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References examining assaults by women on their spouses or male partners:
An annotated bibliography

Martin S. Fiebert

Department of Psychology California State University, Long Beach e-mail: mfiebert@csulb.edu

SUMMARY: This bibliography examines 95 scholarly investigations, 79 empirical studies and 16 reviews and/or analyses, which demonstrate that women are as physically aggressive, or more aggressive, than men in their relationships with their spouses or male partners.

The aggregate sample size in the reviewed studies exceeds 60,000.

The following are excerpts from the mentioned scholarly investigations and studies…

Fiebert, M. S. (1996). College students' perception of men as victims of women's assaultive behavior. Perceptual & Motor Skills, 82, 49-50. (Three hundred seventy one college students <91 men, 280 women> were surveyed regarding their knowledge and acceptance of the research finding regarding female assaultive behavior. The majority of subjects (63%) were unaware of the finding that women assault men as frequently as men assault women; a slightly higher percentage of women than men (39% vs 32%) indicated an awareness of this finding. With regard to accepting the validity of these findings a majority of subjects (65%) endorsed such a result with a slightly higher percentage of men (70% vs 64%)indicating their acceptance of this finding.)”

Fiebert, M. S., & Gonzalez, D. M. (1997). Women who initiate assaults: The reasons offered for such behavior. Psychological Reports, 80, 583-590. (A sample of 968 women, drawn primarily from college courses in the Southern California area, were surveyed regarding their initiation of physical assaults on their male partners. 29% of the women, n=285, revealed that they initiated assaults during the past five years. Women in their 20's were more likely to aggress than women aged 30 and above. In terms of reasons, women appear to aggress because they did not believe that their male victims would be injured or would retaliate. Women also claimed that they assaulted their male partners because they wished to engage their attention, particularly emotionally.)”

Gonzalez, D. M. (1997). Why females initiate violence: A study examining the reasons behind assaults on men. Unpublished master's thesis, California State University, Long Beach. (225 college women participated in a survey which examined their past history and their rationales for initiating aggression with male partners. Subjects also responded to 8 conflict scenarios which provided information regarding possible reasons for the initiation of aggression. Results indicate that 55% of the subjects admitted to initiating physical aggression toward their male partners at some point in their lives. The most common reason was that aggression was a spontaneous reaction to frustration).”

Brinkerhoff, M., & Lupri, E. (1988). Interspousal violence. Canadian Journal of Sociology, 13, 407-434. (Examined interspousal violence in a representative sample of 562 couples in Calgary, Canada. Used Conflict Tactics Scale and found twice as much wife-to-husband as husband-to-wife severe violence <10.7% vs 4.8%>. The overall violence rate for husbands was 10.3% while the overall violence rate for wives was 13.2%. Violence was significantly higher in younger and childless couples. Results suggest that male violence decreased with higher educational attainment, while female violence increased.)”

McLeod, M. (1984). Women against men: An examination of domestic violence based on an analysis of official data and national victimization data. Justice Quarterly, 1, 171-193. (From a data set of 6,200 cases of spousal abuse in the Detroit area in 1978-79 found that men used weapons 25% of the time while female assailants used weapons 86% of the time, 74% of men sustained injury and of these 84% required medical care. Concludes that male victims are injured more often and more seriously than female victims.)”

Sommer, R. (1994). Male and female partner abuse: Testing a diathesis-stress model. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Canada. (The study was in two waves: the first was from 1989-1990 and included a random sample of 452 married or cohabiting women and 447 married or cohabiting men from Winnipeg, Canada; the second was from 1991-1992 and included 368 women and 369 men all of whom participated in the first wave. Subjects completed the CTS & other assessment instruments. 39.1% of women reported being physically aggressive (16.2% reporting having perpetrated severe violence) at some point in their relationship with their male partner. While 26.3% of men reported being physically aggressive (with 7.6% reporting perpetrating severe violence) at some point in their relationship with their female partner. Among the perpetrators of partner abuse, 34.8% of men and 40.1% of women reported observing their mothers hitting their fathers. Results indicate that 21% of "males' and 13% of females' partners required medical attention as a result of a partner abuse incident. " Results also indicate that "10% of women and 15% of men perpetrated partner abuse in self defence.")”

Steinmetz, S. K. (1981). A cross cultural comparison of marital abuse. Journal of Sociology and Social Welfare, 8, 404-414. (Using a modified version of the CTS, examined marital violence in small samples from six societies: Finland, United States, Canada, Puerto Rico, Belize, and Israel . Found that "in each society the percentage of husbands who used violence was similar to the percentage of violent wives." The major exception was Puerto Rico where men were more violent. Author also reports that, "Wives who used violence... tended to use greater amounts.")”

Stets, J. E., & Straus, M. A. (1990). Gender differences in reporting marital violence and its medical and psychological consequences. In M. A. Straus & R. J. Gelles (Eds.), Physical violence in American families: Risk factors and adaptations to violence in 8,145 families (pp. 151-166). New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction. (Reports information regarding the initiation of violence. In a sample of 297 men and 428 women, men said they struck the first blow in 43.7% of cases, and their partner hit first in 44.1% of cases and could not disentangle who hit first in remaining 12.2%. Women report hitting first in 52.7% of cases, their partners in 42.6% and could not disentangle who hit first in remaining 4.7%. Authors conclude that violence by women is not primarily defensive.)”

Straus, M. A. (1995). Trends in cultural norms and rates of partner violence: An update to 1992. In S. M. Stich & M. A. Straus (Eds.) Understanding partner violence: Prevalence, causes, consequences, and solutions (pp. 30-33). Minneapolis, MN: National Council on Family Relations. (Reports finding that while the approval of a husband slapping his wife declined dramatically from 1968 to 1994 <21% to 10%> the approval of a wife slapping her husband did not decline but remained at 22% during the same period. The most frequently mentioned reason for slapping for both partners was sexual unfaithfulness. Also reports that severe physical assaults by men declined by 48% from 1975 to 1992--38/1000 to 19/1000 while severe assaults by women did not change from 1975 to 1992 and remained above 40/1000. Suggests that public service announcements should be directed at female perpetrated violence and that school based programs "explicitly recognize and condemn violence by girls as well as boys.")”

Straus, M. A., Hamby, S. L., Boney-McCoy, S., & Sugarman, D. B. (1996). The Revised Conflict Tactics Scales (CTS2). Development and preliminary psychometric data. Journal of Family Issues, 17, 283-316. (The revised CTS has clearer differentiation between minor and severe violence and new scales to measure sexual coercion and physical injury. Used the CTS2 with a sample of 317 college students <114 men, 203 women> and found that: 49% of men and 31% of women reported being a victim of physical assault by their partner; 38% of men and 30% of women reported being a victim of sexual coercion by their partner; and 16% of men and 14% of women reported being seriously injured by their partners.)”

An earlier version of this paper appeared in Sexuality and Culture, 1997, 1, 273-286. Portions of this paper were also presented at the American Psychological Society Convention in Washington, D.C. May 24, 1997.