What about the older male victims of domestic abuse?

 

Much of what we know about domestic and intimate partner violence comes from research that focuses on female victims and male perpetrators. Furthermore, much of what we know about the impacts and consequences of domestic and intimate partner violence victimisation comes from research focusing on young adults and their children. Stemming from much of the feminist campaigning in the 1970s, this important research has been very influential in policy and practice developments and has had a positive impact on the lives of many. More recently, research interest has focused on older adults, who are not normally thought of as victims of this form of abuse. Again, the dominant focus of this research has been female victimisation and male perpetration. Despite the many positives, the consequence of this gendered focus is that research, policy, and service development are not inclusive to male victims.

 

There is a growing body of research that has looked at men’s victimisation from female partners. This research has demonstrated that this is a prevalent form of domestic abuse. Abuse from a female partner often includes forms of physical violence (scratching, punching, and use of weapons), psychological violence through gaslighting, coercive control such as threats to take away children, as well as financial and administrative abuse through the legal system. Those patterns of abuse fit within the definitions of domestic and intimate partner violence, and are similar to abuse tactics perpetrated to female victims; yet men are reluctant to disclose and seek help. Much of the support for men is still largely help-line focused and policy for male victims often sits under the violence against women agenda.

 

For older victims help-seeking can have additional barriers. Older adults tend to be more isolated due to age and well-being factors. Much of the media campaigns and awareness raising is focused on younger victims. More recent campaigns focused on domestic abuse among older adults have tended to show a female victim. This lack of awareness raising can leave older men unsure about what is happening to them and understanding it as abuse. Societal discourse and generational attitudes can also create barriers to help seeking for older couples. Patriarchal upbringings have been considered to normalise abuse and can create barriers to both women and men from seeking support. Accessing emotional support has also been identified as having a negative impact on men, particularly in terms of constructions of masculinity.

 

So, there is now a growing body of research exploring male victimisation, in general, as well as the growing body of research examining older female victims. However, there has been little consideration of older male victims despite research identifying specific needs for men and specific needs for older women. The UK office for national statistics (2019) showed that when all domestic violence crimes are captured together, including non-intimate partner violence, the proportion of violence against the person was 28.1% for men and 38.9% for women when over 75 years of age. Similar findings have been found outside of the UK. In a cross-sectional analysis of data from seven countries, examining a sample of 60 to 84-year olds, Melchiorre et al. (2016) found abuse of older men to be prevalent. In a recent review of the UK domestic abuse helpline, Respect, Westmarland et al (2020) found 30% of a sample of 160 male victims that had used the helpline were men over the age of 50 (10% over 60).

 

Older male victimisation is under recognised and under reported. Anyone can fall victim to domestic and intimate partner violence. Services need to be more inclusive to meet the needs of a range of victims’ groups. For men, support is largely helpline focused but exploring opportunities for services to be implemented that cater to the needs of men, can help to promote inclusivity and in turn have a more positive impact on help-seeking. Different opportunities such as group settings that offer chances to share experiences, individual therapy, community-based support, as well as more awareness raising among professionals and the public are all ways in which services can help to meet the needs of older male victims of domestic abuse.

 

For a more detailed discussion of inclusivity regarding age and gender see Carthy et al. (2019).

 

For a more detailed discussion of the experiences of female perpetrated violence against older men see Bates  and Carthy (2020).

 

 

Dr Nikki Carthy

 

Senior lecturer in Psychology at Teesside University, Centre for Applied Psychological Science, Vulnerable Victims and Offenders in the Criminal Justice System theme.

The Narrative Identity Development of Young Offenders

I decided to conduct a piece of research which focussed on young offenders and the process of rehabilitation. Since completing a MSc in Forensic Psychology, I’ve always been interested in understanding offending behaviour. A lot of the existing research focusses on risk factors associated with young offenders and this was not something I wished to explore as I felt this was sometimes viewed negatively. Instead, I decided to explore identity development within the young offending population, paying particular attention to how their identity had altered since becoming engaged with a rehabilitation programme. I worked with an external service and interviewed 12 participants. I used narrative analysis to interpret each offender’s story, focussing on how they retold their story and how this demonstrated identity development.  A key model within my research was the Bioecological model. I used this model to understand external influences which may have impacted identity development.

Findings suggested that all participants adopted character roles as either “the powerless”, “the feared” or “the disconnected” when reflecting on their identity after committing a crime. The powerless role referred to key points in their story which often included trauma, struggles with poor mental health, and difficult childhood experiences. The feared was a role adopted by young offenders who had often been involved in delinquent groups such as gangs. They reflected on how their sense of self and identity was determined by how other characters perceived them. The final plot highlighting identity when committing crime was the disconnected and this refers to the disconnection that the story tellers felt to other people and to other positive aspects of their lives. Many spoke about how they had lost their jobs, quit college, and struggled to maintain strong connections with family members and friends.  There was one overarching plot within the narratives which explained identity when rehabilitated. The connected included examples of how identity was determined by more positive aspects of life, such as employment and strengthened relationships with positive influences such as family and friends. Connection to romantic partners and children; helpful coping strategies were also identified as important parts of their story.

The detailed findings allowed me to recommend a three-phase model of intervention for rehabilitation services. The first phase involves a group program whereby young offenders can learn practical skills such as CV writing and psychoeducation around emotions. The second phase involves family members and focusses on building positive attachments and strengthening family relationships. The final part of the model includes one-to-one psychological therapy. This would offer the opportunity to work through previous trauma, deal with difficult emotions, and begin to improve their outlook. 

Dr Laura Jackson

Dr Laura Jackson completed the research while she was a Counselling Psychology trainee at Teesside University. The research was Dr Jackson’s doctoral project and was supervised by Dr Alex Kyriakopoulos, Senior Lecturer in Counselling Psychology at Teesside University, Centre for Applied Psychological Science, Health and Wellbeing theme and Dr Nikki Carthy, Senior Lecturer in Psychology at Teesside University, Centre for Applied Psychological Science, Vulnerable Victims and Offenders in the Criminal Justice system theme.

How coronavirus restrictions have changed our day to day lives, impacted our sleep, and affected our mental health

The coronavirus (COVID-19) global pandemic has very much been the focus of 2020. The outbreak was first identified in December 2019 in Wuhan, China, and by March 2020 had spread worldwide. In response to this unprecedented public health emergency, governments around the world had to act fast in an attempt to reduce transmission of the virus.

From mid-March lockdown measures were enforced across many countries, closing shops, businesses, workplaces, schools, and university campuses; thousands of events were cancelled, and many services were stripped back to basics or put entirely on-hold. Strict social distancing guidelines were also introduced meaning people were unable to see members of their family, as well as friends and colleagues. These measures significantly altered usual activities, routines, and livelihoods for millions of people and were seen to have a worrying impact on people’s mental health. Emerging research from countries further along in the pandemic (i.e., China and Italy) indicated there has been a substantial negative effect on well-being, accompanied by a noticeable rise in reported mental health concerns.

Earlier in the year, a team of researchers from Teesside University, Sheffield Hallam and the University of Lincoln ran a study to examine how the COVID-19 pandemic may have altered our psychological wellbeing, and aspects of our mental health. The study also aimed to look at how people’s sleep patterns and sleep-timing preferences may have been affected. Between April 2020 and June 2020, the team ran an online survey to capture the thoughts and feelings of people experiencing these new restrictions. While this took place during the first UK lockdown (March – June), the survey was also extended to those outside of the UK. In total 200 participants responded to the survey, of which 92.5% were based in the UK.

Participants in the study were asked three questions regarding the ways in which their lifestyle may have changed due to the pandemic. The first asked whether they were self-isolating due to exposure or fear of the virus, the second asked whether they had transitioned to remote working, and the third asked if they were experiencing a loss of work hours or income due to the pandemic. The participants were also asked about their thoughts and feelings regarding the pandemic and completed some questionnaires relating to sleep problems, mental well-being, anxiety and depression (mood) symptoms, as well as feelings of loneliness, and sleep-time preferences.

The researchers found that, overall, people who were self-isolating due the virus reported increased feelings of loneliness, lower mood and poorer mental well-being. Similarly, people who had experienced reduced work hours or loss of income also reported increased loneliness and lower mood and well-being, as well as poorer sleep. However, individuals who had started to work from home during the pandemic reported better sleep quality overall. It was also found that many people shifted to a later sleep-time preference meaning they were waking up later in the morning and going to sleep later in the evening/night. This may indicate that the lack of a necessity to get up as early to travel to the workplace has enabled people to embrace their ‘night owl’ tendencies.

The researchers also asked participants to rate the intensity of worrying thoughts about the pandemic; the level of concern about becoming severely ill from catching the virus; and how quickly they believed the virus was spreading throughout the country. They were asked to respond to these questions on a scale from one to five. Unsurprisingly, high rankings of each of these concerns were found to be related to increases in anxiety and depression as well as decreases in quality of sleep.

The research team concluded that the social and economic changes people have experienced due to the COVID19 pandemic have so far had a profoundly negative impact on mental health and well-being. It is clear that this time of crisis is generating stress throughout the population and we must prepare to deal with a rise in mental health concerns as these restrictions continue.

However, on a more positive note the transition to working remotely appears to have been somewhat beneficial for some individuals in terms of their sleep and sleep timing preferences. Now that we begin to see some light at the end of the tunnel, with a vaccine on the horizon, continuation in flexible working may be something worth considering. Not only during these challenging times but also in the longer-term transition to the ‘new normal’.

Dr Sarah Allen, Lecturer in Psychology at Teesside University
Centre of Applied Psychological Science, Health and Well-being theme

*A research paper documenting the findings of this study is currently going through the peer-review publication process.

A lockdown by any other name would still swell the street

We are starting the new year entering a third lockdown, something which is necessary, but unlikely to be greeted with much joy. Since the start of the pandemic epidemiology, public health, and virology have been at the forefront of the Government’s public face of science, but psychology has also played a key role. The Government’s scientific advisory group, SAGE, includes the Scientific Pandemic Insights Group on Behaviour (SPI-B) which has psychologists, including Professor Susan Michie who has written about human behaviour in the pandemic (https://blogs.bmj.com/bmj/2020/03/11/slowing-down-the-covid-19-outbreak-changing-behaviour-by-understanding-it/), as members. Independent SAGE (https://www.independentsage.org/) has also included psychologists Professor Michie and Professor Steven Reicher and this group has commented individually on how Government policy may affect public behaviour.

At the Centre for Applied Psychological Science (CAPS) we also provided advice on behaviour to Middlesbrough Council Local Authority Outbreak Board following the end of the first lockdown in July 2020. This was to provide guidance on behaviour that would be particularly relevant at a local level and sensitive to the population of the Tees Valley. We highlighted two key themes. 1) the importance of a citizen led approach that engaged the local community, developed trust in the measures, and authorities implementing them; and 2) the importance of clear and precise communication to ensure people understand any measures they need to take.

This second theme has been emphasised throughout the pandemic as something that is important to ensure people adhere to restrictions (Michie, et al, 2020). One of the reasons is that language is a shared, agreed upon, social convention where members of a linguistic community agree upon what different words refer to. During the pandemic the most effective methods of reducing the R (the rate at which the virus is spreading through the community) value across the country have been the two lockdowns that stretched from March to July and then during the month of November. Outside of these periods the Government has used regional tiered approaches with different restrictions in different areas. These regional tiered approaches have been not as successful at reducing the R value of the virus as the national lockdown, even when measures have been almost as strict.

At least part of the success is that a single nationwide approach (at least in England) means there is only a single set of rules to understand, but another part is that the term lockdown, when used in March, established a shared understanding of what the meaning of this word was and how we should act. In psycholinguistic terms it could be viewed that there was a conceptual pact (Brennan & Clark, 1996) between the Government and everyone in the country about what is meant by the term lockdown and what behaviours a person should do when it is in place.

A conceptual pact is a tacit agreement about what a word refers to and how it is conceptualised. What this leads to, when different terminology is used to apply to the restrictions, for example, when the word lockdown isn’t used, it will not elicit the same behaviours as when the term lockdown is used. This is because the different terminology suggests a different set of restrictions are in operation and therefore different behaviours are permitted. Though the restrictions were imposed on a scale, the use or not use of lockdown, as a term, to describe them creates a binary distinction not one of scale. The term lockdown also conjures a conceptualisation of restriction and has many negative consequences, which is why the Government has avoided the term, but possibly at the expense of non-adherence. The good news, from a virus reduction perspective, is that by reusing the term lockdown the message is now much clearer and psycholinguistics tells us that the language we use to conceptualise our behaviour is important for ensuring lockdown rules are adhered to.

References

Michie, S., West, R., Rogers, M. B., Bonell, C., Rubin, J. G., & Almot, R. (2020). Reducing SARS-CoV-2 transmission in the UK: A behavioural science approach to identifying options for increasing adherence to social distancing and shielding vulnerable people. British Journal of Health Psychology, 25, 945-956. https://doi.org/10.1111/bjhp.12428

Brennan, S. E., & Clark, H. H. (1996). Conceptual pacts and lexical choice in conversation. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 22(6), 1482–1493. https://doi.org/10.1037/0278-7393.22.6.1482

Dr Matt Watson, Head of Psychology Department and member of Centre for Applied Psychological Science, Teesside University

CAPS research themes

The centre for applied psychological science is organised around four core research themes in which our members have achieved national and international prominence:

Health and Well-Being

The number of people living with a health condition(s) is increasing and is detrimental to an individual as well as society as a whole. It is known that health inequalities are related to lower quality of life and increased risk of health conditions. Therefore, we believe that research to improve the health and well-being of populations, particularly those with lower socioeconomic status, is key to reducing health inequalities and inequalities in general. Health can be a key factor to positively impact wider areas of life, e.g. enable a person to complete their education, maintain a job and socialise with others, thus resulting in both physical and mental health improvements.

Vulnerable Victims and Offenders in the Criminal Justice System

The research theme applies to vulnerable individuals across a variety of different settings namely police interviews, court proceedings, prisons, secure care, probation, and counselling services. Vulnerability is defined as those with a mental disorder, a learning, social or physical disability, and those vulnerable due to age.  It covers all ages from childhood through to adulthood and the elderly.

Pain and Long-Term Conditions

The adoption of a whole-person approach is paramount to improving the psychological wellbeing of people living with pain and long-term conditions and the support services available to them.  Without recognising how living with pain and long-term conditions can affect every sphere of a person’s life and how the impact can vary over time, we cannot effectively support this population to live meaningful lives and manage their condition(s) effectively.  As part of this approach, we must also work with their families and carers.

Cognition and Decision-Making

It takes everyday behaviours, like speaking or understanding a sentence, remembering a past event, recognising an old school friend or deciding which route to take when driving home, and examines the mental actions that are required to produce these behaviours. To the person performing these actions, much human behaviour feels effortless but cognitive psychology research uncovers the complexity of the mental processes involved, revealing how impressive the human brain is.

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Welcome to the Centre for Applied Psychological Science (CAPS) research blog

CAPS aims to bridge the gap between theoretical research and applied practice by providing evidence-based solutions to real-world problems. We specialise in research that contributes to knowledge in the academic community and beyond to have a significant contribution to the public, practitioners, policy-makers and the wider community. CAPS is guided by an interdisciplinary approach that provides psychological knowledge and perspective through partnership and collaboration with internal networks at Teesside University and external networks with other industry partners, local authorities and third sector organisations, to name a few. Research informed practice is at the heart of what we do. This approach is embedded within our teaching programmes across both undergraduate and postgraduate provision.

CAPS is organised around four core themes in which our members have achieved national and international prominence:

  • Health and Well-Being
  • Vulnerable Victims and Offenders in the Criminal Justice System
  • Pain and Long-Term Conditions
  • Cognition and Decision-Making

These themes are underpinned by our strong methodological expertise in quantitative and qualitative research methods, intervention development, systematic reviewing, service evaluation, co-production and embedded research.

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