Domestic Violence Who Commits Domestic Violence

A 26-year-old male was arrested following the multiple stabbing death of his wife. Intoxicated during the incident, he positioned the corpse so that he could perform vaginal intercourse while he watched pornographic films on television. Psychological testing performed after his arrest revealed diagnoses of antisocial personality disorder and major depression (Meloy, 1996).

Although this case is obviously an extreme example, psychologists are often called on to make judgments about what is called "dangerousness." It is difficult to distinguish between those who are likely to become violent and those who are not, but Hare's (1991) revised Psychopathy Checklist is often helpful. Psychopathy consists of two underlying dimensions. The first reflects interpersonal and emotional aspects of the disorder and includes traits such as callousness, selfishness, exploitative use of others, and lack of remorse. The second more closely parallels the DSM's antisocial definition, which refers to a socially deviant lifestyle. Violent offenders generally score higher on the instrument (Cornell, Warren, Hawk, & Stafford, 1996). Moreover, research has shown that on release, psychopaths are four times more likely to commit a violent offense than are nonpsycho-pathic inmates (Harris, Rice, & Cormier, 1991).

Other investigators have attributed the psychopath's propensity for violence to a malfunction of a "violence-inhibition mechanism" (Blair, 1995; Blair, Jones, Clark, & Smith, 1995). Most animals have mechanisms that regulate aggression, causing them to terminate attacks when submission cues are displayed. For example, a dog will stop fighting when its opponent bares its throat. Blair, Jones, Clark, and Smith (1997) suggest that in psychopaths, such mechanisms are either inoperative or underresponsive. Their research shows that psychopaths underrespond to cues of distress, for example, a close-up of the face of a crying child.

The psychopath's apparent inability to inhibit aggression has implications for the area of domestic violence. Exactly who will become abusive is difficult to determine. Although domestic violence occurs at all levels of society, sociodemographic variables indicate that younger, lower income, less educated men with a history of parental violence and current diagnoses of antisocial personality disorder, depression, and alcohol or drug abuse are more likely to be perpetrators (L. E. Keller, 1996). In this text, psychopaths are more clearly depicted as the malevolent antisocial subtype.

order." As unenlightened despots, they overcompensate for their earlier neglect by becoming superauthoritarians who control, degrade, and blame rather than persuade with love or protect with firmness. Harsh discipline builds resentment, and its inconsistent application makes it seem arbitrary and exerted from a position of domination. As a result, Benjamin states, antisocials develop a seething resentment of any and all intrusions, while strongly valuing independence. When parents do try to show concern, it usually shows little awareness for the real welfare of the subject. Her example comes from the mother of a 14-year-old prostitute, who asserts that her daughter's occupation is probably just a stage.

As young antisocials move into adolescence and toward delinquency, they survive by further developing their self-image of independence and strength. Expressed against the backdrop of the larger society, they may revel in unconventional behaviors that not only assert their individuality, but simultaneously disdain social customs, flout conventional rules, and undermine what is socially admired, while idealizing disrespect, deviancy, and self-sufficiency. Their fundamental desire is to be free of all constraints, including personal attachments, responsibilities, and routines. What others would call irresponsible, they call freedom and autonomy. For them, manipulation, dishonesty, and deceit are the rule rather than the exception.

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Break Free From Passive Aggression

Break Free From Passive Aggression

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