Date of Award

2021

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology (Clinical and Forensic)

School

School of Arts and Humanities

First Advisor

Dr Elizabeth Reid Boyd

Second Advisor

Dr Greg Dear

Abstract

Although studies have indicated that a percentage of victims of intimate partner abuse (IPA) are men (estimates of prevalence are varied, ranging from below 5% to over 30%), the existing literature does not adequately answer two questions. (1) Do men experience similar patterns of abuse to women? (2) Do current theories and typologies of abuse explain the experiences of victims who are men? In this thesis I addressed these questions within three separate papers: a literature review, followed by two original research studies.

The first article, a literature review of fear, explored male expression of fear and experiences of emotions including the behavioural and verbal communication of fear. The review included research outside the field of IPA, with reference to existing knowledge about gender differences in emotional experience and expression. The review provides evidence that males and females, despite responding differently to fear, have similar emotional experiences of IPA. This finding contrasts with arguments within the IPA literature that males do not have the same experiences of abuse as females.

Study One, a qualitative multi-informant study, used four case studies to examine whether cases of female-to-male intimate partner abuse exist which show similar patterns to male-to-female intimate partner abuse; in particular, patterns that fit within a typology of intimate partner abuse which involves control. The case studies used data from participants who identify as victims of female-to-male intimate partner abuse, with collateral information obtained from friends and family members. Data were assessed in three domains that have been identified in the literature as indicative of coercive and controlling abuse: dynamics of power and control, psychological outcomes of abuse, and the behaviours and response of victims. The narratives of the participants suggest that their experiences are similar to those of female victims of controlling patterns of abuse, with the exception of participants’ reported fear responses. In contrast to women, who report both fear of the impact of their partner’s actions on their life as well as fatal harm, the men in the study reported only fear of the impact of the abuse, rather than fear of a lethal outcome. In

Study Two I used a Delphi methodology to investigate how experts (N = 32) within the field of intimate partner abuse conceptualise female-perpetrated abuse towards men. Participants referred to current theories of intimate partner abuse to conceptualise female-tomale abuse, however there was no consensus as to whether these theories can be applied with confidence to perpetrators who are women and victims who are men. Participants agreed that although theories of intimate partner abuse have been informed by general theories of violence and crime, the unique nature of intimate partner abuse sets it apart from other violent crime, thereby limiting the applicability of general criminological theories. Nonetheless, the underlying elements of entitlement and power are common across theories of general violence and theories of intimate partner abuse.

Available for download on Wednesday, July 05, 2023

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