Abusive Behavior Inventory Essay

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The Abusive Behavior Inventory is an instrument designed to measure the physical and psychological abuse of women by their male partners. The instrument was first developed by Melanie Shepard in 1984 to evaluate the Duluth Domestic Abuse Intervention Project, a highly influential program in the field of domestic violence. Items for the instrument were drawn from the program’s internationally known Power and Control Wheel, which was based on the experiences of battered women. In 1992, Shepard and James Campbell published a study documenting evidence of the instrument’s reliability and validity. It has subsequently been used in many domestic violence studies. The Abusive Behavior Inventory is noted for its incorporation of both physical and psychological abuse items and the use of power and control, rather than family conflict, as a framework for measuring domestic violence.

The Abusive Behavior Inventory is based upon a feminist perspective whereby battering involves the use of a range of controlling tactics, including physical, psychological, and sexual abuse, to achieve and maintain dominance in intimate relationships. The instrument is a self-report questionnaire consisting of two separately scored subscales: psychological and physical abuse. The psychological abuse subscale consists of items drawn from the subcategories of emotional abuse, isolation, intimidation, threats, use of male privilege, and economic abuse. The physical abuse subscale consists of 10 items involving physical acts (e.g., hitting and choking) and sexual abuse (e.g., forced or pressured to engage in unwanted sexual acts).

Separate versions of the Abusive Behavior Inventory were originally created for abusive men and battered women, although the male version has not been widely used. The Abusive Behavior Inventory is able to distinguish between groups of abusers/abused and nonabusers/nonabused using the reports of both men and women. On the Abusive Behavior Inventory, women’s reports of being abused are considered more reliable than the reports of men about their own use of abusive behaviors.

The Abusive Behavior Inventory continues to be used as a program evaluation tool and for other research purposes, such as studying the dynamics of dating violence. The Abusive Behavior Inventory is also a useful tool for screening women for domestic violence in health care and social service settings.


  1. Pence, E., & Paymar, M. (1993). Education groups for men who batter: The Duluth model. New York: Springer.
  2. Shepard, M., & Campbell, J. (1992). The Abusive Behavior Inventory: A measure of psychological and physical Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 7, 291–305.

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