: 476-497.Google Scholar
  36. Hotaling, G. T., and Sugarman, D. B. (1986). An analysis of risk markers in husband to wife violence: The current state of knowledge. Viol. Vict. 1: 101-124.Google Scholar
  37. Ingrassia, M., and Beck, M. (1994, July 4). Patterns of abuse. Newsweek 26-33.Google Scholar
  38. Jacob, T., and Leonard, K. E. (1988). Alcohol-spouse interaction as a function of alcoholism subtype and alcohol consumption interaction. J. Abnorm. Psychol. 97: 231-237.Google Scholar
  39. Jacob, T. (1995). Family assessment in alcohol research. (NIAAA Grant No. RO1 AA08098).Google Scholar
  40. Jacobson, N. S., Gottman, J. M., Waltz, J., Rushe, R., Babcock, J., and Holtzworth-Munroe, A. (1994). Affect, verbal content, and psychophysiology in the arguments of couples with a violent husband. J. Consult. Clin. Psychol. 62: 982-988.Google Scholar
  41. Julian, T. W., and McKenry, P. C. (1993). Mediators of male violence toward female intimates. J. Fam. Viol. 8: 39-56.Google Scholar
  42. Kalmuss, D. (1984). The intergenerational transmission of marital aggression. J. Marr. Fam. 46: 11-19.Google Scholar
  43. Kaufman Kantor, G. K., and Straus, M. A. (1987). The ‘Drunken Bum’ theory of wife beating. Social Probl. 34: 213-230.Google Scholar
  44. Kessler, R. C., Kendler, K. S., Heath, A., Neale, M. C., and Eaves, L. J. (1992). Social support, depressed mood, and adjustment to stress: A genetic epidemiologic investigation. J. Personal. Social Psychol. 62: 257-272.Google Scholar
  45. Langhinrichsen Rohling, J., and Vivian, D. (1994). The correlates of spouses' incongruent reports of marital aggression. J. Fam. Viol. 9: 265-284.Google Scholar
  46. Leonard, K. E., and Blane, H. T. (1992). Alcohol and marital aggression in a national sample of young men. J. Interpers. Viole 7: 19-30.Google Scholar
  47. Leonard, K. E., Bromet, E. J., Parkinson, D. K., Day, N. L., and Ryan, C. M. (1985). Patterns of alcohol use and physically aggressive behavior in men. J. Studies Alcohol 46: 279-282.Google Scholar
  48. Leonard, K. E., and Senchak, M. (1993). Alcohol and premarital aggression among newlywed couples. J. Studies Alcohol 11: 96-108.Google Scholar
  49. Lewis, B. Y. (1987). Psychosocial factors related to wife abuse. J. Fam. Viol. 2: 1-10.Google Scholar
  50. Lloyd, S. A. (1990). Conflict types and strategies in violent marriages. J. Fam. Viol. 5: 269-284.Google Scholar
  51. MacEwen, K. E., and Barling, J. (1988). Multiple stressors, violence in the family of origin, and marital aggression: A longitudinal investigation. J. Fam. Viol. 3: 73-87.Google Scholar
  52. Maiuro, R. D., Cahn, T. S., and Vitaliano, P. P. (1986). Assertiveness and hostility in domestically violent men. Viol. Vict. 1: 279-289.Google Scholar
  53. Maiuro, R. D., Cahn, T. S., Vitaliano, P. P., Wagner, B. C., and Zegree, J. B. (1988). Anger, hostility, and depression in violent versus generally assaultive men and nonviolent control subjects. J. Consult. Clin. Psychol. 56: 17-23.Google Scholar
  54. Malone, J., T., Tyree, A., and O'Leary, K. D. (1989). Generalization and containment: Different effects of past aggression for wives and husbands. J. Marr. Fam. 57: 687-697.Google Scholar
  55. Margolin, G. (1987). The multiple forms of aggressiveness between marital partners: How do we identify them? J. Marital Fam. Ther. 13: 77-84.Google Scholar
  56. Margolin, G., and Burman, B. (1993). Wife abuse versus marital violence: Different terminologies, explanations, and solutions. Clin. Psychol. Rev. 13: 59-74.Google Scholar
  57. Margolin, G., Burman, B., and John, R. S. (1989). Home observations of married couples reenacting naturalistic conflicts. Behav. Assess. 11: 101-118.Google Scholar
  58. Margolin, G., Burman, B., John, R. S., and O'Brien, M. (1990). The Domestic Conflict Index, Unpublished instrument, University of Southern California.Google Scholar
  59. Margolin, G., John, R. S., and Gleberman, L. (1988). Affective responses to conflictual discussions in violent and nonviolent couples. J. Consult. Clin. Psychol. 59: 670-681.Google Scholar
  60. Murphy, C. M., and O'Farrell, T. J. (1994). Factors associated with marital aggression in male alcoholics. J. Fam. Psychol. 8: 321-335.Google Scholar
  61. Murphy, C. M., and O'Leary, K. D. (1989). Psychological aggression predicts physical aggressin in early marriage. J. Consult. Clin. Psychol. 57: 579-582.Google Scholar
  62. Neff, J. A., Holamon, G., and Schluter, T. D. (1995). Spousal violence among Anglos, Blacks, and Mexican Americans: The role of demographic variables, psychosocial predictors, and alcohol consumption. J. Fam. Viol. 10: 1-21.Google Scholar
  63. O'Leary, K. D., Malone, J., and Tyree, A. (1994). Physical aggression in early marriage: Prerelationship and relationship effects. J. Consult. Clin. Psychol. 62: 594-602.Google Scholar
  64. O'Leary, K. D., and Vivian, D. (1990). Physical aggression in marriage. In Fincham, F. D., and Bradbury, T. N. (eds.), The Psychology of Marriage: Basic Issues and Applications, Guilford, New York, pp. 323-348.Google Scholar
  65. O'Leary, K. D., Vivian, D., and Malone, J. (1992). Assessment of physical aggression in marriage: The need for a multimodal method. Behav. Assess. 14: 5-14.Google Scholar
  66. Owens, D., and Straus, M. A. (1975). The social structure of violence in childhood and approval of violence as an adult. Aggress. Behav. 1: 193-211.Google Scholar
  67. Pan, H. S., Neidig, P. H., and O'Leary, K. D. (1994). Predicting mild and severe husband-to-wife physical aggression. J. Consult. Clin. Psychol. 62: 975-981.Google Scholar
  68. Pence, E. (1989). Batterer programs: Shifting from community collusion to community confrontation. In Caesar, P. L., and Hamberger, L. K. (eds.), Treating Men Who Batter: Theory, Practice, and Programs, Springer, New York, pp. 24-50.Google Scholar
  69. Ptacek, J. (1988). Why do men batter their wives? In Yllo, K., and Bograd, M. (eds.), Feminist Perspectives on Wife Abuse, Sage, Newbury Park, CA, pp. 133-157.Google Scholar
  70. Rosenbaum, A. (1991). The neuropsychology of marital aggression. In Milner, J. S. (ed.), Neuropsychology of Aggression, Kluever Academic Publishers, Boston, pp. 167-179.Google Scholar
  71. Rosenbaum, A., and O'Leary, D. K. (1981). Marital violence: Characteristics of abusive couples. J. Consult. Clin. Psychol. 49: 63-71.Google Scholar
  72. Sarason, I. G., Johnson, J. H., and Siegel, J. M. (1979). Development of the Life Experiences Survey. In Sarason, I. G., and Spielberger, C. D. (eds.), Stress and Anxiety, Wiley, New York, pp. 131-149.Google Scholar
  73. Schwartz, M. D. (1988). Marital status and woman abuse theory. J. Fam. Viol. 3: 239-248.Google Scholar
  74. Senchak, M., and Leonard, K. E. (1994). Attributions for episodes of marital aggression: The effects of aggression severity and alcohol use. J. Fam. Viol. 9: 371-382.Google Scholar
  75. Smolowe, J. (1994, July 4). When violence hits home. Time 18-25.Google Scholar
  76. Spanier, G. B. (1976). Measuring dyadic adjustment: New scales for assessing the quality of marriage and similar dyads. J. Marr. Fam. 36: 15-28.Google Scholar
  77. Stark, E., and Flitcraft A. H. (1991) Spouse abuse. In Rosenberg, M. L., and Fenley, M. A. (eds.), Violence in America: A Public Health Approach, Oxford University Press, New York, pp. 123-157.Google Scholar
  78. Stith, S. M., and Farley, S. C. (1993). A predictive model of male spousal violence. J. Fam. Viol. 8: 183-201.Google Scholar
  79. Straus, M. A. (1979). Measuring intrafamily conflict and violence: The conflict tactic (CT) scales. J. Marr. Fam. 41: 75-88.Google Scholar
  80. Straus, M. A. (1990a). Social stress and marital violence in a national sample of American Families. In Straus, M. A., and Gelles, R. J. (eds.), Physical Violence in American Families, Transaction, New Brunswick, pp. 181-202.Google Scholar
  81. Straus, M. A. (1990b) Appendix B: New scoring methods for violence and new norms for the Conflict Tactic Scales. In Straus, M. A. and Gelles, R. J. (eds.), Physical Violence in American Families, Transaction Publishers, New Brunswick, pp. 535-561.Google Scholar
  82. Straus, M. A., and Gelles, R. J. (1990) How violent are American families? Estimates from the National Family Violence Resurvey and other studies. In Straus, M. A., and Gelles, R. J. (eds.) Physical Violence in American Families, Transaction Publishers, New Brunswick, pp. 95-132.Google Scholar
  83. Straus, M. A., Gelles, R. J., and Steinmetz, S. (1980). Behind Closed Doors: Violence in the American Family, Anchor Press, Garden City, NJ.Google Scholar
  84. Sugarman, D. B., and Frankel, S. L. (1996). Patriarchal ideology and wife-assault: A meta-analytic review. J. Fam. Viol. 11: 13-40.Google Scholar
  85. Telch, C. R., and Lindquist, C. U. (1984). Violent versus non-violent couples: A comparison of patterns. Psychotherapy 21(2): 242-248.Google Scholar
  86. Tolman, R. M. (1989). The development of a measure of psychological maltreatment of women by their male partners. Viol. Vict. 4: 159-178.Google Scholar
  87. Van Hasselt, V. B., Morrison, R. L., and Bellack, A. S. (1985). Alcohol use in wife abusers and their spouses. Addict. Behav. 10: 127-135.Google Scholar
  88. Vasta, R. (1982). Physical child abuse: A dual-component analysis. Devel. Rev. 2: 125-149.Google Scholar
  89. Velicer, W. R., Govia, J. M., Cherico, N. P., and Corriveau, D. P. (1985). Item format and the structure of the Buss-Durkee Hostility Inventory. Aggress. Behav. 11: 65-82.Google Scholar
  90. Walker, L. (1984). The Battered Women Syndrome, Springer, New York.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1998

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gayla Margolin
  • Richard S. John
  • Louise Foo

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations