Gender symmetry and domestic violence

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March 6, 2019
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Gender symmetry and domestic violence

Gender symmetry and domestic violence


The prevalence of domestic violence in the society continues to be an issue of major concern. Domestic violence refers to a behavioural pattern that inculcates the use of force and other forms of abuse by one individual on another in a relationship (Bair-Merritt et al. 178). Domestic violence aims at instigating a series of behaviour to possess control and power in an intimate relationship by one partner over another (Bair-Merritt et al. 178). Due to the occurrence of domestic violence as a result of a spouse or a partner in an intimate relationship, it is also referred to as Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) (Weston et al. 554).

The occurrence of IPV takes many forms in both same-sex relationships and heterosexual relationships. The most common types of domestic violence include emotional abuse, physical violence, verbal abuse, reproductive and sexual abuse, religious abuse, and economical abuse (Allen 246). According to the World Health Organization (WHO), acts of IPV amount to any behavioural patterns that are associated with negative effects such as sexual abuse, emotional abuse, physical abuse, economic abuse, and verbal abuse (Krug et al. 1085). It also categorizes the portrayal of sexual coercion, physical aggressiveness, exerting control, and abusing a partner psychological as acts of IPV (Krug et al. 1085).

While the occurrence of domestic violence occurs has been deemed to affect women mostly, studies carried out by various researchers depict that the level of perpetration of IPV is relatively the same for both men and women (Kimmel 1333). As a result, it is becoming clear that gender symmetry exists in the issue of domestic violence. The most worrying aspect of gender symmetry is that despite the evidence provided by empirical studies on intimate partner violence, little has been done to remedy the prevailing situation (Kimmel 1333).


Most studies of the studies on domestic violence and gender symmetry bring out the main concepts in the study. The major concepts in these studies depend on the specific aspects of the studies. A study conducted on the use of women’s violence with their male partners has the main concepts as domestic violence, women’s violence and women’s aggression (Swan et al. 301). The study reveals that the cause physical violence by women results from the fear and the reflex of self-defence while the physical violence in men occurs as a result of their domineering motive. In this study, the concept of domestic violence is established to cut across the divide with both men and women being predicted to cause domestic violence which may be categorized either as situational couple violence or intimate terrorism depending on the level of violence and acuteness.

Additionally, women’s aggression is depicted to be of higher prevalence in women than in men in self-reported cases. In a study involving gender symmetry in domestic violence, Kimmel documents the main aspects of the study as domestic violence and gender symmetry (1332). He asserts that heterosexual relationships continue to manifest issues of domestic violence victimization of men by their female counterparts (1332). Moreover, Kimmel draws from the research reviews to portray the presence of gender symmetry in domestic violence where they affirm the two concepts from 82 empirical articles and 16 review articles (1332).

In another study, that looks at the conflict and control in domestic violence focuses on gender symmetry and asymmetry. The study expounds on the concept domestic violence by classifying it into four categories. These categories include intimate terrorism, situational couple violence, mutual violent control, and violent resistance (Johnson 1004). Johnson further notes that the issue of gender symmetry creates disparities based on the four categories of domestic violence (1004).


The achievement of the research on gender symmetry and gender violence included some variables and assumptions to come up with feasible findings. A study carried out on the future research on gender symmetry involving physical assault on intimate partners assumed that research on the existence of gender symmetry should not be prioritized at the moment since over 150 empirical studies indicate its presence. The variables in consideration in the study involved the expounding of the understanding of the prevalence of gender symmetry and its implications in preventing domestic violence for the offenders and the victims (Straus 1087).

A study of the denial of evidence in gender symmetry regarding partner violence concentrated on physical assault as the major indicator of gender symmetry in intimate partner violence (Straus 333). The study further assumed two variables in the gender asymmetry in physical assaults. One of the variables that are taken into consideration is the similarity in the perpetration rates by women and men (Straus 333). The other variable that is factored into the study entails the perpetration of physical assault in a parallel etiology (Straus 333).

The aspect of similarity in symmetry of perpetration aimed at indicating that the fraction of the population of the women that inflict physical violence on their male counterparts was approximately bigger or similar to the fraction of the population of men that result to physical assault on their female counterparts (Straus 333). On the other hand, the variable on the symmetry in etiology aimed at depicting the correlation that exists between the physical assaults that were perpetrated by men and those that are perpetrated by women (Straus 333).

Proposition and Hypothesis

The studies carried out to determine the presence of gender symmetry in intimate partner violence show similarities in the findings. One of the studies that confirm the prevalence of gender symmetry in domestic violence is the study on women and men’s use of coercive control in intimate partner violence. The study aimed at establishing the correlation between IPV for women, men, perpetrators, and targets with coercive control (Robertson and Tamar 208). The study’s findings showed that the intimate partner violence has a direct relationship with coercion (Robertson and Tamar 215).

Moreover, the study indicated that the relationship between coercion and intimate partner violence was the same for both women and men in the three samples that were considered in the study (Robertson and Tamar 215).  Another finding was that in general, despite the physical abuse conditions involved in violent relationships, the presence of coercive controlling behaviour was prevalent among the partners involved (Robertson and Tamar 215). Moreover, both men and women were found to report their perpetration and receipt of controlling behaviours thus indicating that the occurrence of coercive control was applicable to both genders in a similar manner (Robertson and Tamar 215).

Another study that supports the prevalence of gender symmetry in domestic violence is an epidemiological study on the exposure and perpetration of partner violence among women and men in Sweden. The study showed that the exposure to physical violence was more in men than in women. According to Lövestad and Krantz, the women who reported exposure to physical assault were 8% while the men accounted for 11% (Lövestad and Krantz 945). Additionally, the study indicated that sexual coercion was more in women than women (945). The study also revealed that there were similarities on the reports of exposure to controlling behaviours in men and women. While the reports by women accounted for 41%, the reports by men represented 37% (Lövestad and Krantz 945).

The study on gender symmetry, sexism, and intimate partner violence also concurs with the assertion that gender symmetry is common in intimate partner violence. Allen et al. found out that there were similarities in the numbers in the perpetration and victimization of men and women with their intimate partners (1832). However, the study established that men were in most cases the initial perpetrators of violence (Allen et al. 1832). On the other hand, it was found that women engaged in acts of violence with their partners in response to the violence initiated by the men (Allen et al. 1832).

One study, however, does not agree with the hypothesis of the prevalence of gender symmetry in intimate partner violence. The study aimed at establishing whether gender asymmetry could be portrayed by dual arrest. The study revealed that in the behavioural characteristics of intimate partner violence across the arrest categories were largely gender asymmetrical (Gerstenberger and Kirk 1576).

Research proposal

Methodology used

Data collection and Data Analysis

In the study of the women and men’s use of coercive control in intimate partner violence, Robertson and Tamar collected data from 172 participants that had been recruited from three samples (210). The participants who comprised of 87 women and 85 men provided reports on their violent behaviour and their partner’s violence behaviour (Robertson and Tamar 210).

The Revised Conflict Tactics Scale (CTS2) was used in the measurement and analysis of the intimate partner violence while modifications from the Psychological Maltreatment of Women Inventory (PMWI) were used in the measurement and analysis of coercive control (Robertson and Tamar 211).

Lövestad and Krantz in their epidemiological study of men’s and women’s exposure and perpetration of partner violence in Sweden conducted a cross-sectional study on 251 women and 173 men aged between 18 and 65 years (945). The sample was randomly picked from the Swedish population to eliminate bias (Lövestad and Krantz 945).

The study was based on questionnaires that inculcated the Conflict Tactics Scale (CTS2) (Lövestad and Krantz 945). Moreover, the collection of data on the perpetration of violence and exposure was carried out using the isolating control subscale contained in the Controlling Behaviour Scale (CBS) (Lövestad and Krantz 945). The evaluation and analysis of the data were carried out using the regression analysis to assess the risk factor (Lövestad and Krantz 945).

In the Allen et al. study, the data was collected from the study of a college student sample dominated by Hispanics (1824). The sample was constituted of 140 female students and 92 male students (Allen et al. 1824). The analysis of the data was based on the Conflict Tactics Scale (CTS2) method (Allen et al. 1825).

Additionally, Gerstenberger and Kirk’s study on the presence of gender asymmetry or gender asymmetry in the course of dual arrests was composed of a sample of 2,155 participants (1568). The data collection involved an 18-month post assessment of 2,155 heterosexual sexual partners across Connecticut (Gerstenberger and Kirk 1568). The analysis of the data was carried out by comparing the actual intimate partner violence recidivism with the assessed risk of recidivism of intimate partner violence got from regression analysis (Gerstenberger and Kirk 1569).


Most of the studies show that the issue of gender symmetry in intimate partner violence and domestic violence exists. In addition to that, these studies also portray that the rates of intimate partner violence cut across the divide thus affecting both men and women almost in a similar manner. Though the relationship between gender symmetry and domestic violence is seen from these studies, there is need to establish a cautious interpretation to come up with an ideal hypothetical validation.

As far the studies are concerned, the relationship between gender symmetry and intimate partner violence requires being studied on a wider scope to inculcate the sociocultural context thus eliminating the study of women’s violence to the context of men’s violence. This is in line with the study of Allen et al. that indicates that women result in violence due the presence of benevolent sexism that responds to the violence instigated by their male partners (1832).

Furthermore, these studies cannot be categorized as completely conclusive since many questions remain unanswered in explaining gender symmetry in gender violence. Therefore, these studies should act as a building block for further research on this topic. The studies carried out show that gender symmetry exists, and as a result, other factors should take priority in the research on intimate partner violence. The most important concepts that should be given priority in the research on domestic violence should be the disparities in the types of violence experienced in men and women and the implications of preventing intimate partner violence on the perpetrators and the victims.


Allen, Christopher T., Suzanne C. Swan, and Chitra Raghavan. “Gender symmetry, sexism, and intimate partner violence.” Journal of Interpersonal Violence 24.11 (2009): 1816-1834.

Allen, Mary. “Is there gender symmetry in intimate partner violence?.” Child & Family Social Work 16.3 (2011): 245-254.

Bair-Merritt, Megan H., et al. “Why do women use intimate partner violence? A systematic review of women’s motivations.” Trauma, Violence, & Abuse 11.4 (2010): 178-189.

Gerstenberger, Caryn Bell, and Kirk R. Williams. “Gender and intimate partner violence: does dual arrest reveal gender symmetry or asymmetry?.” Journal of interpersonal violence 28.8 (2013): 1561-1578.

Johnson, Michael P. “Conflict and control: Gender symmetry and asymmetry in domestic violence.” Violence against women 12.11 (2006): 1003-1018.

Kimmel, Michael S. ““Gender symmetry” in domestic violence: A substantive and methodological research review.” Violence against women 8.11 (2002): 1332-1363.

Krug, Etienne G., et al. “The world report on violence and health.” The lancet 360.9339 (2002): 1083-1088.

Lövestad, Solveig, and Gunilla, Krantz. “Men’s and women’s exposure and perpetration of partner violence: an epidemiological study from Sweden.” BMC Public Health 12.1 (2012): 945.

Robertson, Kirsten, and Tamar Murachver. “Women and men’s use of coercive control in intimate partner violence.” Violence and victims 26.2 (2011): 208-217.

Straus, Murray A. “Future research on gender symmetry in physical assaults on partners.” Violence against women 12.11 (2006): 1086-1097.

Straus, Murray A. “Thirty years of denying the evidence on gender symmetry in partner violence: Implications for prevention and treatment.” Partner Abuse 1.3 (2010): 332-362.

Swan, Suzanne C., et al. “A review of research on women’s use of violence with male intimate partners.” Violence and victims 23.3 (2008): 301.

Weston, Rebecca, Jeff R. Temple, and Linda L. Marshall. “Gender symmetry and asymmetry in violent relationships: Patterns of mutuality among racially diverse women.” Sex Roles 53.7 (2005): 553-571.

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