Exploring Links between Attachment, Personality, and Violence

Intimate partner violence (IPV) is reported by nearly one quarter of all women in committed relationships. Although research has shown that women are more likely to experience negative mental health outcomes related to IPV than men, such as depression, posttraumatic stress, and anxiety, research has not yet provided evidence of the most prominent risk factors for IPV perpetration and how these intermingle with relationship aspects.

To take a more focused look at this dynamic, David M. Lawson, PhD, of the Department of Human Services at Stephen F. Austin State University in Texas, recently evaluated 132 men with a history of IPV perpetration. Lawson took reports from the victims as well as those who had abusive behaviors, and looked at hostile dominant interpersonal problems (HDIP) and the borderline and antisocial personality features that influenced HDIP. Lawson then assessed how these traits affected avoidant or anxious attachment styles and how all of these factors worked together to influence IPV.

The results of the assessment revealed that borderline, antisocial, and HDIP traits increased IPV perpetration. Yet only HDIP provided a direct predictive value. When Lawson looked at attachment style, he found that the men were most likely to controlling, coercive, and adversarial when they had avoidant styles. Although men with anxious attachment styles were also physically aggressive and combative, their attachment style was less predictive of that type of behavior.

Lawson also noted that previous research has shown borderline and antisocial traits to be linked to IPV but believes that even though they are associated with increased risk for IPV, HDIP clearly emerged as the strongest indicator of IPV in this study. The results presented here differ from other bodies of evidence in other ways. First, they consider victim reports and not only perpetrator accounts. Further, interpersonal conflict and relationship dynamics have not been evaluated in relation to IPV in this way before. “Finally,” added Lawson, “HDIP provide clinicians with a tangible expression of interpersonal aspects of psychopathology that can be readily targeted in IPV treatment along with attachment themes (e.g., abandonment).”

Lawson, David M., PhD., and Daniel F. Brossart PhD. (2013). Interpersonal problems and personality features as mediators between attachment and intimate partner violence. Violence and Victims 28.3 (2013): 414-28. ProQuest. Web.

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  • Annie


    July 9th, 2013 at 9:20 PM

    Personality can definitely predict behavior and predict violence.But that is not all there is,is it?I have seen seemingly the most calm people lose their temper if the situation is right (or wrong,how you look at it).

    While the default behavior can be predicted and maybe even with accuracy,behavior at all times and under all situations just cannot be predicted.

  • Lana


    July 10th, 2013 at 4:13 AM

    And also look at the background of those women who have issues with partner violence.
    Look at the homes that they were raised in when they were younger.
    Did they experience abuse as a child? Did they winess abuse against a family member?
    These things are naturally going to be very influential in how they develop and create their own adult relationships, as well as how they allow others to treat them within.

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