The use of defense mechanisms in partner violent college men
Carter, Stacy R.
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Physical violence between men and women in intimate relationships is a significant problem in our society (Straus & Gelles, 1986; Tjaden & Thoennes, 2000). An explanation for partner violence is not agreed upon in the literature. While some literature suggests that partner violent men use more primitive defense mechanisms than other men (e.g.. Elbow, 1977; Dutton, 1998), a direct comparison of defense mechanisms of men who are violent to their partners and other men has not yet been made. Alcohol use problems have been found to be associated with partner violence in some studies (Schumacher, Feldbau-Kohn, Slep, & Heyman, 2000), but other studies report an inconsistent relationship between alcohol use and partner violence (Kantor & Straus, 1987; Cunradi, Caetano, Clark, & Schafer, 1999). Similarly, studies have found that men who are violent toward their partners and are in treatment for spouse abuse have antisocial features (e.g., Beasley & Stoltenberg, 1992), but studies of men in community samples have found no personality differences between men who are violent toward their partners and other men. The present study investigated whether violent college men (those who have hit, kicked, punched, or otherwise hurt their partner at some point in the past year) differ from nonviolent college men on the level of defenses they use, alcohol use, or antisocial features. Characteristics of 30 partner violent college men were compared to the characteristics of 30 nonviolent college men. Defense mechanisms were identified based on responses to 6 Thematic Apperception Test (Murray, 1943) cards, scored using the Defense Mechanisms Manual (Cramer, 1991a) as well as responses on the Defense Style Questionnaire-40 (Andrews, Singh, & Bond; 1993). Alcohol related problems and antisocial features were assessed based on responses to three scales (MacAndrew Alcoholism scale-revised, Antisocial Practices, and Psychopathic Deviancy) of the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory-2 (Butcher, Dahlstrom, Graham, Tellegen, & Kaemmer, 1989). When compared to nonviolent college men, it was expected that partner violent college men would use primitive defense mechanisms (i.e., denial, projection) rather than mature defense mechanisms (i.e., identification), have more alcohol related problems, and have more antisocial features. Multivariate analysis of variance was used to compare the groups. The findings did not support the hypotheses. No differences were found between partner violent men and nonviolent men on the use of defense mechanisms, alcohol related problems, or antisocial features.