By Hara Estroff Marano, published on September 1, 1992 - last reviewed on December 13, 2010
In the epidemic of family violence gripping America, it's become painfully clear that men who batter their intimate partners come from all classes and all walks of life.
According to Michigan psychologist Donald B. Saunders, Ph.D., there are three distinct types of men who abuse their partners. They are distinguished most sharply by how they handle their emotions, how they use alcohol, what their attitudes are toward women, and whether they have a childhood history of victimization.
Type 1 men are "family-only" aggressors--not likely to be violent outside the home. The least sexist, they are concerned about their image and try to consider right and wrong. These men, says Saunders, tend to be "doormats until they erupt with alcohol." They overcontrol hostility, and consciously use alcohol to loosen up and express feelings; their violence is linked with alcohol half the time. They are least likely to have been abused as children, and are the least psychologically abusive. Of all the types, they derive the most satisfaction in the relationship.
Type 2 men--the generally violent--use violence outside the home as well as in it. Their violence is severe and tied to alcohol; they have high rates of arrest for drunk driving and violence. Most have been abused as children and have rigid attitudes about sex roles. These men, Saunders explains, "are calculating; they have a history with the criminal justice system and know what they can get away with."
Type 3 men are emotionally volatile, with high levels of anger, depression, and jealousy. They have rigid attitudes about sex roles and fear losing their partners. They are not severely violent as often as Type 2s, but are more psychologically abusive, and the least satisfied in their relationship. They tend to be young, educated, and open about their problems.
Treatment programs apply the same methods with all batterers, but Saunders believes different treatment strategies might work better. "But all need men's groups to learn how to relate equally to their partners and to other men."