Explaining the Relationship Between Insecure Attachment and Partner Abuse: The Role of Personality Characteristics
Studies have found that male batterers are more often insecurely attached as compared with nonbatterers. However, it is still not clear how insecure attachment is related to domestic violence. Many studies compared batterers and nonbatterers regarding pathological personality characteristics that are related to attachment (e.g., dependency, jealousy) and generally found that batterers report more personality characteristics. However, these studies did not investigate which role these characteristics played in the relationship between insecure attachment and battering. The first aim of this study is to test which personality characteristics are good candidates to explain the relationship between insecure attachment and domestic violence. The second aim is to test whether personality characteristics are predictive of battering over and above attachment. Seventy-two mainly court-mandated family-only males who were in group treatment for battering are allocated to a securely and an insecurely attached group and compared with 62 nonbatterers. Using questionnaires, self-esteem, dependency, general distrust, distrust in partner, jealousy, lack of empathy, separation anxiety, desire for control, and impulsivity were assessed. This was the first study that examined distrust, separation anxiety, and desire for control in relation to battering. The results show that the relationship between insecure attachment and domestic violence can be explained by separation anxiety and partner distrust. Moreover, only partner distrust increased the risk for battering over and above insecure attachment. The findings suggest the presence of two subtypes among batterers based on attachment style, which has similarities to the family-only and dysphoric-borderline subtypes suggested by Holtzworth-Munroe and Stuart. Implications of the present findings for therapy are discussed.