Who Are the Abusers of Domestic Violence?

By Toby D. Goldsmith, M.D., and Maria Vera, Ph.D.
22 Nov 2000

Abusers don't wear signs that say, "I'm an abuser." They can be doctors, lawyers, judges, nurses, policemen, clergymen, mechanics, janitors or the unemployed. They could be white, black, Asian, Hispanic or Native American. They may have had five previous spouses, or may have never been married.

However, research shows that abusers are likely to have some common characteristics. In general, abusers:

  • Are less educated than the abused partner.
  • Come from a lower socio-economic group than the abused partner.
  • Need great amounts of attention.
  • Are possessive, jealous and controlling of their partner.
  • Fear being abandoned by the partner.
  • Are emotionally dependent on the partner.
  • Have low self-esteem.
  • Have rigid expectations of the relationship.
  • Have poor impulse control and low frustration tolerance.
  • Are prone to explosive rage.
  • Use children to exert power over partner.
  • Blame their partners for their own abusive behavior.
  • Lie to keep the victim psychologically off-balance.
  • Manipulate the victim and others to get on their good side.
  • If a man is abusing a woman, he often has very traditional beliefs about the roles of men and women.
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 29 Mar 2015
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