Perpetrators of intimate partner violence (IPV) are more likely to have been exposed to adverse childhood experiences (ACES) than the general population (e.g., Whitfield, Anda, Dube, & Felitti, 2003). Despite this association, occurrence of ACES does not necessarily lead to the development of patterned abusive behavior (Godbout et al., 2017). To understand the link between ACES and IPV perpetration, Godbout et al. (2017) suggest that research must consider a complex array of intra- and interpersonal experiences. For this project, we used ethnographic methods, including participant observation at a local batterer intervention program (BIP) and semi-structured interviews with 15 male IPV perpetrators to explore the individual experiences in greater detail. The data were analyzed using a combination of concept-driven, open, and axial coding, creating an inductive and iterative process for interpretation (e.g., Manning & Kunkel, 2014). Participants’ reports revealed high frequency of often co-occurring ACES, with patterns of negative messages about self-worth, beliefs about personal responsibility for experiences of abuse, and both feelings of powerlessness in the face of abusers and the need to feel powerful. Results are discussed regarding the theoretical understanding of individual differences among IPV perpetrators. Specifically, we address the practical need to expand our investigation of ACES, as experienced by IPV perpetrators, to include more varied types of abuse and household dysfunction.


Adverse Childhood Experiences, Intimate Partner Violence, IPV Perpetrator, Batterer Intervention Program, Ethnography, Participant Observation, Semi-Structured Interviews

Author Bio(s)

Natalie Hoskins (Ph.D., University of Kansas, 2017) is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication Studies at Middle Tennessee State University. Correspondence can be addressed directly to: Natalie Hoskins, Department of Communication Studies, MTSU Box 200, 1301 East Main Street, Murfreesboro, TN 37132. (Phone: 913-206-7358; Fax: 615-494-8760; E-mail: Natalie.Hoskins@mtsu.edu).

Adrianne Kunkel (Ph.D., Purdue University, 2000) is a Professor in the Department of Communication Studies at the University of Kansas.


This manuscript is based on the first author’s (Natalie Hoskins) Ph.D. dissertation (2017) for her doctoral degree, which was directed by the second author (Adrianne Kunkel). In addition, some of the data featured in this paper was presented at the 2017 Organization for the Study of Communication, Language, and Gender (OSCLG) convention in Omaha, Nebraska, as well as the 2017 National Communication Association (NCA) convention in Dallas, Texas.

Publication Date


Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 4.0 International License.





To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.