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New study on violent men's experiences of change in the context of paternity

News: Aug 11, 2016

Kristin Håland, Ingela Lundgren, Eva Lidén and Tine S Eri have published an empirical study in the International Journal on Health and Well-being aimed to gain broader knowledge about men's violence in intimate relationships in a paternity context. The study included a number of men who had been in counselling to change violent behaviour. The researchers examined which factors were important to them when trying to overcome their violent behaviour when they became fathers. In this study, violence was defined as both physical and mental abuse.

The study found that many of the participating men do not see themselves as typical aggressors. Rather, they consider themselves victims of adverse circumstances and conflicts. Previous research has shown that violent men construct an identity marked by evasions and excuses and that they adopt a position of victimhood. They frequently transfer the responsibility for the violent act to their victim. The researchers also showed that these men believe it is important that they are seen as more than just a batterer and that one should distinguish between the action and the person.

The men emphasized the importance of being treated as multifaceted individuals. Many considered their own violent behaviour to be an exception rather than a characteristic. Having children may help bring insight and change to these men by becoming aware of "the other". Their own childhoods are confronted in their child's face and the need to be perceived as a human and nuanced person becomes central.

Four themes

The results of the study showed that there were four key themes for change. The first was about denial and the difficulty for some of these men to admit to themselves that they are aggressors and thus take the first step toward change. The denial may manifest itself in different ways. It often involves a self-image where they do not identify themselves as "a typical violent person". The violence was regarded as exceptions that were not representative. It may also involve blaming of the partner, that the violence was provoked, or that he considers the partner to be too sensitive, and "interpret everything as violence." Men who were convicted of violent crimes, or where their violence become public disclosure had a greater insight into their violent behaviour. The men who had been in counselling for a longer time also had a greater tendency to take responsibility for their actions.

The role of the counsellor

Another theme that emerged was the need to nuance the image of them as more than just a batterer. The perception of respect in the therapy situation was crucial as these men often feel shame and embarrassment over their actions. It was important for these men not to be reduced to be violent perpetrators only. When they realized that the interviewer had a respectful and friendly approach the men gained confidence that change was possible. It was also important to them that their children had a nuanced image of them where more sides than just their aggression became clear.

The relationship with the own father

The third theme is about the transition to fatherhood and how it can serve as an eye-opener. Becoming a father activated memories and thoughts about relationships with the men’s own fathers. Many felt uncertainty about fatherhood because they lacked a good role model. The experience of having children, however, created a sense of responsibility toward both themselves and the child. To have regular contact with the child can be a crucial incentive to lasting change. To see the children's fear of violence can also be a strong motivator to seek help.

Support in the fatherhood role

Many of the men in the study had to be monitored in dealing with the child because of previous violent behaviour. Some express a desire for guidance in paternity rather than a guardian. They also mention the challenges of pregnancy and childbirth and the perception that all focus is directed towards the mother. While the father is also undergoing major changes and a shapes a new identity. The men express a desire for more support in the fatherhood role and that this should be a included in the prenatal care.



Page Manager: Ingela Lundgren|Last update: 6/23/2016

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