Motivation and emotion/Book/2017/Intimate partner violence motivation

From Wikiversity
Jump to: navigation, search
Intimate partner violence motivation:
What motivates IPV and what can be done about it?
Parodyfilm.svgGo to a 3 min. audiovisual overview of this chapter.


Intimate Partner Violence (IPV), also known as domestic violence, refers to a pattern of abusive behaviour from one person to another who are in an intimate relationship. The abusive behaviour is usually used to gain power, control and authority over the other person (Walker, 1999). IPV can occur in a variety of ways such as physical, sexual, emotional, economical and/or verbal (Yoshihama, Horrocks, & Kamano, 2009). Much research has gone into identifying motives behind IPV as well as intervention and prevention techniques that could benefit both the victim and the perpetrator. Academic literature has suggested many theoretical constructs for motivations behind IPV such as social learning theory, self-determination theory and cognitive dissonance.

This chapter describes IPV demographics of IPV, then focuses on the different types of IPV such as physical and sexual abuse. Following this, the theoretical concepts behind motivations of IPV are considered. The chapter concludes by looking at models that are currently being used to prevent the occurrence of IPV.

Some readers might find the content of this chapter emotionally distressing. This chapter intends to provide current information on the topic of IPV with implications for treatment. It does not intend to provide any medically or psychologically approved treatment options nor, does it cover every single aspect of IPV.

Key questions

What is IPV?

What are the most common motivators of physical/sexual violence among men/women?

What are the major theories behind IPV?

How do motivation theories apply to the prevention of IPV?

Demographics of IVP[edit]

Many factors have been considered when discussing partner violence such as same-sex relationships, pregnancy, gender and age. Some of these are discussed in greater detail in the following sections.


Both men and women are affected and become victims of domestic violence, though much more research has been conducted on violence against women (Devries et al., 2013). However, it has been shown that men and women act just as violently as one another in relationships and reports of domestic violence often show both parties abusing one another (Kumar, 2012).

Case studies

Cyrus: A male victim of IPV was emotionally, verbally and physically abused by his fiancé. The abuse started with comments about his clothes and name calling. This progressed to jealousy and belittlement and soon after, turned into acts of physical violence to the point where Cyrus feared for his life.

Anna: A female victim of IPV was physically, sexually and mentally abused by her husband. Anna's husband would threaten to kill them both in a car on multiple occasions and after the birth of their child, he became manipulative and began stalking his wife. As a result of his physical violence, Anna lost partial hearing in one ear.

Figure 1. Woman showing violent actions towards a man.


Cross-cultural research has shown that one third of women will most likely experience some form of domestic violence, whether it be in the form of physical, sexual or emotional abuse (Devries et al, 2013). As a result of this, 1 in 3 homicides of women are likely to be committed by their intimate partners (Mahenge, Stöckl, Abubakari, Mbwambo, & Jahn, 2016). Furthermore, women that are pregnant have a high risk of falling victim to IPV. IPV rates were shown to be higher during pregnancy, at a percentage of 18.6%, than during one to nine months postpartum where frequency was at 8% (Mahenge et al., 2016). It has been implied that it is the mixture of the gender inequalities that exist in today's society, such as women's lack of social power and a man's need for dominance, when they realise women have the ability to do something that men cannot such as carry a child (Benagiano, Carrara & Filippi, 2010)[Rewrite to improve clarity].


Many cases of domestic violence experienced by men do not get reported as men feel they are alone in experiencing what they are going through (Peate, 2017). Many men feel ashamed and embarrassed by the fact that their female partner is abusing them so they remain quiet to avoid being ridiculed (Kumar, 2012). Additionally, 59% of men who have fallen victim to IVP would not accept or believe that what they have experienced is domestic violence (Peate, 2017). Interestingly, recent examination of male and female victims of IPV in the US has shown that there were more male (53%) victims of IVP than female (47%) in 2010, excluding rape victims (Holf, 2012). This has further implications for further research into raising awareness for male IPV victims.


Much of the research between age and IPV has focused on adolescents and younger adults, specifically female adults (Peterman, Bleck & Palermo, 2015) This is primarily due to the fact that research has found this age group to be at most risk of experiencing some form of abuse, showing a gradual decrease in IPV as age increased (Romans, Forte, Cohen, Mont, & Hyman, 2007) Stockl, March, Pallitto and Garcia-Moreno (2014) found that across cultures women aged 15 to 24 years reported higher levels of IPV, ranging from 7% in areas such as urban Serbia to 57% in rural Ethiopia. This was compared to women aged 25-34 and 35-49 years. Stockl et al. (2014) further suggested that witnessing one's mother being abused by her partner was greatly associated with IPV as well as sexual/physical abuse during childhood. Similarly, research that focused on young male adults also showed a decrease in IPV as age increased dropping from 18.6% in adolescence to 0.2% in the final year of college (White & Smith, 2009).

Types of IPV[edit]

Types of partner violence can range from verbal abuse to physical violence. Other forms include sexual, economical and psychological abuse. Economic abuse is the control and maintenance of economic resources that one partner has over the other, inhibiting self-sufficiency and threatening economic security (Adam, Sulliven, Bybee, & Greeson, 2008). Verbal abuse refers to the acts of yelling, cursing, criticising and insulting (Winstok, 2006; Debono, Xuereb, Scerri, & Camilleri, 2016). Similarly, psychological abuse (also known as emotional abuse) is being humiliated in front of others, insulted and made feel bad, intimidated or threatened with harm (Fanslow & Robinson, 2011). These types of violence usually intend to degrade and evoke fear in the other partner, as well as to exert control and dominance (Debono et al., 2016).


Figure 2. Representation of physical IPV.

Physical abuse ranges from minor acts such as pushing, grabbing and hitting, to more severe acts such as use of a knife or gun on a partner, choking, burning and kicking (Leisring, 2012). Research has shown that out of 1,401 women, 772 experienced some sort of IPV and 77.3% of them experienced physical or sexual violence compared to 22.7% who experienced non-physical abuse (Cocker, Smith, McKeown, & King, 2000). Similarly, the most common form of aggressive behaviour towards men from women was in the form of physical violence such as scratching, punching and hitting with blunt objects (Carmo, Grams, & Magalhaes, (2011).

Thus, the question remains as to what motivates these aggressive behaviours in men and women. Langhinrichsen-Rohling, McCullars and Misra (2012) identified 7 categories of motivators from an in-depth analysis of a broad range of literature: power/control, self-defence, expression of negative emotion, communication difficulties, retaliation, jealousy and others. Furthermore, Langhinrichsen-Rohling et al. (2012) found that women used physical violence more when the motive was self-defence while men were used it more for power and control. For both men and women, violence was used as retaliation after being hurt emotionally as well as out of stress, anger and jealousy.


Figure 3: Sexual assault rates per 100,000 population throughout 2010-2012.

The definition proposed by the World Health Organisation says that sexual abuse is any sexual act or attempt to obtain a sexual act from a person through the use of coercion, regardless of the relationship the abuser may have to the victim. Acts such as (attempted) rape, sexual harassment, forced marriage or cohabitation, forced prostitution and sex trafficking all fall under the term sexual violence. Figure 3 represents the rate of sexual assaults worldwide that have been reported between the years of 2010 and 2012. Like physical abuse, sexual abuse is driven by the need for power and control. An approach such as the feminist model, suggests that men often use violent actions to keep their partner in a submissive position to maintain power and control over them (Ali & Naylor, 2013) Ali and Naylor (2013) further suggest that this could be due to factors such as having lower education status and lower socioeconomic status.

Additionally, much of the research conducted has looked at sexually violent acts that have emerged due to having witnessed or experienced sexual and/or physical violence as a child. Brassard, Darveau, Peloquin, Lussier and Shaver (2012) suggested that short-term consequences of child sexual abuse impaired development of a sense of trust, security, power and self-esteem. While long-term consequences lead to the victim carrying out sexually assaulting acts on their partners and others close to them[grammar?].

Theoretical concepts behind motivations for IPV[edit]

Many theories have proposed explanations as to why violence occurs between intimate partners. Some suggest that it is due to the observations of violent behaviours throughout childhood (Cochran, Sellers, Wiesbrock, & Palacios, 2011), others believe it is due to basic psychological needs as well as intrinsic and extrinsic motivations (Ryan & Deci, 2000). Still others imply that it is due to discomfort that is experienced from conflicting attitudes, beliefs and behaviours (Festinger, 1959).

Social Learning Theory[edit]

Social Learning Theory (SLT) was put forward by Albert Bandura (1963) where he proposed that children learn from observing, imitating and modelling the behaviours of adults. A pioneering study that has been widely cited and focused on aggressive behaviour is the Bobo doll experiment. In this experiment, children observed both male and female adults exerting physically violent actions towards a blow-up doll with actions such as punching, kicking, tossing the doll across the room and hitting it on the head with a mallet. The study found that children exposed to models of aggression were much more likely to have an increase in aggressive behaviours than their peers who were not exposed to models of aggression (Baer & Bandura, 1963). Additionally, aggression modelled by the male adult was more influential than the female model, resulting in more aggressive behaviours being portrayed by boys rather than girls. It was further suggested that gender had a strong influence from a young age and that aggression was sex-typed as an appropriate male behaviour (Baer & Bandura, 1963).

Furthermore, SLT suggests that men carry out violent actions because they observe their fathers abuse their mothers. Similarly, women accept violence because they have seen their mothers being abused (Ali & Naylor, 2013). Such observation of violent behaviours throughout childhood motivates intimate partners to participate in violent actions because, as children, they grew up understanding that violence is acceptable and that it should come from those closest to you (Kubeka, 2018). A study done on South African adolescents further supported Ali and Naylor's (2013) study by showing that adolescent boys were more motivated to externalise their feelings of trauma, while girls internalised them (Kubeka, 2008). Moreover, their study showed that after being exposed to an abusive environment at home, adolescents accepted violence as a norm in their lifestyles and provided justification for it (Kubeka, 2008)

Self Determination Theory[edit]

Figure 4. Example of intrinsic and extrinsic motivations.

Edward Deci and Richard Ryan proposed the Self-Determination Theory (SDT) in the 1980s which suggested that we have intrinsic and extrinsic motivations (Ryan & Deci, 2000). Intrinsic motivations refers to internal motivators where people seek out challenges and take part in activities simply for the enjoyment of the activity itself. Extrinsic motivations, in contrast, refers to the performance of activities for the attainment of a certain outcome (Ryan & Deci, 2000). For example, reading a textbook in order to pass an exam[grammar?]. Additionally, Deci and Ryan identified three basic psychological needs that need to be fulfilled in order to achieve well-being. These needs are competence, which is the need to experience efficacy and mastery in important activities. Autonomy is the need to experience one's own behaviour as volitional and self-endorsed. Finally, relatedness is the need for feelings of significance and connectedness with important others (DeHaan, Hirai. & Ryan, 2015).

In an intimate relationship, when these basic needs are not satisfied, such as no feelings of competence, a partner may develop low self-efficacy, which in turn, leads to new motivations of gaining control over the relationship in order to demonstrate competence (Neighbors, Walker, Roffman, Mbilinyi, & Edleson, 2008). Similarly, if the need for autonomy is not satisfied, the perpetrator may feel as if they need to exert power and control over the environment and their partner (Neighbors et al., 2008). Finally, if the need for relatedness is not satisfied, it could motivate the abusive partner to create a sense of relatedness through the use of force and coercion (Neighbors et al., 2008). This falls in line with Petit, Knee, and Rodriguez's (2017) study who suggest that when both partners were motivated to fulfil each other's needs, the presences of IPV was significantly lower than when neither of the partners needs were fulfilled.

Cognitive Dissonance Theory[edit]

Cognitive Dissonance Theory (CDT) was proposed by Leon Festinger in the 1950s and this theory suggests that when an individual has two or more contradicting cognitions, the individual will be in a state of dissonance where they feel unpleasant until they are able to resolve this dissonance by altering cognitions (Festinger, 1957). Within this theory, cognitions were defined as any mental representations such as beliefs, attitudes or knowledge of behaviour (Festinger, 1957). According to Festinger (1957), it is this uncomfortable state that motivates people to find a way to reduce the dissonance being experienced. This is usually done by changing the original cognition, adding or subtracting cognitions or adjusting the importance of the cognition.

Limited literature has focused on the cognitive dissonance experienced by IPV perpetrators, however, research has suggested that men who are abusers, or in some cases the murderer of their intimate partner, justify their actions in many ways. Humans instinctively recognise that, on a moral basis, physical violence against others is wrong. One suggestion as to how abusers justify their violent actions is to blame the victim by implying that she was not a good wife and failed to live up to the expectations of a wife and/or mother (Dobash & Dobash, 2010). In this sense, the abuser is motivated to reduce their state of unpleasantness brought on by their behaviour by changing their beliefs about the roles of a wife.

Case study

Alex and Kate have been dating for six months and everything has been going great! One night, Alex and Kate were having a fight because Kate did not clean the house and it resulted in Alex slapping Kate across the face.

Alex knows it is morally wrong to use violence against another person but he blames Kate for his violent actions.

Alex is now in a state of cognitive dissonance because he needs to decide whether to take responsibility for his actions as they are considered morally wrong, or to blame the victim because she did not fulfil the duties that her perceives that a woman should fulfil.

What can be done about intimate partner violence?[edit]

A number of treatment options have been developed for the prevention of IVP. Some of these have stemmed from the theories that have been discussed. The intrinsic and extrinsic motivations from the SDT have been looked at in relation to goal-setting in male perpetrators. Intrinsic motivations allow for long-term changes because these men wanted to have control over their lives and their identity as a father makes them want to be a better father figures for their children. (Stanley, Graham-Kevan, & Borthwick, 2012). Moreover, extrinsic motivations were also seen to have positive effects as they brought on the anticipation of loss (e.g., lost of custody over a child) which creates external motivations to change one's behaviour (Stanley et al., 2012).

Figure 5. Diagram of Bronfenbrenner's Ecological Theory of Development.

Following this, CDT has also shown to have treatment implications for the victims of partner violence. A study conducted in Niger Delta has shown that, due to lower standards of living, the risk of being victimised and risk of justifying the actions of the perpetrator increase (Antai & Antai, 2009). Cognitive dissonance plays a role because these victims may believe that what is happening to them is wrong, however, they are motivated to accept the abusive behaviour in order to make sense of their experience and to resolve any conflicting cognitions they have (Antai & Antai, 2009). Having knowledge of how cognitive dissonance affects the victim leads to the development of cognitive based therapy that has a specific focus on replacing coping mechanisms such as denial and downward comparisons with more effective problem-focused coping strategies which help the individual change the situation rather than justifying it (Nicolson & Lutz, 2017).

Additionally, a commonly used model for the prevention of IPV is the Ecological Framework model. This model operates on four different levels which are individual, relationships, community and societal (Abramsky, 2016). This framework addresses social, cultural and economic risk factors behind IPV, with a critical focus on power inequalities between men and women (Abramsky, 2016). A four-step approach too IPV prevention has been taken where individuals first learn about the community, then they take part in informal activities and critical thinking. After this, skills and connections are strengthened between community members, and finally, action is taken to try new behaviours and make a positive change (Abramsky, 2016). Results have shown that mediating changes at the community level, such as changing normative attitudes, has made a significant impact on the prevention of IPV. Mediating change at the other three levels has also shown to prevent IPV, particularly the mediation of male attitudes towards the acceptability of IPV.


This chapter began with an investigation into common demographics of IPV. Gender studies showed that men do not report cases of IPV as much as women, and that women were at a higher risk of experiencing violent behaviours from a partner when pregnant. Age demographics showed that those who were younger had a higher risk of being abused by a partner. Research showed that there were many IPV types and that the need for power/control was a common theme that emerged when motivations for partner violence were discussed. Theoretical concepts discussed the SLT, SDT and CDT in relation to what motivated IPV. These theories suggested that observing violent behaviours in adults as a child was a strong motivator of violent behaviour later in life. Secondly, failing to fulfil basic needs resulted in stronger motivations for violence. Lastly, an unpleasant state where the perpetrator experienced contradicting cognitions about his/her violent behaviours was also found to be a motivator for partner violence. Treatment and prevention looked at the use of SDT and CDT, however, the main prevention strategies were seen within the ecological framework of IVP, which focused on IVP on an individual, relationship, community and societal level.

See also[edit]


Abramsky, T., Devries, K., Michau, L., Nakuti, J., Musuya, T., & Kiss, L. et al. (2016). Ecological pathways to prevention: How does the SASA! community mobilisation model work to prevent physical intimate partner violence against women?. BMC Public Health, 16(1).

Adams, A. E., Sullivan, C. M., Bybee, D., & Greeson, M. R. (2008). Development of the scale of economic abuse. Violence Against Women, 14(5), 563-588.

Ali, P., & Naylor, P. (2013). Intimate partner violence: A narrative review of the feminist, social and ecological explanations for its causation. Aggression And Violent Behavior, 18(6), 611-619.

Baer, P., & Bandura, A. (1963). Social reinforcement and behavior change—Symposium, 1962: 1. Behavior theory and identificatory learning. American Journal Of Orthopsychiatry, 33(4), 591-601.

Benagiano, G., Carrara, S., & Filippi, V. (2010). Social and ethical determinants of human sexuality: 2. gender-based violence. The European Journal of Contraception and Reproductive Health Care, 15(4), 220-231.

Brassard, A., Darveau, V., Péloquin, K., Lussier, Y., & Shaver, P. (2014). Childhood sexual abuse and intimate partner violence in a clinical sample of men: The Mediating Roles of Adult Attachment and Anger Management. Journal Of Aggression, Maltreatment & Trauma, 23(7), 683-704.

Carmo, R., Grams, A., & Magalhães, T. (2011). Men as victims of intimate partner violence. Journal of Forensic and Legal Medicine, 18(8), 355-359.

Coker, A., Smith, P., McKeown, R., & King, M. (2000). Frequency and correlates of intimate partner violence by type: Physical, sexual, and psychological battering. American Journal of Public Health, 90(4), 553-559.

Cochran, J., Sellers, C., Wiesbrock, V., & Palacios, W. (2011). Repetitive intimate partner victimization: an exploratory application of social learning theory. Deviant Behavior, 32(9), 790-817.

Debono, C., Xuereb, R., Scerri, J., & Camilleri, L. (2017). Intimate partner violence: Psychological and verbal abuse during pregnancy. Journal of Clinical Nursing, 26(15-16), 2426-2438.

DeHaan, C., Hirai, T., & Ryan, R. (2015). Nussbaum’s capabilities and self-determination theory’s basic psychological needs: relating some fundamentals of human wellness. Journal Of Happiness Studies, 17(5), 2037-2049.

Devries, K. M., Mak, J. Y. T., García-Moreno, C., Petzold, M., Child, J. C., Falder, G., . . . Watts, C. H. (2013). The global prevalence of intimate partner violence against women. Science, 340(6140), 1527-1528.

Dobash, R., & Dobash, R. (2010). What were they thinking? Men who murder an intimate partner. Violence Against Women, 17(1), 111-134.

Fanslow, J., & Robinson, E. (2011). Sticks, stones, or words? Counting the prevalence of different types of intimate partner violence reported by New Zealand women. Journal Of Aggression, Maltreatment & Trauma, 20(7), 741-759.

Festinger, L. (1962). A theory of cognitive dissonance (1st ed.). Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press.

Hoff, B. H. (2012). US national survey: More men than women victims of intimate partner violence. Journal of Aggression, Conflict and Peace Research, 4(3), 155-163.

Kumar, A. (2012). Domestic violence against men in india: A perspective. Journal of Human Behavior in the Social Environment, 22(3), 290-296.

Langhinrichsen-Rohling, J., McCullars, A., & Misra, T. (2012). Motivations for men and women's intimate partner violence perpetration: a comprehensive review. Partner Abuse, 3(4), 429-468.

Leisring, P. (2012). Physical and emotional abuse in romantic relationships. Journal Of Interpersonal Violence, 28(7), 1437-1454.

Mahenge, B., Stöckl, H., Abubakari, A., Mbwambo, J., & Jahn, A. (2016). Physical, sexual, emotional and economic intimate partner violence and controlling behaviors during pregnancy and postpartum among women in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. PLOS ONE, 11(10).

Makhosazana Kubeka, A. (2008). Exposure to violence at home: A qualitative exploration of experiences and perceptions of black adolescents in South Africa. South African Review Of Sociology, 39(2), 282-300.

Neighbors, C., Walker, D., Roffman, R., Mbilinyi, L., & Edleson, J. (2008). Self-Determination Theory and motivational interviewing: complementary models to elicit voluntary engagement by partner-abusive men. The American Journal Of Family Therapy, 36(2), 126-136.

Nicholson, S., & Lutz, D. (2017). The importance of cognitive dissonance in understanding and treating victims of intimate partner violence. Journal Of Aggression, Maltreatment & Trauma, 26(5), 475-492.

Peate, I. (2017). Domestic violence against men. British Journal of Nursing, 26(6), 309

Romans, S., Forte, T., Cohen, M. M., Du Mont, J., & Hyman, I. (2007). Who is most at risk for intimate partner violence?: A canadian population-based study. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 22(12), 1495-1514.

Ryan, R., & Deci, E. (2000). Self-determination theory and the facilitation of intrinsic motivation, social development, and well-being. American Psychologist, 55(1), 68-78.

Stanley, N., Graham-Kevan, N., & Borthwick, R. (2012). Fathers and domestic violence: building motivation for change through perpetrator programmes. Child Abuse Review, 21(4), 264-274.

Stockl, H., March, L., Pallitto, C., Garcia-Moreno, C., WHO Multicountry Study Team, & WHO Multi-country Study Team. (2014). Intimate partner violence among adolescents and young women: Prevalence and associated factors in nine countries: A cross-sectional study. Bmc Public Health, 14(1), 751.

Peterman, A., Bleck, J., & Palermo, T. (2015). Age and intimate partner violence: An analysis of global trends among women experiencing victimization in 30 developing countries. Journal of Adolescent Health, 57(6), 624-630.

Petit, W., Knee, C., & Rodriguez, L. (2017). Self-determination theory and intimate partner violence: An APIM model of need fulfillment and IPV. Motivation Science, 3(2), 119-132.

Walker, L. E. (1999). Psychology and domestic violence around the world. American Psychologist, 54(1), 21-29.

White, J. W., & Smith, P. H. (2009). Covariation in the use of physical and sexual intimate partner aggression among adolescent and college-age men: A longitudinal analysis. Violence Against Women, 15(1), 24-43.

Winstok, Z. (2006). The why and what of intimate conflict: Effect of the partners’ divergent perceptions on verbal aggression. Journal of Family Violence, 21(7), 461-468.

Yoshihama, M., Horrocks, J., & Kamano, S. (2009). The role of emotional abuse in intimate partner violence and health among women in yokohama, japan. American Journal of Public Health, 99(4), 647-653.

External links[edit]