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​Conflict and control: gender symmetry and asymmetry in domestic violence

AuthorJohnson, Michael P.
Title Conflict and control: gender symmetry and asymmetry in domestic violence
Source Violence Against Women, Nov 2006, Vol 12, No. 11, pp 1003-1018
Date 2006
Document type Journal article
SummaryThis article reviews the literature on gender symmetry and argues that many studies have failed to distinguish the four types of intimate partner violence when considering gender symmetry. These types of domestic violence are situational couple violence, intimate terrorism, violent resistance, and mutual control and are defined conceptually in terms of the control motives of the violent person in the couple. In heterosexual relationships intimate terrorism is perpetrated almost exclusively by men whereas violent resistance is found almost exclusively among women. Situational couple violence and mutual control are gender symmetric. In general studies that demonstrated the predominance of male violence used agency data, collected for example from police, courts, hospitals and shelters and studies that showed gender symmetry involved representative samples. The author argues that both these methods are biased with the agencies using biased sampling frames and the extent of refusals in the representative samples. Recommendations are made to improve data collection by gathering information on a variety of control tactics for both members of the couple and to develop a consensus of a standard set of control measures. From that foundation a typology of controlling and non-controlling violence can be developed. It is further recommended that conclusions from previous studies are reassessed to ensure the critical decisions are based on the types of violence.
Keywords Gender symmetry; IPV; controlling behaviours; intimate terrorism; mutual violent control; situational couple violence; violent resistance
Topic Male victims; domestic violence