Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Christine Sellers


batterer's motive, battering, coercive control, domestic violence, intimate partner violence, scalability


Despite the increased social recognition, law and policy changes within the criminal justice system, and the widespread use of court mandated batterer intervention programs (BIPs) domestic violence continues to be a persistent problem. The lack of significant decline in incidence rates along with a growing body of empirical evidence that indicates BIPs are, at best, only moderately effective raises serious concern. Effective policies and programs are based upon empirically tested theory. The assertion "the batterer's motive is power and control" has become fundamental to almost all of our currently used and accepted mainstream theoretical explanations regarding domestic violence. However, the domestic violence literature has not yet advanced any specific conceptualizations of power as a construct, it has not produced a theoretical model of power that articulates why or how power specifically acts as a motive for a batterer, and it has never empirically tested this fundamental assertion.

The purpose of this research is to address this gap by focusing on the role of power in domestic violence theory and offer a more complete conceptualization and precise operationalization of power. The main goal of this study was to advance our current understanding of an individual's sense of power and control as a motive for using coercive control tactics, such as psychological and physical abuse tactics against an intimate partner. Therefore, the primary objective of this study was to develop and assess the measurability of the construct "internal power". Specifically, it defined, conceptualized, and operationalized internal power. Then a Pearson's product-moment correlation coefficient was examined and a principal components factor analysis was conducted to investigate the dimensionality and underlying factor structure of internal power. Findings indicated empirical support for the proposed measure of internal power, allowing its relationship to an individual's use of psychological and physical abuse tactics to be empirically assessed. Results of a t-test and examination of a Pearson's product-moment correlation coefficient indicated that internal power is inversely related to an individual's use of psychological and physical abuse tactics. Findings indicate that both the measure for internal power and its potential relationship to an individual's use of psychological and physical abuse tactics warrants further exploration and development.