How do we stop domestic abuse? We start by addressing the behaviors that children learn at home. Boys who see abuse at home are more likely to be abusive toward their romantic partners as adults. Therefore, we need prevention that teaches boys how not to repeat the cycle of abuse. Such efforts are vital to stopping domestic abuse before it begins.
Penelope Morrison, PhD, MPH, assistant professor of behavioral health and health and human development at Penn State New Kensington, and colleagues conducted a two-year study called Project MEND. Their study tried to understand what would help adult men who had been abusive change their behaviors. The men were also asked them what they would do to prevent boys from repeating the cycle of abuse. The men shared their experiences as children seeing abuse in their homes. They told researchers how these experiences had influenced them and their own abusive behaviors.
“My dad was physically abusive. That was normal, and I carried it into my relationship,” one man explained. Having seen abuse in the home, the men thought it was important for boys to understand what abuse was and how not to be abusive. The men also thought boys needed to learn about respect for women and gender equality. They suggested that prevention efforts provide outlets for boys or healthy ways to express anger. Prevention needed to reach boys outside the home, in places like at school. Additionally, the men felt that boys need positive male role models—as one man described, “Men of character who can reach out to them and show them how to do the right thing.”
The men in the study believe that boys who see domestic abuse at home need help dealing with that issue. Efforts to help them should address their experiences of abuse and give them the tools they need to have healthy relationships.
For more information on Project MEND, please e-mail Penelope Morrison at
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