COUPLES ATTACHMENT STYLE MAY HELP DETERMINE MALE VIOLENCE
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- A combination of an insecure man with a dismissive woman may make domestic violence more likely in a relationship, a new study suggests.
Researchers studied 149 couples to see how their attachment style -- the way each individual thought about and responded to their partner -- was related to violence by men against their wives.
They found violence was most likely to occur when a man showed an insecure attachment style -- he felt unsure about his partners love, and was extremely jealous and fearful of rejection, said Patrick McKenry, co-author of the study and professor of human development and family science at Ohio State Universitys College of Human Ecology.
Violence was even more likely if the mans partner had an attachment style that was insecure and also dismissive -- she was less sensitive than average to his concerns about the relationship.
This combination of attachment styles is a powder keg waiting to explode, McKenry said. You have a woman who is less sensitive than average, and a man who is hyper-sensitive about rejection, he said. Its certainly not the womans fault, but when you have these two styles together, theres a greater possibility of violence.
McKenry conducted the study with John Kesner, a former doctoral student at Ohio State who is now an assistant professor at Georgia State University. Their study was published in the current issue of the Journal of Family Violence.
The researchers studied 149 heterosexual couples from a midwestern city who have been married or living together for seven years or more. The couples individually completed questionnaires that examined their attachment styles, both currently and as children. They also reported how often they experienced violence with their partner in the past year, their childhood history of violence and the amount of stress in their lives.
The results showed that relationship violence was related not only to current attachment styles, but also to the attachment styles the subjects experienced as children.
The attachment style one develops in childhood, particularly with your parents, carries with you throughout adulthood, McKenry said. Those who had insecure relationships as children have the same problem as adults.
Exposure to violence as children was also related to use of violence as adults. But the results of the study suggest children dont simply model the violent behavior they saw as children, according to McKenry.
When children experience violence, it affects their ability to develop relationships. It affects how that child will react as an adult, particularly in times of stress, when there are problems in his or her relationships. Those who were exposed to violence as children, particularly child abuse, are more likely to develop insecure attachment styles which can increase the risk of violent relationships as adults, he said.
The study showed that the subjects attachment styles helped determine how stress affected their relationship. Men who reported both a high level of stress and an insecure attachment style were more likely than others to use violence in their relationship. However, men who had high levels of stress but a secure attachment style were not as likely to report violence.
Researchers have long known about the connection between stress and violence, McKenry said. But it is important to consider how factors such as attachment style moderate the link between stress and violence. Attachment style can help determine whether life stress will lead to violence in a relationship.
McKenry said men and women with insecure attachment styles may be more likely to end up together as couples, which raises the risk of violence. Insecure people find other insecure people, he said. Insecurity is what they know, it is the kind of relationship they are familiar with. However, they may unintentionally be putting themselves at risk for violence.
This research was partially funded by grants from the Ohio Department of Mental Health and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center.