Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Taking an in-depth look into domestic violence research (Part 2) - Conflict Tactics Scale

Author: Drew Roan.

Part 1: The Duluth Model - http://egafeminist.blogspot.co.uk/2015/09/taking-in-depth-look-into-domestic.html
Part 2: The Conflict Tactics Scale - This article
Part 3: UK figure of DV - http://egafeminist.blogspot.co.uk/2015/12/a-sample-of-domestic-violence-research.html
Summary - Domestic violence is an emotive and often poorly understood topic. Feminist discourse often focuses on issues facing women and girls that result from domestic violence. Unfortunately, research and data can often be biased, being driven by politics rather than strong evidence. This is the first in a series that will analyse different models available. Later we will attempt to analyse the impact on victims and their opportunity to seek help.
Whilst the Duluth Model is the most commonly employed model for handling domestic violence cases, the Conflict Tactics Scale and its' variants have arguably been the most frequently employed by researchers looking to understand patterns and scales of abuse since the 1970s. It has drawn significant criticism from feminist researchers over the years and has seen notable changes over the years.
Introduction: The world of domestic violence research is one that is fiercely debated by many researchers, academics and activists. Whilst everyone who is involved with domestic violence research and treatment is keen to see an end to all violence, there is a great deal of discussion about which methods to use and how to measure domestic violence.

If you have ever taken the time to study domestic violence data, you will see the term "Conflict Tactics Scale" crop up numerous times. In this piece, I will attempt to provide a brief explanation of what it is along with some positive and negatives associated with it.

What is the Conflict Tactics Scale? A brief history.

It is a research method used to examine the types of abuse that go on in relationships. Its' creator, Murray Straus, first wrote about it in 1979 after testing the model for some years before hand.

He sought to create a model for researchers to use that was gender neutral and would examine the extent of violent behaviour that goes on in domestic abuse cases that might otherwise not be reported to the police. It presents the theory that conflict is inevitable in human interaction, but violence as a method of dealing with conflict is not. [3]

The CTS was widely praised for providing a way to measure violence in relationships. it allowed researchers to examine the reasoning, verbal and physical aggression used by people in relationships when conflicts arose. However, it was not without its' flaws.

The original model failed to take into account acts of sexual coercion & violence or any ability to measure the level of injury caused by acts of physical violence. It was also noticed that as the original CTS questions were framed in a hierarchical order of perceived importance, it could also lead to negative results with data collection. Some studies noticed that when asked about severe acts of violence and having responded as "never having done that", the subjects would often become irritated when asked about the remaining acts of physical violence. [3]

The CTS 2 took into account much of the feedback and criticisms of the original CTS and provided a much broader pattern of behaviour, including acts of sexual coercion and records of injuries received as a result of physical violence. Many notable studies and surveys such as the Crime Survey for England and Wales continue to use the CTS 2 to gather data, measure crime rates (including crimes not reported to the police) and even advise on Government policy. [4]

Further adaptations of this scale now exist including the "Partner & Spouse" scale and the "Parent & Child" scales, which change some forms of abuse for others depending on frequent types of abuse. For example, the partner & spouse scale includes choking, whilst the parent & child scale includes scalding with boiling water. [3]

Below is a chart containing some of the additional categories of measuring violence included in the CTS2:


Praise And Controversy

There has been a great deal of praise and controversy surrounding the use of the Conflict Tactics Scale and its' variations. 

Jennifer Langhinrichsen-Rohling once wrote that the CTS "was revolutionary because it allowed researchers to quantitatively study events that had often been ignored culturally and typically took place in private." [1] 

In their report criticising the CTS for its' failures, researchers Walter DeKeseredy and Martin Schwartz cite another study that demonstrates many social scientists consider it “probably the best available when it comes to estimating the incidence and prevalence of woman abuse in the population at large”. [5]  They also note that it appears to be a reliable method of extracting "sensitive information".

But as with all things, there are those who are critical of use of the CTS.

The National Centre for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) state that the CTS2 should be considered a research tool rather than a clinical one because it does not have a "cutting score" (a score beyond which a person has a problem). They do note however that the CTS2 can be useful for promoting dialogue and extracting information. [2].

Other critics complain that the CTS does not take into account context with partner violence. Researchers such as DeKeseredy and Schwartz express concern that it does not examine the reasons why such violence exists in the first place. They further claim that the CTS runs on the "ideological base that presumes that violence is family-based, rather seeing the issue as one of male violence directed toward women." [5].

In future articles, I will be examining the rates of domestic violence which will help provide further information as to whether or not their assertion that "male violence directed towards women" is the dominant view based on evidence gathered. However, it is worth noting that DeKeseredy is one of many researchers that support the Duluth Model's narrative on the notion of domestic violence, which they paraphrase as; "Women use violence for a variety of reasons, but a common one is to defend themselves. Men  typically use violence to control their female partners" [5].

For our previous examination of the Duluth Model, please click on this link. [6]

Straus has responded to criticisms of the CTS. He notes that whilst the majority of objections come from feminist researchers who feel the CTS "overstates female violence", it is still the most widely used instrument of measuring domestic violence, including by feminist critics who lack a "better alternative". [7] Other criticisms include such claims as the CTS "counting 'verbal aggression' as 'physical violence'". Murray points out that the scale deliberately counts "verbal aggression" before "physical aggression [ibid. p5]. In regards to not examining the context of violence, Strauss is quick to point out that the purpose of the CTS is to collect the "raw data" on intimate violence not to provide context for said violence. As such, Straus suggests that the CTS should be used in conjunction with further research methods. [3]

Some groups have even taken to using variations of the CTS but with alterations made to fit the researchers' ideological bias. In a radio interview from 2002 Straus stated that he had tried to work with battered shelters to examine and help end domestic violence. He then states that he ceased to do so because advocates would deliberately use a "biased version" of his scale. [8]

Specifically, he states:
"It includes various acts that the partner can do, might do, and that the respondent – the person interviewed – might do. And they refused to ask the questions about what the respondent did. They insisted that it was for women respondents. They insisted that only acts, only the questions on what the partner did.
"That same procedure was carried over into the National Institute of Justice study, the National Violence Against Women study.  They asked, err, what they call a 'feminist version' of the Conflict Tactics Scales, that asks only about victimization, leaves out the questions about perpetration.  And of course if you do that, you will have to find that only men are violent. 
You can hear an audio version of the full clip by checking out the attached citation. [9]

The "Noun Swap" Test

Here at Egafeminist, we have a simple test for measuring if a statement is fair; If you could switch one noun for a reasonable replacement and it creates absurdity, then it probably wasn't acceptable to begin with. The conflict tactics scale unanimously passes this since it does not discriminate between people in any meaningful context. Any person who is violent will have their behaviour recorded in the same way as any other violent person regardless of race, religion, sex (and so forth).

This was a criticism of ours in relation to the use of the Duluth Model, which specifically re-frames violence between men and women different based on which sex is perpetrating the violence. [6] We are yet to determine how transgender people fit within the framework of the Duluth Model.

Our opinion

We believe that the Conflict Tactics Scale & its' variations, to date, still provide the broadest and most usable research method of determining and understanding domestic violence. We also note that the Conflict Tactics Scale should be used in conjunction with other research methods to provide detailed analysis of behaviour patterns within various interactions. Whilst there is the possibility that data on purely malevolent acts (violence committed for the sake of being cruel) might be lost, the research suggests that the likelihood of this is minimal at best and is no more significant than any other method.

Until such a time as a new, more efficient model presents itself for scrutiny, we will stand by the use of the CTS as a method of collecting raw data on partner violence.

Next time, I will be taking a detailed look at some of the stats behind domestic abuse from America/Canada/the United Kingdom in detail and trying to clear up some confusion.

[1] http://rzukausk.home.mruni.eu/wp-content/uploads/Intimate-Partner-Violence-Research.pdf

[2] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK64439/

[3] http://pubpages.unh.edu/~mas2/CTS15.pdf

[4] http://www.crimesurvey.co.uk/

[5] http://stoprelationshipabuse.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/A-Critique-of-the-Conflict-Tactics-Scales.pdf

[6] http://egafeminist.blogspot.co.uk/2015/09/taking-in-depth-look-into-domestic.html

[7] http://pubpages.unh.edu/~mas2/CTS4.pdf

[8] http://www.breakingthescience.org/StrausSaysTjadenThoennesBiased.php

[9] http://www.breakingthescience.org/StrausSaysTjadenThoennesBiased.mp3

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