Taking responsibility: A psychological profile of men attending a domestic violence group work intervention program in NSW, Australia

4 min


Approximately one in five women experience violence enacted by their male partner in Australia. Men’s violence against women has serious implications at the individual, interpersonal (e.g. family), and community levels.

Intervention programs aimed at reducing violent behaviour among perpetrators play a vital role in society.

Much of the literature on men and violence has focused on external and behavioural influences (e.g. socioeconomic status, substance use/abuse); there is a need to also investigate intrinsic personal characteristics such as gender equity attitudes, self-esteem, mastery (extent to which people see themselves as being in control of their lives), and psychological distress as intervention programs can appropriately address these. 


This study aimed to investigate specific characteristics that influence men’s inclination to behave violently in both men who attend a domestic violence intervention program and those in the general community. 


Men attending a domestic violence group-based intervention program run by Relationships Australia NSW were invited to participate in the research.

Confidential surveys were distributed to group members by a research officer who was not associated with the clinical work of the groups, to be completed within the first three weeks of group attendance.

The survey consisted of demographic questions and four scales: gender equity scale, Rosenberg self-esteem scale, mastery scale, and K6 scale of psychological distress.

Participants’ responses were compared to previous research conducted on men residing in the general community.


A total of 85 men from 14 different groups in New South Wales agreed to participate. It was not clear as to how many man volunteered to be in the intervention program and how many were mandated to do so.

Age ranged from 21 to 59 years (mean: 40 years) and 72% identified with an Australian cultural background. Almost half of participants (45%) reported a low income ($A0-$A599 per week).

Approximately one third (37%) were married, 21% were in de facto relationships, and 26% were separated from their partners.


Participants in the current study displayed lower support for gender equity, lower self-esteem, lower personal mastery, and higher levels of psychological distress compared to community samples.

The authors note that these characteristics are just a few of many variables that contribute to men’s violence against women; however, they believe these four to be of particular note as they can be addressed within the context of a group-based intervention program.

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