Journal of Family Violence

, Volume 19, Issue 2, pp 131–137 | Cite as

Violent Couples: Coping and Communication Skills

  • George F. Ronan
  • Laura E. Dreer
  • Katherine M. Dollard
  • Donna W. Ronan


Twelve married couples court-ordered to attend a violence reduction treatment program completed self-report measures of anger, social problem-solving skills, and strategies employed for dealing with high-conflict situations. They were subsequently videotaped while discussing 3 different scenarios. Three raters independently coded the videotapes for the use of effective and ineffective communication strategies used by the participants. Aggregate reliability estimates were acceptable. No gender-based differences were found on the self-report measures or the communication skill ratings. When couples discussed low-conflict situations use of effective skills exceeded use of ineffective skills, and when couples discussed high-conflict problems use of ineffective skills exceeded use of effective skills. Implications for treatment of spousal assault are presented.

domestic violence marital interaction communication skills 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Avis, J. M. (1992). Where are all the family therapists? Abuse and violence within families and family therapy's response. J. Marital Fam. Ther. 18: 225-232.Google Scholar
  2. Babcock, J. C., Waltz, J., Jacobson, N. S., and Gottman, J. M. (1993). Power and violence: The relation between communication patterns, power discrepancies, and domestic violence. J. Consult. Clin. Psychol. 61: 40-50.Google Scholar
  3. Billings, A. (1979). Conflict resolution in distressed and nondistressed married couples. J. Consult. Clin. Psychol. 47: 368-376.Google Scholar
  4. Brush, L. D. (1990). Violent acts and injurious outcomes in married couples: Methodological issues in the National Survey of Families and Households. Gender Soc. 4: 66-67.Google Scholar
  5. Burman, B., John, R. S., and Margolin, G. (1992). Observed patterns of conflict in violent, nonviolent, and nondistressed couples. Behav. Assess. 14: 15-37.Google Scholar
  6. Burman, B., Margolin, G., and John, R. S. (1993). America's angriest home videos: Behavioral contingencies observed in home reenactments of marital conflict. J. Consult. Clin. Psychol. 61: 28-39.Google Scholar
  7. Caceres, J. (1989). Experimental study of couples' problem solving skills: Are we striving in the right direction? Sex. Marital Ther. 4: 161-175.Google Scholar
  8. Cascardi, M., Langhinrichsen, J., and Vivian, D. (1992). Marital aggression: Impact, injury, and health correlates for husbands and wives. Arch. Intern. Med. 152: 1178-1184.Google Scholar
  9. Claerhout, S., Elder, J., and Janes, C. (1982). Problem-solving skills of rural battered women. Am. J. Commun. Psychol. 10: 605-612.Google Scholar
  10. 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
  11. Dobash, R. P., Dobash, R. E., Wilson, M., and Daly, M. (1992). The myth of sexual symmetry in marital violence. Soc. Probl. 39: 71-91.Google Scholar
  12. D'Zurrilla, T. J., and Nezu, A. M. (1990). Development and preliminary evaluation of the Social Problem Solving Inventory. Psychol. Assess. 2: 156-163.Google Scholar
  13. Edleson, J. L., Eisikovits, A. C., Guttmann, E., and Sela-Amit, M. (1991). Cognitive and interpersonal factors in woman abuse. J. Fam. Viol. 6: 167-181.Google Scholar
  14. Else, L., Wonderlich, S. A., Beatty, W. W., Christie, D. W., and Stanton, R. D. (1993). Personality characteristics of men who physically abuse women. Hosp. Commun. Psychiatry 44: 54-58.Google Scholar
  15. Garner, J., and Fagan, J. (1997). Victims of domestic violence. In Davis, R. C., Lurigio, A. J., and Skogan, W. G. (eds.), Victims of Crime, 2nd edn. Sage, Baverly Hills, CA, pp. 53-85.Google Scholar
  16. Greenfield, L. A., Rand, M. R., Craven, D., Flaus, P. A., Perkins, C. A., Ringel, C., Warchol, G., Maston, C., and Fox, J. A. (eds.). (1998). Violence by Intimates: Analysis of Data on Crimes by Current or Former Spouses, Boyfriends, and Girlfriends, Bureau of Justice Factbook, U.S. Department of Justice, Washington, DC.Google Scholar
  17. Heavey, C. L., Layne, C., and Christensen, A. (1993). Gender and conflict structure in marital interaction: A replication and extension. J. Consult. Clin. Psychol. 61: 16-27.Google Scholar
  18. Holtzworth-Munroe, A. (1988). Causal attributions in marital violence: Theoretical and methodological issues. Clin. Psychol. Rev. 8: 331-334.Google Scholar
  19. Holtzworth-Munroe, A. (1992). Social skill deficits in maritally violent men: Interpreting the data using a social information processing model. Clin. Psychol. Rev. 12: 605-617.Google Scholar
  20. Holtzworth-Munroe, A., and Anglin, K. (1991). The competency of responses given by maritally violent versus nonviolent men to problematic marital situations. Violence Vict. 6: 257-269.Google Scholar
  21. Holtzworth-Munroe, A., Bates, L., Smutzler, N., and Sandin, E. (1997a). A brief review of the research on husband violence. Aggression Violent Behav. 2: 65-99.Google Scholar
  22. Holtzworth-Munroe, A., and Hutchinson, G. (1993). Attributing negative intent to wife behavior: The attributions of maritally violent versus nonviolent men. J. Abnorm. Psychol. 102: 206-211.Google Scholar
  23. Holtzworth-Munroe, A., Rehman, U., and Herron, K. (2000). General and spouse-specific anger and hostility in subtypes of martially violent men and nonviolent men. Behav. Ther. 31: 603-630.Google Scholar
  24. Holtzworth-Munroe, A., Smutzler, N., and Bates, L. (1997b). A brief review of the research on husband violence. Part III: Sociodemographic factors, relationship factors, and differing consequences of husband and wife violence. Aggression Violent Behav. 2: 285-307.Google Scholar
  25. Holtzworth-Munroe, A., Smutzler, N., and Sandin, E. (1997c). A brief review of the research on husband violence. Part II: The psychological effects of husband violence on battered women and their children. Aggression Violent Behav. 2: 179-213.Google Scholar
  26. Holtzworth-Munroe, A., Smutzler, N., and Stuart, G. L. (1998). Demand and withdraw communication among couples experiencing husband violence. J. Clin. Consult. Psychol. 66: 731-743.Google Scholar
  27. Holtzworth-Munroe, A., and Stuart, G. (1994). Typologies of batterers: Three subtypes and the differences among them. Psychol. Bull. 116: 476-497.Google Scholar
  28. Hops, H., Wills, T. A., Patterson, G. R., and Weiss, R. L. (1972). Marital Interaction Coding System, University of Oregon and Oregon Research Institute, Eugene.Google Scholar
  29. Margolin, G., Burman, B., and John, R. S. (1989). Home observations of married couples reenacting naturalistic conflicts. Behav. Assess. 11: 101-118.Google Scholar
  30. Margolin, G., John, R. S., and Gleberman, L. (1988). Affective responses to conflictual discussions in violent and nonviolent couples. J. Consult. Clin. Psychol. 49: 554-567.Google Scholar
  31. Mills, T. (1984). Victimization and self-esteem: On equating husband abuse and wife abuse. Victimology: Int. J. 9: 254-261.Google Scholar
  32. Morrison, R. L., Van Hasselt, V. B., and Bellack, A. S. (1987). Assessment of assertion and problem solving skills in wife abusers and their spouses. J. Fam. Violence 2: 227-238.Google Scholar
  33. Ronan, G. F., Keeney, J., Date, A., and Ronan, D. (1996, November). Content Specificity of Communication Skill Deficits in Maritally Violent Couples. Presented at the 30th annual meeting of the Association for the Advancement of Behavior Therapy, New York.Google Scholar
  34. Rosenbaum, A., Cohen, P., and Forstrom-Cohen, B. (1991). The ecology of domestic aggression toward adult victims. In Ammerman, R. T., and Hersen, M. (eds.), Case Studies in Family Violence, New York, Plenum, pp. 39-56.Google Scholar
  35. Saunders, D. G. (1992). A typology of men who batter: Three types derived from cluster analysis. Am. J. Orthopsychiatry 62: 264-275.Google Scholar
  36. Spielberger, C. D., Jacobs, G., Russel, S., and Crane, R. S. (1983). Assessment of anger: The State-Trait Anger Scale. In Butcher, J. N., and Spielberger, C. (eds.), Advances in Personality Assessment, Vol. 2., Erlbaum, Hilkdale, NJ, pp. 159-187.Google Scholar
  37. Stets, J. E., and Straus, M. A. (1990). Gender differences in reporting marital violence and its medical and psychological consequences. In Straus, M. A., and Gelles, R. J. (eds.), Physical Violence in American Families: Risk Factors and Adaptation to Violence in 8,145 families, Transaction Publishers, New Brunswick, NJ.Google Scholar
  38. Tjaden, P., and Thoennes, N. (1998). Prevalence, Incidence, and Consequences of Violence Against Women: Findings From the National Violence Against Women Survey, Research in brief, National Institute of Justice/Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S. Department of Justice, Washington, DC.Google Scholar
  39. Vivian, D., and Malone, J. (1997). Relationship factors and depressive symptomatology associated with mild and severe husband-to-wife physical aggression. Violence Vict. 12: 3-18.Google Scholar
  40. Walker, L. E. A. (1995). Current perspectives on men who batter women-implications for interventions and treatment to stop violence against women: Comment on Gottman et al. (1995). J. Fam. Psychol. 9: 264-271.Google Scholar
  41. Weiss, R. L., Hops, H., and Patterson, G. R. (1973). A framework for conceptualizing marital conflict: A technology for altering it, some data for evaluating it. In Hamerlynck, L. A., Handy, L. C., and Mash, E. J. (eds.), Behavior Change: Methodology, Concepts, and Practice, Champaign, IL, Research Press., pp. 309-342.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • George F. Ronan
    • 1
  • Laura E. Dreer
    • 1
  • Katherine M. Dollard
    • 1
  • Donna W. Ronan
    • 1
  1. 1.Central Michigan UniversityMount Pleasant

Personalised recommendations