Men who commit violence against an intimate partner differ in their motives. Classifying the proactivity of men’s partner violence may reveal important differences that could be treatment targets.
To examine the differences between proactive and reactive partner violence based on coded descriptions of past violent events.
Community cohabiting couples reporting intimate partner violence were recruited via advertisements. Men and women were independently interviewed about past male-to-female violent events. The narratives of a male perpetrator and a female victim were coded using a Proactive–Reactive coding system, yielding three categories of violence: reactive, mixed proactive/reactive and proactive. The three categories were compared for differences in personality disorder features, attachment, psychophysiological reactivity during a conflict discussion task, and a self- and partner report of men’s proactive and reactive aggressive tendencies.
The results revealed a 54% classification agreement between perpetrator and victim reports. No differences were found on personality or attachment measures between the groups regardless of gender of the reporter. Reactive violence was related to a tendency to self-report more reactive aggression and higher heart rate reactivity during a laboratory conflict discussion compared to the group reporting both proactive and reactive violent incidents.
This study suggests that a coding system for intimate partner violence can be applied to community volunteers, and it is a reliable report and valid. However, there are discrepancies when the coding is based on the perpetrator or victim reports.