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since June 19, 2001


Mother Jones: Women Hit Too!

Over more than the past thirty years, there have been more than a hundred studies by reputable social scientist of the issues of domestic violence.  All found the same results.  Women are as violent, or perhaps slightly more violent than men. 

Nancy Updike, in an article in the May/June 1999 issue of Mother Jones, says now that this "surprising fact has turned up" in a recent study that was done in New Zealand by Terry Moffit, a University of Wisconsin psychology professor.  After reading the whole article it becomes clear that it not really a surprise that this fact has now turned up.  What is surprising and more than welcome is that after decades of biased advocacy research that flooded the market with anti-male "research findings," a voice of sanity was finally allowed to be heard.

Source: http://motherjones.com/mother_jones/MJ99/updike.html

After 20 years of domestic violence research, scientists can't avoid hard facts

by Nancy Updike
May/June 1999 

A surprising fact has turned up in the grimly familiar world of domestic violence: Women report using violence in their relationships more often than men.  This is not a crack by some antifeminist cad; the information will soon be published by the Justice Department in a report summarizing the results of in-depth, face-to-face interviews with a representative sample of 860 men and women whom researchers have been following since birth. Conducted in New Zealand by Terrie Moffitt, a University of  Wisconsin psychology professor, the study supports data published in 1980 indicating that wives hit their husbands at least as often as husbands hit their wives.


Subject: Re: "Mother Jones" on domestic violence 
    Date: Fri, 11 Jun 1999 06:08:30 +1200 
   From:  [not shown]

This from Dr. Felicity Goodyear-Smith, giving more detail on the study. 


This is part of the Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study. 

 A summary of this study can be found in my  paper Goodyear- Smith FA; Laidlaw TM (1999).  "Aggressive acts  and assaults in intimate relationships: towards an understanding of  the literature", Behavioral Sciences & the Law (special issue on  'Threat Assessment and Management'), 17 (3), in press.

"The difference between 'assault' and 'aggressive acts' prevalence is clearly demonstrated by two different studies performed in New Zealand on the same birth cohort.  The Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study (DMHDS) is an extensive longitudinal cohort study of the health, development and behaviour of 1037 New Zealanders born in Dunedin between 1 April 1972 and 31 March 1973.  When this cohort was 21 years of age, studies were conducted about their perpetration and victimisation rates of partner violence, and their overall experience of assault over the proceeding 12 months.  Both these interviews were part of a battery of assessments of 941 members of the cohort conducted over an entire day.  The partner violence questions were embedded in a 50 minute standardised interview about intimate relationships in the morning, and the assault interview was a 22 minute interview in the afternoon. 

The assessment of both perpetration and victimisation of partner violence for this cohort used the Conflict Tactics Scales (CTS) to ask about aggressive acts being performed (Magdol et al., 1997).  Respondents answered twice: first about their behaviour towards their partner, and second, about their partner's behaviour towards them.  Women reported perpetrating more partner violence than men, and men reported more victimisation than women.  When subjects not involved with a partner in the proceeding year were excluded, it was found that nearly all the women (95%) and a large majority of the men (86%) reported having performed an act of verbal aggression against a partner.  Similarly, prevalence rates of perpetration of physical violence by women were significantly higher than those for men (37% compared to 22%).  This included rates for severe physical abuse (such as kicking, hitting, biting, hit with a weapon, use or threat of use of a knife or gun) which 19% of women and 6% of men reported that they had used on their partner. 

Analysis of victimisation rates gave confirmatory findings.  More men (34%) than women (27%) reported being a victim of physical violence perpetrated by their partner.  This study also found that while women from all social strata were liable to be violent, there was an increased risk for men to be violent if they were poorly educated, unemployed, and lacked social supports.  This data suggests that men from higher socio-economic groups with better educational status are less likely to engage in violent acts against women. 

In contrast, the study looking at the rates of physical assault in  the preceding 12 months for this cohort gave different results, with domestic assault rates much lower than the violent behaviour rates  reported above (Martin et al., 1998; Langley et al., 1997).  In a semi-structured face-to-face interview, subjects were asked if anyone had  deliberately harmed, or attempted or threatened to deliberately harm them  in the preceding 12 months.  If the answer was 'yes', details were then  elicited including the frequency and nature of the attacks, and the gender and relationship of the assailant. 

Nearly half of the 482 men and a quarter of the 462 women reported at least one physical assault, attempt or threat in the previous  12 months.  While men were the predominant offenders, 15% of the  assaults on men, and 25% of the assaults on women, were perpetrated by  women.  The women who reported assault in the past 12 months were  more likely to be currently living without a partner, either alone or with children and living on the Domestic Purposes Benefit. 

While many of the subjects owned to various acts of physical  inter-partner violence given or received, far fewer of these defined these events as "assaults". Only 3% of the men and 11% of the women reported assaults by partners. These percentages cannot be directly compared with the victimisation rates from the other study, because the samples are somewhat different.  The assault study includes subjects who were not in any relationship, and more men had not been in a relationship than women in the overall cohort.  When the actual numbers of men and women for each study are calculated, however, it is found that 144 men report being subjected to violent acts by female partners, but only 14 of those classify these acts as "assaults" or view them as "deliberately intended to harm".  In contrast, 118 women report being subjected to violent acts by their male partners, but many more of them (51) consider that these acts are "assaults". Women reported significantly more injuries for which they sought medical treatment than men. 

A primary difference between the two studies are the definitions  used.  It seems that women are more likely to define slaps, hits, and  punches from their partner as "assaults", while men are less likely to do so. 

A further study was conducted on 360 members of the cohort  and their intimate partners (Moffitt, 1987).  It was found that perpetrators and victims generally agreed about the extent to which perpetrators engaged in physically violent and psychologically abusive behaviours, and that this agreement did not vary with the perpetrator's gender.  The level of agreement in relation to specific acts was only modest, but when responses were aggregated, the correlation between victim and perpetrator reports was very strong. 

Magdol L, Moffitt T, Caspi A, Newman D, Fagan J & Silva P (1997).  "Gender differences in partner violence in a birth cohort of 21-year-olds: bridging the gap between clinical and epidemiological  approaches" Journal of Consulting & Clinical Psychology, 65  (1), 68-78. 

Moffitt TE & Caspi A (1998). Annotation: implications of violence between intimate partners for child psychologists and  psychiatrists, Journal of Child Psychology & Psychiatry, 39 (2),  137-144. 

Moffitt TE, Caspi A, Silva PA(Nov 1996). Findings about partner violence from the Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study, University of Otago Medical School, Dunedin. 

Dr Felicity Goodyear-Smith 
Research Fellow 
Department of Psychiatry & Behavioural Science 
University of Auckland 
PB 92 019 Auckland 
New Zealand 
tel 64 9 373 7599 Ext 2357,; 021 897 244. 

A summary of the findings by Terry Moffit and Avshalom Caspi are presented in a research brief accessible at

A note of caution about downloading the paper.  When I attempted to view it in Acrobat, a message was displayed telling me that the required application couldn't be found.  I downloaded the file to my hard drive and found that it had an HTM file suffix.  After renaming the file to have the required PDF suffix, I was able to open it using the Acrobat reader.

Additional references were provided by Stewart Birks from the Massey University in NZ:


    Date:    Thu, 10 Jun 1999 09:51:42 +1200 
    From:   "Birks, Stuart" <K.S.Birks@massey.ac.nz> 

    The study is the Dunedin longitudinal study headed by Phil Silva.  There are numerous publications from the study.  For a reporting of some of the results with Moffitt as co-author, see: 

    Magdol L, Moffitt T, Caspi A, Newman D, Fagan J, Silva P. (1997) "Gender differences in partner violence in a birth cohort of 21 year olds: bridging the gap between clinical and epidemiological approaches", Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology; 65:68-78 

    For some discussion, see:


    Phil Silva is on email at: 


    He heads the Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health & Development Research Unit: 


       The main activity of the Multidisciplinary Health and Development study is a longitudinal investigation of 1000 (Dunedin) and 1200 (Christchurch) people. The Dunedin cohort is now 26 years old, the Christchurch cohort 21 years old. Participants have been studied since birth and are assessed on a broad range of medical, psychological and sociological measures at regular intervals.  The ongoing studies have produced 700 (Dunedin) and 170 (Christchurch) published articles. 

    For further information 

    Email: dmhdru@otago.ac.nz

    Best wishes, 


Let's hope that this will help to turn the tide of anti-male and anti-family propaganda, and that, as Nancy Updike said in her article in Mother Jones,


    "...the girls committing violent crimes now are more likely to end up in violent relationships.  But to ignore them on principle -- as activists and researchers ignored the data about women's violence years ago -- is to give up on determining the roots of violence, which seem to be much more complicated than whether a person is born with a Y chromosome. 

    What's clear is that women's and girls' violence is not meaningless, either for researchers or for the women themselves.  It turns out that teenage girls who commit violent crimes "are two times more likely than juvenile male offenders to become victims themselves in the course of the offending incident," according to an FBI report.  I'd like to hear more about that, please, not less.  Moffitt's findings about women's violence and the FBI statistics are invitations to further research -- not in spite of the fact that so many women are being beaten and killed every year, but because of it."

But there are additional reasons why all aspects of violence must be studied, including those of violent women.  In the last paragraph of her book "When She Was BAD — Violent Women and the Myth of Innocence," Patricia Pearson states why that is:

    "The consequences of our refusal to concede female contributions to violence are manifold.  It affects our capacity to promote ourselves as autonomous and responsible beings.  It affects our ability to develop a literature about ourselves that encompasses the full array of human emotion and experience.  It demeans the right our victims have to be valued.  And it radically impedes our ability to recognize dimensions of power that have nothing to do with formal structures of patriarchy.  Perhaps above all, the denial of women's aggression profoundly undermines our attempt as a culture to understand violence, to trace its causes and to quell them."

There is an enormous number of victims of violence by women.  Patricia Pearson makes it quite clear in her book who they are:  men, of course, but foremost children, and also other women, in short, women's victims, just like men's victims, are to be found in all sectors of mankind.  They have rights, and they need to heard, seen and recognized too!  Most of all, they too need our help.  Will we help them, or will we continue to ignore them?  What will you do? — WHS

See also:

  • The family violence page index for more information on family violence issues.
  • Feminism For Male College Students A Short Guide to the Truth, by Angry Harry (Off-Site)
  • DVStats.org a search engine, aggregating research that examines the impact and extent of domestic violence upon male victims. (Off-site)

    This search facility equates domestic violence to intimate partner violence between men and women in relationships.  It does not provide information on violence between homosexuals, siblings or violence against family members other than heterosexual partners and spouses, such as infanticide, child abuse or violence against elderly in families.

    The primary purpose of the site is to shift public perceptions of such violence away from political ideology, and instead toward objectively verifiable scientific research.
  • Video on violent women

1999 07 29
2001 02 05 (format changes)
2006 03 04 (added link to Feminism for Male College Students)