Irish Times

Thursday, June 14, 2001

Domestic violence more likely from women - report

By Padraig O'Morain, Health and Children Correspondent
Irish Times

Women are more likely than men to perpetrate domestic violence, according to new research on Irish couples who seek marriage counselling.

The report, published yesterday, also found that domestic violence was one of the less important factors in marriage breakdown in the largely middleclass group studied.

It was produced by a team led by Dr Kieran McKeown, who has a distinguished reputation in social research and was commissioned by Marriage and Relationship Counselling Services, one of the main counselling organisations in the country.

In a survey of 530 clients of MRCS, the researchers found domestic violence occurs in almost half (48 per cent) of all relationships which are sufficiently troubled for one or both partners to seek counselling.

Where there is violence, about one-third (33 per cent) inflict violence on each other, "while female-perpetrated violence occurs in about four out of 10 couples (41 per cent) and male-perpetrated violence in a quarter of couples (26 per cent) leading us to conclude that women are more likely than men to be the perpetrators of domestic violence", the report's authors say.

They say the findings "do not tell us anything about the severity of the violence involved, the context, reasons or initiation of the violence or the extent of injuries resulting from it".

They cite research from the US, Britain, Canada and New Zealand which, they say, shows that the "prevalence of domestic violence among men and women, both as victims and as perpetrators, is broadly similar for all types of violence, both psychological and physical, minor and severe. In addition, both men and women are about equally likely to initiate domestic violence and seem to give broadly similar reasons for doing so.

"However, it needs to be emphasised that the outcomes of domestic violence in terms of physical and psychological injuries tend to be considerably more negative for female victims than for male," they add.

International studies suggest "domestic violence probably occurs in about 10 to 20 per cent of all heterosexual relationships - with considerably higher prevalence rates for younger cohabiting couples - and tends to be severe in about one-third of all cases".

© 2001