Prevalence of Sykes and Matza's Techniques of Neutralization in a Sample of Convicted Texas Intimate Partner Violence Offenders




Hawley, Alexis

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As of 2011, an estimated 9.6 million women and 6.8 million men in Texas experienced intimate partner violence in their lifetime (Busch-Armendariz, Cook Heffron, & Bohman, 2011). This equates to approximately 32% of all persons who reside in Texas in 2011 (Busch-Armendariz et al., 2011). In previous research, Sykes and Matza’s (1957) techniques of neutralizationment have been relied on to explain various criminal behaviors including theft, sexual violence, and serial murder. Based on prior research conducted by James and Gossett (2018) that applied neutralization to serial killers and Dutton’s (1986) study that explored the neutralization of self-punishment in wife assaulters, the current study sought to determine the prevalence of these neutralization techniques across family violence offenses in adjudicated intimate partner violence offenders in one Texas county. Here, a content analysis of 23 incident reports was conducted. It was found that all offenders within the sample used at least one neutralization technique to justify the offense. Denial of the victim was the most employed technique of neutralization, followed by denial of injury. Foundation for denial of responsibility, denial of incident, prior history/behavior, and other relevant information were inductively identified. Four patterns of specific neutralization techniques also emerged within the sample: (1) the victim instigated the incident; (2) the reaction was in self-defense; (3) an incident was only considered abuse if a physical component was present; and (4) there was no assault if there was no proof of physical harm (e.g., bruises). These findings provide insight into how a person who has committed intimate partner violence attempts to neutralize his/her offenses and can be utilized as a proactive assessment tool in response to domestic violence and offender treatment options.



Neutralization, Intimate partner violence, Content analysis


Hawley, A. (2020). <i>Prevalence of Sykes and Matza's techniques of neutralization in a sample of convicted Texas intimate partner violence offenders</i> (Unpublished thesis). Texas State University, San Marcos, Texas.


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