Help for student

Dr Barbara Tooth, QUT (
Thu, 15 Feb 1996 12:40:55 +1000

I have been asked by a student (Russell Wilson) for help with his PhD
project on Domestic Violence. He plans to use grids and I offered to put a
request for help to the group. He is not on email but I will forward any
ideas etc to him. The following is an outline of his project.

Thanks in anticipation


Personal Construct / Repertory Grid Approach to the Elucidation of the
Belief Systems of Perpetrators and Victims of Domestic Violence


Perpetrators of domestic violence frequently come from families of origin
where they have experienced or been exposed to physical violence and
parental rejection and coldness, particularly by their fathers. Doubtless,
other men have also experienced such adverse backgrounds but what assists
them to not go on and become abusive is not known.

There are thought to be three principal types of perpetrator of domestic
Generally violent anti-social
generally violent

Emotionally volatile angry, jealous, depressed
only violent with wife
cyclical tension experienced

Overcontrolled unassertive, pleasing
tries to escape conflict
only violent with wife

Russell (1995), using Rokeach's value systems approach (using intensive
interviewing, and grounded theory coding procedures), has argued that
perpetrators' belief systems result in their view of their place in the
marital relationship as central, superior and deserving; dependent on their
wives for care and nurturance, but seeing this process as uni-directional,
husband-oriented, rather than mutual. Her therapy program seeks to bring
the men's beliefs toward the connected, equal and mutually engaged self. In
terms of attachment style, many perpetrators of abuse are anxious, avoidant
and/or ambivalent.

Research Problem

I wish to compare three groups of subjects:

non-distressed couples

distressed couples receiving marital therapy, but not for domestic violence

distressed couples receiving marital therapy, where domestic violence is a
treatment focus

Basically, three questions are of interest in my current research program,
which I wish to examine through a personal construct approach:
i. How do the belief systems of the three groups of subjects differ?
ii. Through therapy, do the constructs used by husband and wife become more
similar (e.g., as might be required for greater empathy)?
iii. How do perpetrators' belief systems change as a result of therapy?
I would like assistance/suggestions regarding:
a. what PCP procedure should be used to address the research questions?
b. how can this be statistically analyzed?
c. what common elements should be given to the subjects?

I am most interested in the three research questions listed but if I can
identify significant life experiences which have reduced the effects of
early exposure to intra-familial violence then that would be great.

As would be apparent given their background, not only are the beliefs found
by Russell likely to be of importance, but also beliefs about coping
resources and coping strategies (e.g., "if I am emotionally upset, then my
wife should provide care and nurturance, not my mates", "I can tell my mates
about my angry feelings, but not about my other feelings, of sadness, fear,
insecurity etc.).

Given the demands upon the subjects it is necessary to minimise any demands
placed upon them. Thus, it is envisaged that administration of the grid
(elicitation of say 12 constructs based on 12 elements, triadic
presentation, ratings etc) take only approximately 30 minutes.

Russell, M. N. (1995) Confronting Abusive Beliefs: Group Treatment for
Abusive Men, Sage, Thousand Oaks, CA.