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Journal Article

The Myth of Sexual Symmetry in Marital Violence

Russell P. Dobash, R. Emerson Dobash, Margo Wilson and Martin Daly
Social Problems
Vol. 39, No. 1 (Feb., 1992), pp. 71-91
DOI: 10.2307/3096914
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3096914
Page Count: 21
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The Myth of Sexual Symmetry in Marital Violence
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Abstract

A currently fashionable claim is that violence against husbands is about as prevalent as violence against wives; spousal violence has been said to be symmetrical in its extent, severity, intentions, motivational contexts, and even its consequences. The evidence for this alleged symmetry derives from two sources: (1) surveys employing the "Conflict Tactics Scales" (CTS), a checklist of self-reported "acts" perpetrated or experienced, and (2) U.S. homicide data. We criticize the claim of sexual symmetry by reviewing other contradictory survey evidence; by showing that the CTS provides an account of marital violence that is neither reliable nor valid; and by demonstrating that the sexual symmetry of spousal homicide victimization does not reflect sexually symmetrical motivation or action-and is in any case peculiar to the United States. Confining self-report data to a checklist of acts, devoid of motives, meanings and consequences cannot insure objectivity, validity or an adequate development of theory to explain violence.

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