Assessing Family Violence

I will start seeing clients this summer, so I’m reading two texts about how to structure my sessions, Procedures in Marriage and Family Therapy, by Brock and Barnard, and Essential Skills in Family Therapy, by Patterson. One of the things I am to assess as a top priority is the possibility of family violence. (I’ll get a whole class on this next year.) It’s almost always perpetrated by a male. According to Patterson, battering is the biggest cause of injury to women. Here is Brock & Barnard’s list of characteristics that can help identify violent men (p. 46):

1) Believes in the traditional home, family, and gender stereotypes

2) Has low self-esteem and may use violence to demonstrate power or adequacy

3) May be sadistic, pathologically jealous, or passive-aggressive

4) Has a Jekyll and Hyde personality, capable of great charm

5) Believes in the moral rightness of his violent behavior even though he may go too far at times

6) Has perpetrated past violent behavior, which includes witnessing, receiving, and committing violent acts, violent acts during childhood; violent acts towards pets or inanimate objects; and has criminal record, long military service, or temper tantrums

7) Indicates alcohol abuse

To this list, Patterson adds preoccupation with weapons or control.

[First published on Nathen’s Miraculous Escape, April 12, 2010.]

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