The paradigmatic cleavage on gender differences in partner violence perpetration and victimization

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In this article, it is argued that the controversy over gender differences in partner violence perpetration and victimization cannot be resolved by empirical means. Moreover, it is suggested that the controversy cannot be resolved at all because of its paradigmatic nature. Terms, principles and facts are created and sustained within a given paradigm, out of which they can be perceived and interpreted differently (Kuhn, 1962). That is to say, true and false are limited to a specific paradigm. This is clearly evident in the cleavage on the role of gender in partner violence. The controversy stems from differing and competing paradigmatic outlooks, which disagree over the identification, definition and understanding of partner violence. As such, the controversy cannot be mediated, resolved or settled. The aim of this article is to take a step back and seek to reevaluate the paradigmatic origins of this controversy and to suggest an outline for understanding it through the paradigmatic cleavage at its cause. The first part of the paper begins with a brief overview of the attitudes and empirical basis of the sides in the controversy. It continues with an attempt to understand the processes leading to the formation of the cleavage through what some scholars in the field view as paradigmatic anomalies that have been appearing in publications since the 1970s. The second part of the paper begins with an attempt to identify paradigmatic differences from their ontological, epistemological and methodological aspects. At this point, the discussion shifts its focus to the value basis of the competing paradigms. The third and last part of the paper also addresses critically the competition between the paradigms over achieving a social mandate for change. Finally, based on the recognition that no absolute truth exists, it is suggested to adopt a more flexible approach for understanding and coping with the problem of partner violence.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)303-311
Number of pages9
JournalAggression and Violent Behavior
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2011


  • Feminism
  • Gender differences
  • Gender symmetry
  • Paradigmatic cleavage
  • Partner violence
  • Violence against women

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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