Dr. Kathleen Malley-Morrison: Putting a Stop to Violence One Study at a Time

Women's Dating

Dr. Kathleen Malley-Morrison: Putting a Stop to Violence One Study at a Time

Hayley Matthews Hayley Matthews • 5/13/16

Not only has Dr. Kathleen Malley-Morrison dedicated the last 50 years of her life to Boston University, but she’s also dedicated the last five decades to putting a stop to violence in intimate relationships through her research. 

Dr. Kathleen Malley-Morrison, Ed.D., an esteemed professor at Boston University, has always been interested in human relationships, but she’s also always been interested in shedding light on neglected areas of research, particularly psychological and physical aggression of women against their male partners.

“These men suffer from abuse from their partners just as much as women suffer from abuse from their partners, psychologically,” she said. “There are more of those types of relationships than are recognized by society.”

So exactly how is Malley-Morrison making a difference? I spoke with her to find out.

Psychological effects of partner abuse against men

In the paper “Psychological Effects of Partner Abuse Against Men: A Neglected Research Area,” Malley-Morrison and collaborator Dr. Denise Hines, Malley-Morrison’s former graduate student and a research associate professor at Clark University, wanted to demonstrate that it’s not just men who can be violent against their female partners — women also can be violent against their male partners.

“What the feminist community says is that women are never aggressive against their partners except in self-defense, and that’s not what the women tell us,” Malley-Morrison said.

Psychological effects of partner abuse against men

Dr. Kathleen Malley-Morrison studies violence in intimate relationships at Boston University.

Using data from more than five studies over the past 26 years, Malley-Morrison and Hines found a variety of evidence that shows men often experience psychological and psychical abuse from their female partners, including:

  • 7% of 8,000 men surveyed reported being physically assaulted by a current or former wife or cohabitating partner over the course of their lifetime.
  • 4.6% of 2.6 million men reported having been the victim of severe violence by their wives.

But according to Malley-Morrison, it’s not just the men who report the abuse — the women also admit to it.

“The women tell us that they will slap, hit, shove, scratch their partners,” she said. “Trying to get them to pay attention is their most common reason.”

Side effects the men experienced included anxiousness, self-esteem problems and even PTSD.

“The men who have been emotionally abused by their partners were more depressed,” Malley-Morrison said.

The results of the study, which was published in the journal Psychology of Men and Masculinity, also indicated that a variety of abusive relationships exist, including relationships where the woman is the aggressor, relationships where the man is the aggressor, mutually combative relationships and more.

Ending violence; engaging peace

While this one study may have focused on violence against men, Malley-Morrison’s overall goal with her research is to put a stop to violence everywhere.

“What I want to emphasize over and over again is there are better ways of handling anger, frustration and hurt than striking out physically or psychologically,” she said.

She’s also expanding her research to include:

  • childhood maltreatment and its effects during adulthood
  • international violence (the kinds of violence people find justifiable by their government)

“One of my goals is to continue to emphasize that psychological aggression can be as harmful to the psychological functioning of the recipient as physical [aggression] can,” she said.

To learn more about Dr. Kathleen Malley-Morrison and her groundbreaking research, visit engagingpeace.com.