Characteristics of female perpetrators of partner aggression

Lynn Sutton Dowd (2002)

The topic of female partner aggression has been a controversial focus of debate for over 20 years, and yet we lack a coherent body of literature that effectively describes the phenomenon of female partner violence and guides the treatments we provide. This study reviews the fragmented data available in the literature and identifies significant issues for domestically violent women. Using archival data from the initial evaluations of 107 heterosexual women referred to an anger management program, descriptive statistics were developed to expand our knowledge of the characteristics of this population. In addition, subgroups of women were compared on a number of variables that are hypothesized to be particularly relevant to treatment for female partner aggression. Subgroups include mild/severe aggression status, mandated/non-mandated status, and program completion/non-completion. Women tended to be poor and undereducated, with histories of childhood attachment disruptions and victimization, mental health problems, and substance abuse. Mandated women were more likely to complete treatment, while non-mandated women were more likely to be in mental health treatment at the time of intake for anger management treatment, and were more likely to suffer from bipolar disorder. No differences were found between mildly and severely aggressive women. Implications for treatment are discussed, and suggestions for further investigation are offered.