Many abusive men rarely displayed empathy or love because they feared their contemporaries would think they were less than manly. Queensland University of Technology (QUT) doctoral student Clare Murphy interviewed 16 men who have been physically, emotionally, sexually or financially controlling a cohabiting female partner and participated in programmes to stop abuse.
"Most of the men I interviewed were not keen to experience the lack of acceptance and humiliation that goes along with being low on the masculine hierarchy," said Murphy. "This then led them to struggle their way up the ladder to gain acceptance from other men.
"Many of the men I interviewed learned at school that to gain acceptance and respect they had to use physical violence, verbal abuse and psychological bullying; teachers and sports coaches often turned a blind eye to these abusive and controlling practices."
She said even men who wanted a loving, non-abusive relationship with a woman may suppress loving and caring practices to avoid being ostracised by other men.
Murphy has spent two years facilitating women's programmes at the Hamilton Abuse Intervention Project in New Zealand, researching how women coped with psychological abuse.
She defined spousal abuse as the use of a systematic pattern of wide ranging tactics used to establish and maintain power and control over a female partner.
"Not all perpetrators use physical violence; rather they may use psychological abuse including mind games, degradation and violation of trust," said Murphy, according to a QUT release.