Theories of Intimate Partner Violence

Authored by: Richard E. Heyman , Heather M. Foran , Jesse L. Wilkinson

Handbook of Family Theories

Print publication date:  December  2012
Online publication date:  March  2013

Print ISBN: 9780415879453
eBook ISBN: 9780203075180
Adobe ISBN: 9781135118754


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“There is nothing more practical than a good theory,” wrote social psychologist Kurt Lewin (1952, p. 169). Theory organizes disparate facts and ideas into a coherent, testable set of premises that can guide research and interventions. Theory, particularly feminist theory, was instrumental in raising awareness about “wife battering” (now referred to by the more inclusive term intimate partner violence, IPV), passing laws to criminalize it, establishing infrastructures to protect women and to prosecute and rehabilitate the men who assault them, and researching its causes and treatments. However, good scientific theories to which Lewin refers are not just practical because they are useful in the real world but also because they are testable; that is, “good theories” are refutable and refineable. Thus, there is a corollary to Lewin's maxim, implied repeatedly through the history of science (e.g., Kuhn, 1970): there is little more impeding than a practical but reified theory. That is, the capacity of a theory to do good is a function of its fit to the phenomenon and reification prevents refining the theory as science generates new findings.

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