Domestic violence: Psychological characteristics of men who batter

Richard Ames Offutt (1988)

This dissertation is a study of the psychological characteristics of batterers. This investigation explores the hypothesis that batterers, as a group, will evidence individual differences in personality characteristics when compared to a group of nonbatterers. A sample of male batterers (n = 21) is compared to a sample of male nonbatterers (n = 20) matched on age and economic status. The batterers are a nonincarcerated forensic sample of men who have been adjudicated "guilty" on charges of assaulting their partners and mandated by a state Department of Probation and Parole to receive psychological treatment. The comparison group of nonviolent men was solicited through local advertisements. The men in both samples were screened with the modified Conflict Tactics Scale (Straus, 1979) to estimate personal histories of physical violence. The following instruments were administered to gather data on each subject: the Millon Clinical Multiaxial Inventory (Millon, 1983), designed to measure personality characteristics and psychopathology; the Novaco Anger Scale (Novaco, 1977), developed to assess anger reactions; and a semi-structured interview, developed to gather demographic data and personal histories. The batterers and nonbatterers were compared on personality dimensions and violence histories. The hypothesis was supported. The results indicate that batterers tend to have features that may be associated with individuals who have personality disorders. These characteristics include antisocial personality features, and anxious and irritable traits. In keeping with prior research, the most predictable variable is that batterers have less attained education than nonbatterers. Results also showed that batterers and nonbatterers could be differentiated using Grade (education completed) and four scales from the MCMI (Schizoid, Psychotic Delusions, Alcohol Abuse, and Avoidant). Also for batterers, a high positive correlation was found between frequencies of violent incidents and anger arousal. The findings suggest that batterers have different personality characteristics than nonbatterers: for the batterers, this difference lies in the direction of more disturbance. The study has implications for the conceptualization of battering, assessment and treatment of batterers, and directions for future research.