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Role of couple's personality traits in domestic violence.

The present research aims to determine the role of couple's personality traits in domestic violence. Descriptive-correlative analysis was used on couples referred to a Sari based Forensic Medicine Organization in the 2nd semester of 2014 and 1st semester of 2015. Proportionate with the referrals size during the mentioned period, 100 individuals randomly selected from the convenient sampling pool, and couples have responded to Five Personality Traits Assessment (NEO). Data analysis has been done by SPSS-20 and using Spearman correlation coefficient. It was found that Neuroticism is strongly associated with violence", and provide a r^2 value. The results highlighted the role of the personality trait known as neuroticism in domestic violence outbreak.

Key words: personality traits, Domestic violence, Forensic medicine


Pathology refers to a branch of knowledge whose goal is to recognize psychological, individual and social disorders and to understand their development and evolutionary transformation (Sarokhani, 1991). A possible alternative, "Consistent with a pathology perspective, a discussion about contributing factors to social traumas will occur. Emphasis is placed on the etiology of factors that threaten the well-being and stability of family health. Traumas within troubled families bring about some socially traumatic consequences such as addiction, prostitution, running away from home, poverty, divorce, vagrancy and domestic violence. This results in the disruption of psychological functioning and introduces a host of mental health issues.

The reports and studies indicated that today, domestic violence is one of the main concerns in the field of public. Due to the presented statistics worldwide, it can be stated that domestic violence is a global issue.

Domestic violence (spouse abuse, spouse misconduct, battery and aggressive behavior with family) is a pattern of violence in which aggression or abuse is committed against another person in a family framework. This can occur in marriages, unregistered cohabitants, or by other family members. Domestic violence is also not gender specific, and can be perpetrated by opposite sex partners and those of the same gender.

The 2016 WHO report noted that approximately 1 in 3 (35%) women globally report experiencing physical or sexual violence by a partner or sexual violence by a non partner in their lifetime. Within relationships , 30% of women report experiencing some form of physical or sexual abuse, and for murders of women, approximately 38% are committed by partners. (UNODC,2013).

Violence against marriage partners is one of the main forms of violence. Women are particularly vulnerable with millions of reports of abuse by partners or ex-husbands during their lifetime in the United States alone (Black, M. C., Basile, K. C., Brieding, M. J., Smith, S. G., Walters, M. L., Merrick, M. T., 2011).Though in the majority of the cases, women are the victims of domestic violence, the reports imply that violence against men is also a serious issue that is often ignored. For example, in the US, 1 out of 3 women (around 33.33%.) and 1 out of 4 men (28.5%) undergo domestic violence such as assault and physical aggression by their partner during their lifetime (Black, M. C., Basile, K. C., Brieding, M. J., Smith, S. G., Walters, M. L., Merrick, M. T., 2011). In regard to spousal murder, the studies revealed that almost 40-50% of the murder cases had female victims and around 70-80%of these women had been tortured by their spouses before being killed (National Institute of Justice, 2007).In another report posted in 2010, approximately 37.5% of all women were murdered by their current or ex-husbands (Office for Victims of Crime, 2014). Analyses have shown that individual factors such as character and personality traits, social factors involving the role of power, disintegrations in cultural traditions and psychological factors like childhood exposures to, observational domestic violence, all contribute to the etiology of domestic violence. New literature defines family violence as being more multifactorial and considers domestic violence as an absolutely complicated phenomenon. There is the possibility that contributing changes over time and the influence of each one varies depending on special conditions. Bazargan-Hejazi, S., Medeiros, S., Mohammadi, R., Lin, J., &Dalal, K. (2013) report a host of associated factors and sum up the multidimensional nature of domestic violence.

Numerous risk factors have been shown to be associated with female victimization from IPV, including socio-demographic variables, length of stay in a relationship with a male partner, partners' substance abuse, early intercourse, and childhood experiences of sexual abuse and/or IPV in the home. These risk factors demonstrate that IPV is multidimensional, and as conceptualized in a social-ecological framework, points to the important interplay of individual, family, community, and societal level factors.

Many reports on domestic violence have been presented around the world. In Iran, spouse abuse prevalence has been reported at 30-80% (Mafi and Akbarzada, 2005; Shams, Esfandabad&Emamipoor, 2003). Physical, sexual, and emotional abuse in Iran has also been have been estimated at 16.4%, 18.6% and 44.4% respectively. According to Iranian studies, generally psychological violences like insult, using vulgar words, humiliation, etc. are more common than the physical ones. (Ahmadi&Zangane, 2004; 172) These effects aren't as rapidly disclosed compared to physical violence; nevertheless, in the long run, it leaves plenty of detrimental effects. Moreover, among diverse psychological violence, coercion and low heed have been the most prevalent with reports of 63.1% of women experiencing this form of violence (ibid).

The material and spiritual cost of domestic violence is sometimes irrecoverable. The WHO report about the dimensions of material domestic violence expenses have been estimated in both direct and indirect losses. The direct costs include the ones directly incurred by domestic violence encompassing the cost of legal services, medical expenses, aggression inducing control factors and the costs of emergency cases. The indirect costs cover losing income and time on the victims' side, losing human resources and the psychological costs. In 2003, the annual domestic violence cost, especially one of the partner was estimated $ 5.8 billion (UN General Assembly, 2006) and in 2004, in England and Wales, these damages have been calculated as $ 22.9 billion annually (Walby. S, 2004). In 2009, in Australia the domestic violence against women and children was estimated at $ 13.6 billion (The National Council to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children, 2009). And in 2012, the recent estimation of domestic violence against women at household level in Vietnam has been around 1.4% of its GDP (UN Women Viet Nam,2013).

There are several models to help conceptualize domestic violence. The environmental model of domestic violence is the most widely used. This model proposes that violence results from factors operating at four levels including the individual, communicative, collective and social characteristics. Several research cases at these levels have been conducted to study domestic violence. Overall, the majority of the theories on spouse abuse highlight cultural factors, family structure features, as well as personal and interpersonal physiological characteristics (Carr JL &Vandeusen KM., 2002). Personal characteristics, particularly mental disorders (HeydariPahlavian, A., Amirzargar, M., Farhadinasab, A.A., &Mahjoub, H., 2003) are also highly associated with cases of domestic violence, and are proportionally very prevalent.

Domestic violence related reports across the globe demonstrate that a woman or a spouse is more likely to be a victim of domestic violence; though, there are reports displaying men as the victims of such violence, too (Lupri, E., & Grandin, E. 2004. Migliaccio, Todd A. 2001). Based on WHO studies, it has been reported in several countries that emotional disorders, suicidal thoughts and self-immolation higher among women undergoing domestic violence (Garcia-Moreno C et al., 2004). In this same several studies have disclosed the relationship between personality traits and domestic violence outbreak. These studies have been performed in high and average income countries. The derived results indicated an association between antisocial personality disorders and their related traits (such as impulsivity, lack of empathy) and committing domestic violence. Also, the extracted results of these studies show that people with such characteristics are more likely to violate the norms and are inclined towards aggressive behaviors against their marriage partner (Marshall AD, Panuzio J, and Taft C.T.2005).

Psychological disorders are a collection of personal traits and features emphasized as a significant structure in creating aggressive behaviors (Walsh, D., & Weeks, W. 2004).The studies by Gondolf& White (2001) revealed the association between personality traits (psychological tendencies) and domestic violence and estimated the psychological disorders prevalence ranging from 15% to 30% among the perpetrators of domestic violence. In the research conducted in North America on the psychological characteristics of men committing domestic violence, the results noted that the group were less remorseful, and exhibited impulsive behaviors and fleeting attractions (Sullivan, M., Senturia, K., Negash, T., Shiu- Thornton, S. &Giday, B.,2005). Panaghi, L., Pirouzi, D., Shirinbayan, M., &Ahmadabadi, Z. (2011) in Iran carried out research titled "Role of Personality Traits and Demographics in Spouse Abuse "in Kermanshah. The results of the study have dealt with the issue that personality traits have contributed to explaining violence against spouses. As previously mentioned, domestic violence is an issue encompassing various areas (violence against women, children, the elderly and men). The Ministry of Health, Medicine and Medical Education of Iran announced in 2008 that domestic violence against women in a countrywide review was approximately 65%. Today, most of health concerns among women, such as the pelvic complications, headache, insomnia, fatigue and depression, in society are the adverse consequences of violence in family (SedighSarvestani, 2007; 130).

In this respect, to better recognize aggressive behaviors, the association between such behaviors generating factors such as the role of personality traits in the process of violence has to be studied. Therefore, in the current study, we are seeking this issue as to whether the couple's personality traits can be taken as domestic violence predictor.


The present study is a descriptive correlational analysis and has been developed to analyze the association between a couple's personality traits and domestic violence.

Sample: The sample community consists of all couples referred to the Sari based Forensic Medicine Department. The subjects ranged from 18 to over 55 yrs of age, and were referred in the first half of the year 2015 for filing of domestic violence. To estimate the sample size, simple random sampling has been applied and the sample size has been calculated as 100 subjects.

Instrument: NEO Personality Inventory--Revised (NEOPI-R): one of the most recent inventories is for assessing personality based on factor analysis perspective. Because of reflecting 5 main factors, today this test is considered as a comprehensive model based on factors analysis and its widespread application to assess healthy individuals' personality and also in clinical affairs, it can be of the most appropriate scales for assessing personality. The answer sheet of this inventory has been organized based on likert scale (Strongly disagree, Disagree, No idea, Agree and Strongly agree).


Q 1: Is there a meaningful relationship between Neuroticism and domestic violence outbreak?

Since the variables (Neuroticism and domestic violence outbreak) are of interval type while the other variable (violence prevalence) is of ordinal type, we chose to employ the Spearman correlation test.

Because the observed correlation coefficient for men (r=-0.007) with the degree of freedom as 98 and confidence level % 95 and significance level (a=0.05) is smaller than the critical table figure, There was not enough evidence to support the hypothesis for men. For women, the observed correlation (r=0.251) is bigger than the critical table figure (r=0.197). The study produced statistically significant results for women, indicated that rates of violence towards women increases as neuroticism in women increases.

Q 2: Is there a meaningful relationship between introversion--extroversion personality trait and domestic violence outbreak?

The obtained correlation coefficient for men (r=0.047) and women (-0.131) with the degree of freedom as 98 and at confidence level %95 and significance level (a=0.05) is smaller than the critical table figure (r=0.197). This study hypothesis is rejected for both women and men.

Q 3: Is there a meaningful relationship between openness to experience personality trait and domestic violence outbreak?

he achieved correlation coefficient for men (r=-0.022) and women (r=-0.058) with degrees of freedom of 98 and at confidence level % 95 and significance level (0/0=[alpha]5) is smaller than the critical table figure (r=0.197) The research hypothesis is turned down for both female and male cohorts.

Q 4: Is there a meaningful relationship between Adaptability and domestic violence outbreak?

he observed correlation coefficient for men (r=0.043) and women (r=-0.117) with the degree of freedom as 98 and at confidence level % 95 and significance level (0/0=[alpha]5) is smaller than the critical table figure (r=0.197). Thus the research hypothesis is rejected for both groups of women and men.

Q 5: Is there a meaningful relationship between conscientiousness and domestic violence outbreak?

The correlation coefficient found for men (r=-0.117) and women (r=-0.09) with the degree of freedom 98 and at confidence level % 95 and significance level (0/0=[alpha]5) is lower than the critical table figure (r=0.197). Therefore the study hypothesis is turned down for both cohorts of women and men.


The results revealed Neuroticism with the highest correlation with violence. Neuroticism and violence had the strongest positive association. Concerning the mean personality traits of female and male samples at 4 levels, Neuroticism is almost equal among men and women and no big difference has been spotted. This hypothesis derived result is consistent with that of Mafi et al.(2005), MohhamedKhani.P ,RezaieDughahe.E, Mohammedi, M.R, Azadmehr, H. (2006), SorkhiAhmadi, F and Michaeili.N.( 2007), Stuart G L; Meehanj c; Moore T M; MoreanM; Hellmuth J; Follansbee. J.(2006), Motevaliyan S. M, Siti Nor. Y, Juhari R, Mansor M &Baratvand M.(2014), Panaghi, L., Pirouzi, D., Shirinbayan, M., &Ahmadabadi, Z..(2011), Hofmans, J., Kuppens, P., &Allik, J.(2008), Sharpe & Desai (2001) and Tremblay &Ewart(2005).

To justify the results of the hypothesis of this study, applying the psychological approach, we can search domestic violence references in personality or psychological disorders.

The findings displayed that among personality traits, Neuroticism has got the highest correlation with violence. The clinicians have diagnosed different emotional distresses including social phobia, depression and hostility in these individuals. These individuals report emotional swings that impede adjustment, and are prone to irrational beliefs, and have less control over their impulses. Implementing MMPI test, Bernard et al, in their studies concluded that the ones committing domestic violence have been diagnosed with these characteristics: anger and irritability, being temperamental and unpredictable, pessimistic, insecure, agitated and apathetic. They came to the conclusion that spouse abusers are severely apathetic individuals and have diagnosable personality disorders. Presenting the most well-known abusers' typology patterns, Carlson, Gondololf and Russell categorized them in three classes: psychopath sadist, antisocial sadist and typical abusers. They announced the first class as the most dangerous case (Mohammedkhani, 2006).

Stuart et al, (2005) proposed a pattern for violent husbands and their impulsivity. In their mind, the impulsive individuals have the following features:

1. being oversensitive to reward;

2. Poor capability to control reactions against potential punishment;

3. Poor capability to seek emotions and new experiences.

Moreover, in his studies, Stuart denoted that impulsivity is associated with psychopathic and antisocial behavior, substance abuse and aggression.

The results also suggest no relationship between introversion-extroversion personality traits and domestic violence outbreak, congruent with those achieved in the research cases by Panaghi et al. (2011), Sharpe & Desai (2001) and Pease &Lewis(2015). Several explanations potentially clarify the available findings revealing that there is no vivid relationship between the attributes and personality traits and it is not clear whether these five personality traits have a direct relationship with violence outbreak and/or an indirect association that can occur via learned anger such as psychological violence. Anderson and Bushman (2002) in their surveys stressed that frequent interactions and exposure to violence with anger stimulus (whether real or virtual) and the situations involved with anger in fact enhance aggressive and violent behaviors. Even if that feature doesn't exist in that individual, it is most probable that aggressive behavior is enhanced and intensified through learning (aggressive beliefs, sensations and relevant emotions). In addition, most socio-cognitive models on aggression and violence agree that the rapid accessibility and instantaneous availability of feelings and aggressive cognition can be the main key behind the outbreak of violent behaviors.

Thus it is likely that despite the lack of a relationship between aggressive behaviors and 5 personality traits, violence can emerge via instantaneous emotions and violent attitudes.

Analyzing the results of hypothesis three based on assuming no association between the personality trait known as openness to experience and domestic violence for both groups of women and men, is compatible with those achieved in the studies of Bettencourt, B., Talley, A., Benjamin, A. J., & Valentine, J.(2006), Jones, S. E., Miller, J. D., &Lynam, D. R. (2011), Miller, J. D., Zeichner, A., & Wilson, L. F.(2012), and Pease & Lewis (2015) and HashemiAsl. B.M, Jafarnejad.F, Rajab dizavandi.F. (2013). To explain this hypothesis, we can state that it isn't viable to overlook the factors of the individual differences and the role of learning and the environment, though openness to experience is an inherited trait. When an individual is exposed to the source of violence despite having this trait, he/she can expand violence.

Studying the relationship between adjustment personality trait and domestic violence outbreak, the results signify a lack of relationship, matching the results found by Panaghi et al.(2011) and Skeem, L. J., Miller, D. J., Mulvey, E., Tiemann, J., & Monahan, J.(2005). To clarify the hypothesis of this study, it can be pointed out that recently the scholars in behavioral science disciplines have started studying the outbreak of the phenomenon known as violence in order to obtain novel analyses or to modify and challenge the existing explanations. Domestic violence is a pattern of abusive and coercive behaviors, including physical, sexual, and psychological attacks, as well as economic coercion, that adults or adolescents use against their intimate partners. Domestic violence is not an isolated, individual event, but rather a pattern of multiple tactics and repeated events. Unlike stranger-to stranger violence, in domestic violence the assaults are repeated against the same victim by the same perpetrator (Ganley, A., & Schechter, S. 1996). In cases of spousal homicide, regardless of the sex of the victim, it has been reported that 70-80% of the male partners have historically committed IPV against their female partner. (Pobutsky A, Brown, M., Nakao, L., & Reyes-Salvail, F. 2014).

Part of the causes and grounds behind violence against women in family depends on the relations and interactions between the two genders as female and male and their special relationships in the family as husband and wife. Since the phenomenon called violence is a communication affair, it is better that instead of the individuals, the analysis unit concentrate on their interactions such as the interaction and compatibility between husband and wife.

The agreement indicator like extroversion focuses on individual tendencies. Disagreement is set forth opposed to this indicator. In addition, it can't be claimed which group of those in the poles of this indicator is psychologically healthier. The low score in this indicator is usually associated with the personality traits of narcissistic, antisocial and paranoia personality disorders; while high score comes with dependent personality disorder (Costa, P.T. & McCrae, R.1990).

The results also divulged that there is no remarkable relationship between consciousness and domestic violence outbreak, in line with those obtained by Barlett& Anderson (2012), Jensen-Campbell, L. A., Knack, J. M., Waldrip, A. M., & Campbell, S. D. (2007), and Hashemiasl et al. (2013). It is worth noting that a major problem in this study is tied with the relationship between personality structures and its generating behaviors that overlap with the individual's' past behaviors and personality traits. The measurement of personality traits and their influence on behavior is especially vulnerable because it is based on a covert trait and construct that is only measureable through observable behavior.(Ajzen, I. 1991).

This overlap is seen in the majority of personality inventories (5 Personality Traits Scale) covering covert and overt behaviors (like tendencies and distrusting others).

The current results have highlighted the role of the neuroticism personality trait in domestic violence occurrence. The Neuroticism personality trait can be taken into account as the pivotal component in explaining violence. This factor has assigned remarkable predicting power. Therefore, in order to lower domestic violence induced traumas, the development of trainings is recommended for life skills and protecting one's rights to reduce domestic violence's against women and men exposed to risk.

Acknowledgement : We sincerely appreciate the country Forensic Medical Organization, Mazandaran Province Research Deputy and General Director of the Forensic Medical Organization affiliated Research Affairs and Forensic Medical located in Sari, financially and spiritually supporting this study.


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Received: December 15,2016

Revised : January 30,2017

Accepted: February 16, 2017

BabaieE. (*), SavadkohiF. (**), JainS. (***), NazoktabarH. (****), EntazeriS. (*****)

(*) Assistant professor, psychology department.Payame Noor University, Iran(**) Psychiatrist, legal medicine organization.Sari, Mazandaranfarzad, Iran(***) PhD, NCC, LPC, Oakland University, Rochester, MI, USA, (****) Assistant professor, Sociology department.Payame Noor University, Iran (*****) Clinical psychologist, Iran.
Table 1: Spearman correlation test results on psychoneurosis and
violence outbreak

 Sig     r       r    df   N    Mean   SD

0.941  0.197  -0.007  98  100  22.73  5.72  M
0.012  0.197   0.251  98  100  24.11  5.83  F

Table 2: Spearman correlation test results on
introversion--extroversion and violence Outbreak

 Sig     r       r    df   N   Mean    SD

0.641  0.197   0.047  98  100  28.03  5.17  M
0.193  0.197  -0.131  98  100  27.84   4.9  F

Table 3: Spearman correlation test results on openness to experience
and violence outbreak

 Sig     r       r    df   N   Mean    SD

0.832  0.197  -0.022  98  100  23.04  4.33  M
0.564  0.197  -0.058  98  100  22.86  4.44  F

Table 4: Spearman correlation test results on Adaptability and violence

 Sig     r       r    df   N   Mean    SD

0.672  0.197   0.043  98  100  27.65  5.07  M
0.247  0.197  -0.117  98  100  27.71  5.37  F

Table 5: Spearman correlation test results on conscientiousness and
violence outbreak

 Sig     r      r     df   N   Mean    SD

0.373  0.197  -0.09   98  100  31.29  7.53  M
0.247  0.197  -0.117  98  100  32.76  6.99  F
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Author:E., Babaie; F., Savadkohi; S., Jain; H., Nazoktabar; S., Entazeri
Publication:Indian Journal of Community Psychology
Article Type:Report
Date:Mar 1, 2017
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