Marital Conflict and Violence: A Taxonomy of Sources of Conflict and Predictors of Violence

Margo Wilson, McMaster University
Martin Daly, McMaster University


Theory and research have identified a number of interacting factors that threaten mate solidarity in species in which males and females form long-lasting pairs who cooperate to rear their young. The same considerations are of clear relevance to the human case: (1) temptations to abandon the present partner and "upgrade"; (2) temptations to free-ride on the partner's investments in the relationship; (3) nepotistic interests in the well-being of distinct sets of relatives (the in-law problem); (4) dependent offspring from prior unions (the stepchild problem); and (5) covert extra-pair sexual liaisons (the adultery/cuckoldry problem). These basic sources of conflict suggest a number of hypotheses about risk factors for intimate partner violence, only some of which are presently testable from data in existing archives on homicide and non-lethal assault. We will illustrate the applicability of this framework to the generation and testing of hypotheses about violence against intimate partners and relatives of the intimate partner victims.

(Return to Program Resources)

Updated 05/20/2006