Intimate Partner Violence in Heterosexual Couples Viewed Through the Lens of Attachment


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Virginia Tech


The purpose of this qualitative study was to determine the suitability of using Bowlby'­s attachment theory as a lens to study intimate partner violence. Extant data from thirty couples self-reporting violence in their relationship, was used. Individual audiotaped interviews from a study unrelated to attachment were transcribed. Ten interviews (five couples) were selected for coding. Applying the modified analytic induction method, as outlined by Gilgun, the data fell into thematic categories that provided a foundation for a narrative about each dyadic system. Representative constructs such as internal working models, adult attachment, caregiving, automatic arousal and abandonment, emerged naturally from the data. The iterative nature of the methodology demanded continual refinement and refocusing. The participants'­ words painted the picture of violence in their relationship. Direct quotes authenticated the research and gave it an experiential aspect. Results demonstrated that attachment theory is an excellent lens through which to study intimate partner violence, suggesting it be embraced in future family systems research.



Abandonment, Internal Working Models, Automatic Arousal, Domestic Violence, Couples Conflict, Adult Attachment