Intimate Partner Violence within same sex couples: a qualitative review of literature in a psychodynamic perspective

Giulia Penone, Cinzia Guarnaccia


The intimate partner violence (IPV), particularly the same-sex one, is assuming the size of a serious and not negligible issue that afflicts current society. The main objective of this literature review was to analyze the studies and theoretical perspectives on this issue, adopting a psychodynamic point of view that allows to underline the extent of the problem. PsychInfo and PsychARTICLES database were searched, using the keywords  “same-sex domestic violence", "same-sex intimate partner violence", “same-sex domestic violence”, “homosexual domestic violence” e “homosexual intimate partner violence” in order to identifying literature published from 2000 to 2018, the extracted documents were assessed for their qualitative relevance.

The results concerning the violence among lesbian couples underlying a lack in the literature and the influence of feminist movements, heterosexist theories, stereotypes and homophobia. Regarding the violence between gay couples, the "novelty" of the issue emerges and the interest in the peculiarity of the victims and the harassers, the minority stress and the controversial relationship with the legal system. Finally, a comparison between IPV in lesbian and gay couples makes it clear that, beyond similarities and differences, every situation deserves the most specific and targeted treatment.


same-sex intimate partner violence; same-sex domestic violence; intimate partner violence; LGBT

Riferimenti bibliografici

Abbott, J., Johnson, R., Koziol-McLain, J., & Lowenstein, S. R. (1995). Domestic violence against women: incidence and prevalence in an emergency department population. JAMA, 273(22), 1763–1767.

Ali, P. A., Dhingra, K., & McGarry, J. (2016). A literature review of intimate partner violence and its classifications. Aggression and violent behavior, 31, 16-25.

American Psychological Association. (1996). Violence and the Family. Report of the American Psychological Association Presidential Task Force on Violence and the Family. Washington, D.C.

Anderson, K. L. (2002). Perpetrator or victim? Relationships between intimate partner violence and well-being. Journal of Marriage and Family, 64(4), 851–863.

Archer, J. (2002). Sex differences in physically aggressive acts between heterosexual partners: a meta-analytic review. Aggression and Violent Behavior, 7(4), 313–351.

Badenes-Ribera, L., Bonilla-Campos, A., Frias-Navarro, D., Pons-Salvador, G., & Monterdei-Bort, H. (2016). Intimate partner violence in self-identified lesbians: a systematic review of its prevalence and correlates. Trauma, Violence, & Abuse, 17(3), 284-297.

Baker, N., Buick J., Kim S., Moniz S. and Nava, K. (2012). Lessons from examining same-sex intimate partner violence. Springer Science & Business Media B.V, 69:182–192.

Balsam, K. and Szymanski, D. (2005). Relationships quality and domestic violence in women’s same sex relationships: the role of minority stress. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 29(3): 258-269.

Bandura, A., & Walters, R.H. (1977). Social learning theory (Vol. 1). Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-hall.

Bartholomew, K. et al. (2008). Patterns of abuse in male same-sex relationships. Violence and Victims, 23(5): 617-636.

Bolam, L.T. (2016). Intimate partner violence within LGBTQ+ samples: a systematic review. Journal of Applied Psychology and Social Science, 2(1), 89-113.

Bornstein, D.R., Fawcett, J., Sullivan, M., Senturia, K.D. and Shiu-Thornton, S. (2006). Understanding the experiences of lesbian, bisexual and trans survivors of domestic violence: a qualitative study. Journal of Homosexuality, 51, 159–181.

Bowen, E. and Nowinski, N. (2012). Partner violence against heterosexual and gay men: prevalence and correlates. Aggression and Violent Behavior, volume 7 (1): 36-52.

Boxall, H., Rosevear, L., & Payne, J. (2015). Domestic violence typologies: what value to practice? Trends & Issues in Crime and Criminal Justice, 494,1.

Breiding, M.J., Basile, K.C., Smith, S.G., Black, M.C. and Mahendra, R.R. (2015). Intimate partner violence surveillance: uniform definitions and recommended data elements, Version 2.0. Atlanta: National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Briere, J., & Jordan, C. E. (2009). Childhood maltreatment, intervening variables, and adult psychological difficulties in women: an overview. Trauma, Violence & Abuse, 10(4), 375–388.

Brown, G. (2004). Gender as a factor in the response of the law-enforcement system to violence against partners. Sexuality and Culture, 8, 3–139.

Calton, J.M., Cattaneo, L.B. and Gebhard, K.T. (2015). Barriers to help seeking for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer survivors of intimate partner violence. Trauma, Violence & Abuse, 1-16.

Cannon, C. and Buttell, F. (2015). Illusion of inclusion: the failure of gender paradigm to account for intimate partner violence in LGBT relationships. Partner Abuse, 6, 65-77.

Capaldi, D., Kim, H., & Shortt, J. (2007). Observed initiation and reciprocity of physical aggression in young, at-risk couples. Journal of Family Violence, 22, 101–111.

Capaldi, D., & Owen, L. D. (2001). Physical aggression in a community sample of at-risk young couples: Gender comparisons for high frequency, injury, and fear. Journal of Family Psychology, 15, 425–440.

Capaldi, D. M., & Kim, H. K. (2007). Typological approaches to violence in couples: a critique and alternative conceptual approach. Clinical Psychology Review, 27(3), 253–265.

Carroll A.R. and Stiles-Shields,C. (2015) Same-sex domestic violence: prevalence, unique aspects, and clinical implications. Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy, 41:6, 636-648. DOI: 10.1080/0092623X.2014.958792.

Carvalho, A.F., Lewis, R.J., Derlega, V.J.,Winstead, B.A. and Viggiano, C. (2011). Internalized sexual minority stressor and same-sex intimate partner violence. Journal of Family Violence, 26, 501–509.

Cavanaugh, M. M., & Gelles, R. J. (2005). The utility of male domestic violence offender typologies. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 155–166.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2015). Intimate partner violence surveillance. Uniform definitions and recommended data elements.

Center for Disease Control and Prevention (2010). The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey.

Clark County Prosecuting Attorney (2010). Domestic violence: fast facts on domestic violence. Retrieved from

Deboard-Lucas, R.L. and Grych, J.H. (2011). Children’s perceptions of intimate partner violence: causes, consequences, and coping. Journal of Family Violence, 26(5), 343–354. DOI:10.1007/s10896- 011-9368-2.

Dube, S. R., Felitti, V. J., Dong, M., Chapman, D. P., Giles, W. H., & Anda, R. F. (2003). Childhood abuse, neglect, and household dysfunction and the risk of illicit drug use: the adverse childhood experiences study. Pediatrics, 111(3), 564–572.

Duke, A. and Davidson, M.M. (2009). Same-sex intimate partner violence: lesbian, gay, and bisexual affirmative outreach and advocacy. Journal of Aggression, Maltreatment & Trauma, 18, 795–816. DOI:10.1080/10926770903291787.

Eaton, L., Kaufman, M., Fuhrel, A., Cain, D., Cherry, C., Pope, H. and Kalichman, S.C. (2008). Examining factors co-existing with interpersonal violence in lesbian relationships. Journal of Family Violence, 23, 697–705.

Edwards, K.M. and Sylaska, K.M. (2013). The perpetration of intimate partner violence among LGBTQ college students: the role of minority stress. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 42, 1721-1731.

Edwards, K.M., Sylaska, K.M. and Neal, A.M. (2015). Intimate partner violence among sexual minority population: a critical review of the literature agenda for future research. Psychology of Violence, 5, 112-121.

Fish, J. (2012). Social work with lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people: making a difference. Bristol: Policy Press.

Franklin, C.A. and Jin, H.R. (2016). Intimate partner violence among sexual minority populations. Crime Victim’s Institute, College of Criminal Justice, Sam Houston State University.

Freeland, R., Goldenberg, T., & Stephenson, R. (2018). Perceptions of informal and formal coping strategies for intimate partner violence among gay and bisexual men. American journal of men's health, 12(2), 302-312.

Gabbay, N., & Lafontaine, M.F. (2017). Understanding the relationship between attachment, caregiving, and same sex intimate partner violence. Journal of family violence, 32(3), 291-304.

Gehring, K.S., & Vaske, J.C. (2017). Out in the open: the consequences of intimate partner violence for victims in same-sex and opposite-sex relationships. Journal of interpersonal violence, 32(23), 3669-3692.

Goldberg, N.G. and Meyer, I.H. (2012). Sexual orientation disparities in history of intimate partner violence: results from the California Health Interview Survey. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 28(5).

Goldenberg, T., Stephenson, R., Freeland, R., Finneran, C., & Hadley, C. (2016). “Struggling to be the alpha”: sources of tension and intimate partner violence in same-sex relationships between men. Culture, health & sexuality, 18(8), 875-889

Graham, L.M., Jensen, T.M., Givens, A.D., Bowen, G.L. and Rizo, C.F. (2016). Intimate partner violence among same-sex couples in college: a propensity score analysis. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 11-28.

Greenwood et al. (2002). Intimate partner violence among men who have sex with men: a systematic review. Trauma Violence Abuse, 14(2): 168–185,

Guadalupe-Diaz X. and Yglesias, J. (2013) Who's protected? Exploring perceptions of domestic violence law by lesbians, gays, and bisexuals. Journal of Gay & Lesbian Social Services, 25:4, 465-485.

Halket, M., Gormley, K., Mello, N., Rosenthal, L. and Mirkin, M., (2013). Stay with or leave the abuser? The effects of domestic violence victim’s decision on attributions made by young adults. Journal of Famiy Violence, 29:35–49.

Hamberger, L. K., Lohr, J. M., Bonge, D., & Tolin, D. F. (1996). A large sample empirical typology of male spouse abusers and its relationship to dimensions of abuse. Violence and Victims, 11, 277–292.

Hamberger, L. K., & Potente, T. (1994). Counseling heterosexual women arrested for domestic violence: implications for theory and practice. Violence and Victims, 9, 125–137.

Hardesty, J.L., Oswald, R.F., Khaw, L. and Fonseca, C. (2011). Lesbian/bisexual mothers and intimate partner violence: help seeking in the context of social and legal vulnerability. Violence Against Women, 17, 28–46.

Hecht, D. B., & Hansen, D. J. (2001). The environment of child maltreatment - Contextual factors and the development of psychopathology. Aggression and Violent Behavior, 6(5), 433–457.

Herek, G.M. (2004). Behind “homophobia”: thinking about sexual prejudice and stigma in the twenty-first century. Sexuality Research and Social Policy, 1, 6-24.

Holtzworth-Munroe, A., & Stuart, G. L. (1994). Typologies of male batterers: three subtypes and the differences among them. Psychological Bulletin, 116, 476–497.

Infurna, M. R., Giannone, F., Guarnaccia, C., Lo Cascio, M., Parzer, P., Kaess, M. (2015). Environmental factors that distinguish between clinical and healthy samples with childhood experiences of abuse and neglect. Psychopathology. 48(4), 256-263.

Irwin, J. (2008). (Dis)counted stories: domestic violence and lesbians. Sage Publications, Vol. 7(2): 199–215.

Island, D. and Letellier P. (1991). Men who beat the men who love them: battered gay men and domestic violence. New York: Routledge.

Jackson, N.A. (2007). Same-sex domestic violence: myths, facts, correlates, treat¬ment, and prevention strategies. In A. Roberts (Ed.), Battered Women and their Families, (pp. 451–470). New York: Springer Publishing.

Jin, H. R. (2017). Bystander intervention and same-sex intimate partner violence: college students' decisions to intervene (Doctoral dissertation).

Johnson, M. P., & Ferraro, K. J. (2000). Research on domestic violence in the 1990s: Making distinctions. Journal of Marriage and Family, 62(4), 948–963.

Johnston, J. R., & Campbell, L. E. G. (1993). A clinical typology of interparental violence in disputed-custody divorces. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 63(2), 190–199.

Kaschak, E. (2001). Intimate betrayal: domestic violence in lesbian relationships. Women and Therapy, 23(3).

Knight, C. and Wilson, K. (2016). Lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people and the criminal justice system. London: Palgrave Macmillan. DOI: 10.1057/978-1-137-49698-0.

Langhinrichsen-Rohling, J. (2010). Controversies involving gender and intimate partner violence in the United States. Sex Roles, 62(3–4), 179–193.

Langhinrichsen-Rohling, J., Huss, M. T., & Ramsey, S. (2000). The clinical utility of batterer typologies. Journal of Family Violence, 15(1), 37–53

Little, B. and Terrance, P. (2010). Perceptions of domestic violence in lesbian relationships: stereotypes and gender role expectations. Journal of Homosexuality, 2010;57(3):429-40.

Lo Cascio, M., Guarnaccia, C., Infurna, M. R., Mancuso, L., Parroco, A. M., & Giannone, F. (2017). Environmental dysfunctions, childhood maltreatment and women’s intimate partner violence victimization. Journal of interpersonal violence. 1-27.

Longobardi, C., & Badenes-Ribera, L. (2017). Intimate partner violence in same-sex relationships and the role of sexual minority stressors: a systematic review of the past 10 years. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 26(8), 2039-2049.

Mayer, L.S. and McHugh, P.R. (2016). Sexuality and gender: findings from the biological, psychological, and social sciences. The New Atlantis, Number 50, Fall 2016, pp. 7-9.

McCabe, S.E., West, B.T., Hughes, T.L. and Boyd, C.J. (2013). Sexual orientation and substance abuse treatment utilization in the United States: results from a national survey. Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, 44, 4–12.

McKenry, P.C., Serovich, J.M., Mason, T.L. and Mosack, K. (2006). Perpetration of gay and lesbian partner violence: a disempowerment perspective. Journal of Family Violence, 21, 233–243.

McMahon, K., Hoertel, N., Wall, M. M., Okuda, M., Limosin, F., & Blanco, C. (2015). Childhood maltreatment and risk of intimate partner violence: a national study. Journal of Psychiatric Research, 69, 42–49.

McRae, L., Daire, A.P., Abel, E.M., & Lambie, G.W. (2017). A social learning perspective on childhood trauma and same‐sex intimate partner violence. Journal of Counseling & Development, 95(3), 332-338.

Messinger, A.M. (2011). Invisble vitcims: same-sex IPV in the national violence against women survey. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 26(11), 2228-2243.

Miller, E., Breslau, J., Chung, W. J., Green, J. G., McLaughlin, K. A., & Kessler, R. C. (2011). Adverse childhood experiences and risk of physical violence in adolescent dating relationships. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, 65(11), 1006–1013.

Morandi, B., Mohr, J.J., Worthington, R.L., and Fassinger, R.E. (2009). Counseling psychology research on sexual (orientation) minority issues: conceptual and methodological challenges and opportunities. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 56, 5–22.

Murray C. and Moble K. (2009). Empirical research about same-sex intimate partner violence: a methodological review. Journal of Homosexuality, 56:3, 361-386.

Murray, C.E., Mobley, A.K., Buford, A.P. and Seaman-DeJohn, M.M. (2007). Same-sex intimate partner violence: dynamics, social context, and counseling implications. The Journal of LGBT Issues in Counseling, 1, 7–30.

National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP), (2010). Intimate partner violence within the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer communities in the United States in 2009. National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs Annual Report. New York, NY: National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs.

Peterman, L. and Dixon, C. (2003). Domestic violence between same-sex partners: implications for counseling. Journal of Counseling & Development, 81, 44.

Poorman, P.B., Seelau, E.P. and Seelau, S.M. (2003). Perceptions of domestic abuse in same-sex relationships and implications for criminal justice and mental health responses. Violence and Victims, 18, 659–669.

Rausch, M.A. (2016). Systemic acceptance of same-sex relationships and the impact on intimate partner violence among cisgender identified lesbian and queer individuals. Journal of Creativity in Mental Health, 11(3-4), 270-284.

Renner, L. M., & Whitney, S. D. (2012). Risk factors for unidirectional and bidirectional intimate partner violence among young adults. Child Abuse and Neglect, 36(1), 40–52.

Riggs, D.S., Caulfield, M.B. and Street, A.E. (2000). Risk for domestic violence: factors associated with perpetration and victimization. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 56, 1289–1316.

Ristock, J.L. (2002). No more secrets: violence in lesbian relationships. New York: Routledge.

Ristock, J.L. (2010). Intimate partner violence in LGBTQ lives. New York: Routledge.

Rohrbaugh, J.B. (2006). Domestic violence in same-gender relationships. Family court review, Volume 44, Issue 2, 287-299.

Savage, C. (2010). Gay couples gain under Violence Against Women Act. Retrieved from

Schwander, M. (2003). Interventionsprojekte gegen häusliche Gewalt: Neue Erkenntnisse – neue Instrumente. Schweizerische Zeitschrift für Strafrecht, Band 121, Heft 2. Bern.

Stahly, G.B. (2008). Battered women why don’t they just leave? In J. C. Chrisler, C. Golden, and P. D. Rowe (Eds.), Lectures on the psychology of women (4th ed.). Boston: McGraw Hill.

Stapel, S. (2008). Falling to pieces: New York State civil legal remedies available to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender survivors of domestic violence. New York Law School Review, 52, 247–277.

Stephenson, R., & Finneran, C. (2017). Minority stress and intimate partner violence among gay and bisexual men in Atlanta. American journal of men's health, 11(4), 952-961.

Stiles-Shields, C. and Carroll, R. (2014). Same-sex domestic violence: prevalence, unique aspects, and clinical implications. Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy. DOI: 10.1080/0092623X.2014.958792.

Swan, S. C., & Snow, D. L. (2006). The development of a theory of women's use of violence in intimate relationships. Violence Against Women, 12(11), 1026–1045..

Swan, S. C., Gambone, L. J., Caldwell, J. E., Sullivan, T. P., & Snow, D. L. (2008). A review of research on women's use of violence with male intimate partners. Violence and Victims, 23(3), 301.

Terrance, C. and Parisien, A. (2006). Evaluating claims of domestic violence: in search of a legitimate victim. Poster presented at the annual American Psychology Law Society Conference. St. Petersburg, FL. 2006.

Tesch, B., Bekerian, D., English, P. and Harrington, E. (2010). Same-sex domestic violence: why victims are more at risk. International Journal of Police Science & Management, 12, 526–535.

Walker, L. (1984). Battered woman syndrome. New York: Springer.

Wasarhaley, N.E., Lynch, K.R., Golding, J.R., and Renzetti, C.M. (2017). The impact of gender stereotypes on legal perception of lesbian intimate partner violence. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 1-24.

Weingarten, C.A. (2016). Intimate partner violence and victim blaming. College of Science and Health Theses and Dissertations. Paper 185.

Wasarhaley, N.E., Lynch, K.R., Golding, J.R., and Renzetti, C.M. (2015). The impact of gender stereotypes on legal perception of lesbian intimate partner violence. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 1-24.

Whitfield, C. L., Anda, R. F., Dube, S. R., & Felitti, V. J. (2003). Violent childhood experiences and the risk of intimate partner violence in adults: assessment in a large health maintenance organization. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 18(2), 166–185.

Widom, C. S., Czaja, S., & Dutton, M. A. (2014). Child abuse and neglect and intimate partner violence victimization and perpetration: a prospective investigation. Child Abuse and Neglect, 38(4), 650–663.

Woodyatt, C.R., & Stephenson, R. (2016). Emotional intimate partner violence experienced by men in same-sex relationships. Culture, health & sexuality, 18(10), 1137-1149.


  • Non ci sono refbacks, per ora.

ISSN: 2035-4630, Open-acess, peer-reviewed Journal, Tribunale di Roma 142/09, 04/05/09 - dir. responsabile: G. Colajacomo

   Creative Commons - BY-NC-SA 4.0