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February 27 , 2011

Rethinking Domestic Violence


Rethinking Domestic Violence is the third in a series of books by Donald Dutton critically reviewing research in the area of intimate partner violence (IPV). The research crosses disciplinary lines, including social and clinical psychology, sociology, psychiatry, affective neuropsychology, criminology, and criminal justice research. Since the area of IPV is so heavily politicized, Dutton tries to steer through conflicting claims by assessing the best research methodology. As a result, he comes to some very new conclusions.

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These conclusions include the finding that IPV is better predicted by psychological rather than social-structural factors, particularly in cultures where there is relative gender equality. Dutton argues that personality disorders in either gender account for better data on IPV. His findings also contradict earlier views among researchers and policy makers that IPV is essentially perpetrated by males in all societies. Numerous studies are reviewed in arriving at these conclusions, many of which employ new and superior methodologies than were available previously.

After twenty years of viewing IPV as generated by gender and focusing on a punitive "law and order" approach, Dutton argues that this approach must be more varied and flexible. Treatment providers, criminal justice system personnel, lawyers, and researchers have indicated the need for a new view of the problem – one less invested in gender politics and more open to collaborative views and interdisciplinary insights. Dutton’s rethinking of the fundamentals of IPV is essential reading for psychologists, policy makers, and those dealing with the sociology of social science, the relationship of psychology to law, and explanations of adverse behaviour.

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