Psychologists at the University of Arkansas’s Center for Research on Aggression and Violence (CRAV) who are currently investigating domestic violence have discovered that men who beat women fall into three main “types” of offenders. Such insight may eventually lead to improved treatment methodologies and the possibility of early intervention.

Jeffrey Lohr began researching this topic in the mid 1990s in response to the idea that men who batter women may not represent a single homogenous group but instead may be composed of several distinct personality types. Along with former graduate student Kevin Hamburger of the Department of Community and Family Medicine at the Medicine College of Wisconsin, Lohr investigated the personality characteristics of a group of 800 male court-referred domestic violence offenders in the state of Wisconsin.

These men completed several questionnaires, including the Millon Clinical Multiaxial Inventory (MCMI) — designed to detect various character disorders, and also measures of anger and depression. Statistical analysis of the data revealed three main “types” of offenders. The first of these groups is composed of psychopathic men.

Psychopathy is a personality trait marked by a lack of empathy and poor impulse control. Almost everyone has the trait to some extent, but it appears to be concentrated in some individuals more than in others, Lohr states. These men have frequent run-ins with the law for both violent and non-violent offences. Men in this category tend to use drugs and alcohol. They are also more likely to have been abused themselves as children compared to men in the other two groups.

The second type of abusers have non-characterizable personality disorders but appear to be “chronically angry, unhappy, have problems with drugs and alcohol use, but are not psychopathic,” explains Lohr. These men tend to have the most extensive police records for both family oriented and non-family oriented violence, as well as a myriad of other criminal offences. “These men tend to be generally violent individuals, and their wives just happen to be there,” Lohr said. The third distinct type of domestic violence perpetrator comprises individuals with no identifiable character disorders but, unlike the other two groups, the men seem to limit their violence to their families. “They tend to be depressed and unhappy, but do not show obvious or severe personality problems,” says Lohr, referring to the fact that these men appear to function normally in all other aspects of their lives. “This is the group that we are interested in discovering the psychological variables that lead these otherwise normal men to beat their wives.”

These men, like those in the first group, may also display a heightened degree of psychopathy compared to the average population, explains Lohr. Lohr and his colleagues want to investigate exactly how far down the developmental sequence psychopathy extends in order to investigate its relationship with other personality characteristics and attitudes commonly associated with domestic violence. The main focus of this research remains on the possibility for improved treatment and intervention.

As a first step in testing whether these perpetrator categories could be a useful tool for clinicians, 12 individual profiles typifying each category have been sent to trained clinical psychologists to see if they can sort them into the appropriate groups. This is done because these categories must first be identifiable by those in the position to provide treatment in order to be useful.

Such categories may ultimately facilitate the treatment of domestic violence offenders by maximizing the match between therapy and client characteristics. “If there are three distinct types of perpetrators, then a “one size fits all” therapy approach may not be the most effective approach,” emphasizes Lohr. “There has really been very little research done in this area, so it will be awhile before any new therapy techniques are actually realized.” For women getting involved in a romantic relationship Lohr offers the following advice: “I wish there was a litmus test, but there isn’t. However there are some red flags. Get a clear personal history on your partner- if there is a strong indication of past impulse control problems, psychopathy, chronic anger, or drug and alcohol use, run away and run away fast.”

One thought on “The Three Faces of Domestic Violence

  1. Rachell

    If only I had read this 4 years ago.

    I have just come out of a nasty relationship with my ex being a drug addict & text book manic depressant traits.

    The relationship became more aggressive, constant put downs & myself apologizing to him regardless of the situation, because in the end it was easier to agree & ultimately he won.

    He had never laid a hand on my till this particular night. I would more or less call this violent episode ‘ice psychosis’ / a ‘meth rage’

    It appeared to me that his whole personality just dropped, he had always been ‘hyper active’ or at ‘rock bottom’
    This night, even his facial features appeared to change & i could hardly recognize him.

    The relationship had ended as quickly as him just calling it quits. As he left with the abuse dribbling from his mouth & myself still asking for a rational reason for this?? while holding back the tears of him ‘actually’ leaving.

    I told him to take his ring & tossed it to him as i had just stepped out onto the concrete front step, before i knew it I was on the ground with blood pouring out of my mouth & my head pounding. I had hit the wall on the way down. I had a concussion, incredible amount of blood flowing from me. As i looked up he had just turned past the gate still yelling abuse at me.

    Long story short I called for help, while having a panic attack once actually seeing my face in the mirror.

    Broken tooth, loose teeth, gaping hole in my lip/cheek, bits of flesh falling out of my mouth i had obviously bitten them off.

    Police arrived & also my family. I was taken to the emergency room, stitched back together, now left with scars & nerve damage (hopefully to settle down)
    I feel almost ashamed to walk down the street with people looking at me. If you see a girl with a fat lip, you know what happened.

    Point being to my ramble, this was a man who regardless of faults I loved, who i never thought would hurt me in a million years. He had just flipped & left me laying on the ground coughing up blood concussed & I have not seen or heard a word from him since.

    He has just recently been charged & served with an intervention order, as this act I could never forgive.

    Comparing his usual traits to that of drug abuse & manic tendencies, was this bound to happen? Because in one swift move,he has burned so many bridges that cant possibly be mended with friends & family. In a way, it still feels more or less surreal.

    Thank you for your input as I found this to much more satisfying then the same answer with lack of explanation’drug abuse causes psychosis’
    My ex had literally lost all touch of reality.

    Thanks & regards,


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