Manly Aggression as a Motive for Intimate Terrorism

 Mwaka Mwandwe:

The Incidence or frequency of Intimate Partner Violence (or Intimate Terrorism as explained in my last article) is more common among the poor or people living in a high poverty

neighborhood, females, an adolescent or young adult and dependent on drugs or alcohol,

(, 2008).

People or those living in poor neighborhood, the deficits in meeting certain needs in the home is seen to play a role at making people violent, (Jewkes, 2002). As for females, they are more prone to being victims of IPV primarily because they are viewed as the weaker sex and in many societies, particularly in patriarchal societies like Zambia, males are viewed as the head of the house who has dominance over the woman and so abusing her is part of his role.

Some men see the fact that they pay bride price as an excuse to treat females like property or object they can talk to as they please, have carnal knowledge of whenever the sexual urge strikes, and control in terms of movement.

Focusing on adolescents and young adults, primarily IPV occurs more so between the ages of 15 to 49 but especially between 15 to 29 years old, (CSO, 2012). Furthermore, higher risk or frequency to the experience of IPV are fueled by usage of drugs or alcohol because it is believed that often times these psychoactive drugs put one in a mind state that impairs the logical or rational thinking and decision making ability. It is also more frequently occurring among the uneducated as compared to the educated. This could be bordered on the educated knowing their rights and also having especially the women, a source of income.

The prevalence of Intimate Partner Violence is also seen communities with weak sanctions against IPV as well as feeble legal sanctions against IPV within marriage, (Garcia-Moreno et al, 2012).

A survey by showed that IPV reported cases had increased by 10% in Urban areas and 9% in rural areas in 2007, (National Action Plan, 2010).This would imply that women in rural areas under-report violence but are cooperative to non police affiliated people like researchers. CSO (2012), reported that for urban and rural areas, emotional violence was 32%, 21.9%, respectively, while emotional was 52.3%, 43.7%, and finally sexual violence rated 21% and 14.5% correspondingly.

Psychology basically tries to explain people’s behavior and particular to this essay is that involving Intimate Partner Violence. Many psychological explanations of IPV are rooted theories, mental disorders and research that has been conducted.

Psycho-dynamic Theory

In terms of theories, the psycho-dynamic theory by Sigmund Freud postulates that man is driven by two motives, sex and aggression, (Wittig, 2004). Our attention will focus more on aggression because that is what is exhibited in IPV, whether sexually, physically and emotionally.

Humans behave the way they do because they need to expel these aggressive builtup that is in them. Some do this constructively e.g. by becoming boxers or merely watching aggressive movies but for others the tension is expelled through violent tendencies such as Intimate Partner Violence.

Social Learning Theory

 Another theory, the social learning theory proposed by Albert Bandura, (Wittig, 2004), postulates that all behavior is learned through observation. If parental conflict is a characteristic in a home, children are likely to grow up believing violence in a relationship is the most effective problem solving technique. Empson and Nabuzoka (2004), some children may show resilience to parental conflict but others are vulnerable to situations like this and can learn bad behavior in the same way good behavior is instilled in children.

Operant Conditioning Theory

In operant conditioning theory, behavior is learnt through consequences and often times, negative consequences do not encourage the replication of the same behavior, (Wittig, 2004).

This means if an intimate partner exhibits aggressive behavior and is not reprimand, but encouraged by doing what the abuser wanted, likely that aggressive behavior will continue because the consequence of it is that the victim does what the abuser wants them to do.

Classical Conditioning

 In classical conditioning, similar to operant, behavior is driven by association. If an association is made between aggressive behavior and respect is established, it is unlikely that that aggressive behavior will stop. It is being reinforced by the respect the abuser is receiving.

Mental Disorders

 Disorders such as personality disorders also play a role in facilitation of Intimate Partner Violence. Examples include, anti-social personality disorders, these are more common in males than females and often start off as conduct disorders in childhood. Anti-social disordered people generally have little concern or remorse for bahvior even when it hurts their families or intimate partner.

Narcissism, also common in men is the perception of viewing oneself as a special person who deserves favors. More central to IPV, Narcissist are highly exploitative of their partners and will want for example, wives to obey them because they are driven by power, they want to be in control most of the time, (Durand and Barlow, 2006). More common in women is what is termed as borderline personality disorder, these women tend to fear abandonment and will stay even in abusive relationships just to avoid being alone. This makes them more susceptible to being victims of abusive relationships. Histrionic personality disorders are characterized by a lot of imaginations, one of them is having false beliefs about a relationship being more intimate than it is regardless of the reality on the ground. By implication this type of a personality is more prone to suggestibility and so if they are made to believe that intimate violence is a show of love, they are likely to believe it.

Histrionics like to seek approval from people, inclusive of intimate partners and may not realize that they are being controlled more than they should which is a form of abuse.Psychological research on the other hand has revealed that Intimate Partner Violence could actually be driven by society or culture. This is in line with norms placed in the society especially around men who are viewed to be providers. If this is deficient it may increase stress levels and, “men living in poverty were unable to live up to their ideas of successful manhood and that, in the resulting climate of stress, they would hit women.” (Jewkes, 2002:1424).

Additionally, the society that emphasizes that males are dominant create perceptions in women that they are supposed to submit to their partners regardless of what is physically done to them.

Please refer to my former article to understand the phases of intimate terrorism. As mentioned previously, do not stay in a bad situation as it could cost your life, as it has for many. Always seek help. Stay safe.

This is the second installment of the series of articles by Ms Mwandwe on Intimate Partner Violence.

To read installment 1, Click Here

Mwaka C. Mwandwe is Volunteer Manager at SAFIGI Outreach Foundation, Safety First for Girls. She is an activist for women’s rights, gender equality, and socio-economic development. Mwaka graduated from the University of Zambia, and has since been actively working in various NGOs at a grassroots level in Zambia, to advance the interests of marginalized girls.
To learn more about SAFIGI visit
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