How Sociological Theories Explain Battering

Implications for Programs and Prevention

© 1998 William Du Bois


This is a rare instance where all the major sociological theories are right and complimentary. Each has something to contribute to our understanding. Taken together the theories can be woven into a tapestry to help us invent realistic solutions to address domestic violence.


Sociological Theory




Conflict Theory

Winning by intimidation

We must put more power on her side (ultimately, this means the police).



False Consciousness

We need to undertand it is never her fault:  "she can make him mad, but she can't make him hit."



Exchange Theory

Cooling Out -- 

no rewards and no punishments


Restraining orders -- get and enforce them;  courts and police must give them top priority

Cooling out means no contact -- positive or negative -- nothing; You want him to get on with his life. Any interaction simply sets up more karma -- his life still revolves around you (and your's around him).




We must provide her resources, options, and opportunities.



Symbolic Interactionism

"I love him" -- is meaning that holds the whole thing together

Must understand that as a strategy to love, the battering drama will not work.



An addictive drama

  stars of own soap opera

We need to develop new scripts for love and romance; passion, self esteem and new sources of meaning.



Looking for another hero

Both men and women must embrace letting your hero die.



Definiton of the Situation:  it's a domestic problem that is "nobody else's business but my own."

Redefine the situation.  

It's not a "family affair," it's a "crime."




Battering is accepted as normal.

Violence is considered legitimate as a way of solving problems.


We must make battering unacceptable no matter what.


Function:  violence belongs at home

Emotions must become legitimate in public rather than the family becoming a dumping ground..