Challenged to change: Perspectives of abusive men involved in wife abuse prevention programs

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Social Sciences


Robert Bogdan


Families & family life

Subject Categories



Using a symbolic interactionist framework, this dissertation presents the perspectives of a group of men who have been pushed to change their behavior toward women. The primary data source for the study is semi-structured interviews with 49 abusive men who have participated in wife assault prevention programs. After a review of male socialization patterns, the study explores how some men respond to participation in an abuser group and to the challenge to change their behavior. The men's experience is presented as a series of phases designated as the Inculcation Phase, the Disequilibrium Phase, the Abuser Group Phase, and the Realignment Phase. Themes developed in the dissertation include an examination of four types of "abuse utility" that motivate men to continue to use violence and abuse; the various rhetorics of resistance to accountability that men used to minimize their responsibility for their behavior; and a discussion of perspectives men bring with them regarding the abuser program and the stances they take once they have become involved in a group. Finally, using illustrations from the interviews, a five-stage model of perspective shifts experienced by reforming abusers is presented. The five stages have been labeled by the author as (1) the Dominant/Controlling Stage, (2) the Contest/Struggle Stage, (3) the Reactive/Resentful Stage, (4) the Reflective/Self-Conscious Stage, and (5) the Reflexive/Empathetic Stage. Included in this model's framework is an exploration of the influence of power imbalances on men's perception of themselves and of their female partners, and the place of role-taking emotions in the process of becoming non-abusive. Support for this research was provided by a Guggenheim Fellowship


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