Sex Roles, Vol. 52, Nos. 11/12, June 2005 (
Treating Perpetrators of Domestic Violence:
Gender Differences in the Applicability
of the Theory of Planned Behavior
Female perpetrated intimate partner violence has commonly been treated, both legally and
clinically, similarly to male perpetrated violence. However, there is little empirical research
of the gender differences in treatment needs or the applicability of classic models of batterer
intervention for women. This study examines the applicability of one theory that has com-
monly been used to guide treatment of male perpetrators, the theory of planned behavior.
R. M. Tolman, J. L. Edleson, and M. Fendrich (1996) found the components of this theory
to be moderately predictive of abusive behavior among males. In a survey of 114 male and
female participants in batterer intervention counseling in Los Angeles County, the current
study conﬁrmed that the model predicted male behaviors but found the model did not apply
to female violent behavior.
KEY WORDS: family violence; perpetrators; theories; gender differences.
Although the use of theory to guide practice
related to intimate partner violence (IPV) is rarely
explicit, several theoretical perspectives have been
instrumental in the development of primary preven-
tion and treatment of offenders (Pence & Paymar,
1993; Tolman, Edleson, & Fendrich, 1996). An ex-
amination of the theory of planned behavior is im-
portant to the ﬁeld of IPV due to the degree to which
the theoretical components have been used to guide
intervention with males and females, including at-
titudes toward the behavior, subjective norms and
behavioral control (Tolman, Edleson, & Fendrich,
1996). These theoretical components have been uti-
lized in the prevention and treatment of IPV in the
following ways. To address the likelihood and nega-
tivity of consequences, legal interventions have been
strengthened with the goal of increasing the negative
ramiﬁcations for abuse. This decreases the batterer’s
sense that abusive behavior is acceptable, inﬂuenc-
ing perceived subjective norms (Pate & Hamilton,
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1992; Stark, 1993). Counseling interventions, based
in psychoeducational models, also work to increase
the batterer’s sense that he has the ability to change
his abusive behavior and make non-violent choices.
Learning to recognize cues that tension is escalating
and there is an increased risk of abuse, and acting
accordingly to decrease this risk, can assist the bat-
terer in reducing violence, thus increasing perceived
behavioral control (Bryant, 1994; Sakai, 1991).
The three components of the planned behavior
model have been crucial building blocks in preven-
tion and treatment of IPV. These are attitude to-
ward violence, normative beliefs about the accept-
ability of violence, and perceived behavioral control.
However, these treatment components, derived from
the theory, have been applied to women without ﬁrst
measuring if the theory adequately explains women’s
use of violence. If it does not, then this treatment
may not be appropriate for batterer intervention with
women. This study will examine the degree to which
the theory of planned behavior is related to women’s
use of violence in relationships.
As a result of the strengthening of crimi-
nal justice response to IPV in the mid-1980s, the
2005 Springer Science+Business Media, Inc.