USF St. Petersburg campus Faculty Publications


Deconstructing the “Power and Control Motive”: Moving Beyond a Unidimensional View of Power in Domestic Violence Theory

SelectedWorks Author Profiles:

Shelly M. Wagers

Document Type


Publication Date



1946-6560 (print); 1946-6579 (online)


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 should be based on empirically tested theory. The assertion “the batterer’s motive is power and control” has become fundamental to many of the currently used BIPs and accepted mainstream theoretical explanations regarding domestic violence. However, the domestic violence literature has not yet advanced any specific conceptualizations of power, it has not produced a theoretical model of power that articulates why or how power specifically acts as a motive for a batterer, nor has it empirically tested this fundamental assertion. The main goal of this article is to take a step toward addressing this gap and advance our current understanding of an individual’s sense of power and control as a motive for using violence against an intimate partner. Specifically, it will review the pertinent literature regarding power and domestic violence, propose a new theoretical construct called internal power, and discuss internal power’s application to understanding a batterer’s “power motive.”


Springer Publishing Company