Women and violence: understanding women who defend and aggress in the context of a volatile situation

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Adams, Sheila R.

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The purpose of the study was to determine, using inter-rater reliability to evaluate projective (vignettes) and typical responses (real situations), if women used physical violence aggressively or non-aggressively and to examine behavioral and psychological characteristics specific to each group. Aggressive violence was conceptualized as violence that is used when there is no indication that violent behaviors are defensive in nature. The results of the study revealed that most of the women indicated, through their projective responses, that violence toward an intimate partner was often aggressive. A relationship was established between projective responses and typical responses for the women in the aggressive and non- aggressive groups, suggesting that projective responses did not differ from how the women would generally use violence in their relationship toward an intimate partner. For example, if a woman was categorized as using aggressive violence in response to the vignettes, it was more likely that her typical responses were categorized as aggressive as well. As a result, violent actions were viewed as aggressive most of the time. The women in this study indicated that the impact of past violence experienced was often minor to moderate and did not affect their mental and physical functioning. Violence toward an intimate partner was more likely to occur than violence toward other family members or non-family members according to the women that participated. The MCMI III was used to evaluate personality and clinical syndromes. The results indicated that the women in the aggressive and defending group did not differ significantly according to scale scores that were in the clinical range. However, women in the aggressive group on average had higher scores across most of the subscales of the MCMI III. The logistic regression results revealed that women who were identified as aggressive were more likely to exhibit more antisocial characteristics than women in the non-aggressive group. The women in the aggressive group were also more likely to have increased aggression tendencies in familial and non-familial relationships than women who were in the non-aggressive group. Study implications for research, clinical practice, policy, and building theory are discussed.