|Subject: Re: "Mother Jones" on domestic violence
Date: Fri, 11 Jun 1999 06:08:30 +1200
From: [not shown]
This from Dr. Felicity Goodyear-Smith, giving more detail on the study.
This is part of the Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study.
A summary of this study can be found in my paper Goodyear- Smith FA;
Laidlaw TM (1999). "Aggressive acts and assaults in intimate
relationships: towards an understanding of the literature", Behavioral
Sciences & the Law (special issue on 'Threat Assessment and Management'), 17
(3), in press.
"The difference between 'assault' and 'aggressive acts' prevalence is clearly
demonstrated by two different studies performed in New Zealand on the same birth
cohort. The Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study (DMHDS) is an
extensive longitudinal cohort study of the health, development and behaviour of 1037 New
Zealanders born in Dunedin between 1 April 1972 and 31 March 1973. When this cohort
was 21 years of age, studies were conducted about their perpetration and victimisation
rates of partner violence, and their overall experience of assault over the proceeding 12
months. Both these interviews were part of a battery of assessments of 941 members
of the cohort conducted over an entire day. The partner violence questions were
embedded in a 50 minute standardised interview about intimate relationships in the
morning, and the assault interview was a 22 minute interview in the afternoon.
The assessment of both perpetration and victimisation of partner violence for this
cohort used the Conflict Tactics Scales (CTS) to ask about aggressive acts being performed
(Magdol et al., 1997). Respondents answered twice: first about their behaviour
towards their partner, and second, about their partner's behaviour towards them.
Women reported perpetrating more partner violence than men, and men reported more
victimisation than women. When subjects not involved with a partner in the
proceeding year were excluded, it was found that nearly all the women (95%) and a large
majority of the men (86%) reported having performed an act of verbal aggression against a
partner. Similarly, prevalence rates of perpetration of physical violence by women
were significantly higher than those for men (37% compared to 22%). This included
rates for severe physical abuse (such as kicking, hitting, biting, hit with a weapon, use
or threat of use of a knife or gun) which 19% of women and 6% of men reported that they
had used on their partner.
Analysis of victimisation rates gave confirmatory findings. More men (34%) than
women (27%) reported being a victim of physical violence perpetrated by their
partner. This study also found that while women from all social strata were liable
to be violent, there was an increased risk for men to be violent if they were poorly
educated, unemployed, and lacked social supports. This data suggests that men from
higher socio-economic groups with better educational status are less likely to engage in
violent acts against women.
In contrast, the study looking at the rates of physical assault in the preceding
12 months for this cohort gave different results, with domestic assault rates much lower
than the violent behaviour rates reported above (Martin et al., 1998; Langley et
al., 1997). In a semi-structured face-to-face interview, subjects were asked if
anyone had deliberately harmed, or attempted or threatened to deliberately harm
them in the preceding 12 months. If the answer was 'yes', details were
then elicited including the frequency and nature of the attacks, and the
gender and relationship of the assailant.
Nearly half of the 482 men and a quarter of the 462 women reported at least one
physical assault, attempt or threat in the previous 12 months. While men were
the predominant offenders, 15% of the assaults on men, and 25% of the assaults on
women, were perpetrated by women. The women who reported assault in the past
12 months were more likely to be currently living without a partner, either alone or
with children and living on the Domestic Purposes Benefit.
While many of the subjects owned to various acts of physical inter-partner
violence given or received, far fewer of these defined these events as
"assaults". Only 3% of the men and 11% of the women reported assaults by
partners. These percentages cannot be directly compared with the victimisation rates from
the other study, because the samples are somewhat different. The assault study
includes subjects who were not in any relationship, and more men had not been in a
relationship than women in the overall cohort. When the actual numbers of men and
women for each study are calculated, however, it is found that 144 men report being
subjected to violent acts by female partners, but only 14 of those classify these acts as
"assaults" or view them as "deliberately intended to harm". In
contrast, 118 women report being subjected to violent acts by their male partners, but
many more of them (51) consider that these acts are "assaults". Women reported
significantly more injuries for which they sought medical treatment than men.
A primary difference between the two studies are the definitions used. It
seems that women are more likely to define slaps, hits, and punches from their
partner as "assaults", while men are less likely to do so.
A further study was conducted on 360 members of the cohort and their intimate
partners (Moffitt, 1987). It was found that perpetrators and victims generally
agreed about the extent to which perpetrators engaged in physically violent and
psychologically abusive behaviours, and that this agreement did not vary with the
perpetrator's gender. The level of agreement in
relation to specific acts was only modest, but when responses were aggregated, the
correlation between victim and perpetrator reports was very strong.
Magdol L, Moffitt T, Caspi A, Newman D, Fagan J & Silva P (1997).
"Gender differences in partner violence in a birth cohort of 21-year-olds: bridging
the gap between clinical and epidemiological approaches" Journal of
Consulting & Clinical Psychology, 65 (1), 68-78.
Moffitt TE & Caspi A (1998). Annotation: implications of violence between intimate
partners for child psychologists and psychiatrists, Journal of Child Psychology
& Psychiatry, 39 (2), 137-144.
Moffitt TE, Caspi A, Silva PA(Nov 1996). Findings about partner violence from the
Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study, University of Otago Medical
Dr Felicity Goodyear-Smith
Department of Psychiatry & Behavioural Science
University of Auckland
PB 92 019 Auckland
tel 64 9 373 7599 Ext 2357,; 021 897 244.