Date of Award


Level of Access Assigned by Author

Open-Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Human Development


Robert Klein

Second Committee Member

Robert Milardo

Third Committee Member

Ann Schonberger


According to FBI statistics, each year 3.3 million wives and 250,000 husbands receive severe beatings from their spouses. This research tries to answer the question of why one human being would want to abuse another. More specifically, what is the function, purpose, or pay off of all this violence? This research identifies key features in Protection from Abuse Order Affidavits that are indicative of motives underlying interpersonal abuse. This was done by using content analysis that will aim to uncover such motives by relating the abusive behavior to the circumstances under which the perpetrator enacted them and the personal and interpersonal consequences they brought about. Three questions guide this research. First, what do documents such as Protection from Abuse Order Affidavits reveal about the abusive actions the perpetrator took against the victim? Second, what do such documents reveal about the circumstances under which the abuse occurred and about the consequences of the abuse? And third, which conclusions can be drawn from these documents about the perpetrator's motives for abuse? Upon completion of the content analysis the following motives were discovered: 1. Attacks on the woman's attempt to leave the relationship. 2. Punishment, coercion, and retaliation against the woman's actions concerning children. 3. Coercion or retaliation against the woman's pursuit of court or police remedies. 4. Assaults upon the woman's challenges to drinking and to other dimensions of male authority. 5. Attempts to try to control where she goes, whom she sees, and with whom she talks. By looking at these perpetrators' motives for the abuse I believe we will be better able to help victims free themselves from terror and fear and to hold batterers accountable for their actions. I believe that this research into motives for abuse will help us to understand the goals and meanings that violence may have for an abusive individual and to improve our efforts to stop interpersonal abuse.