Maiju Tanskanen – NSfK ResearchSeminar 2021

A data-driven intimate partner violence typology in a Finnish sample

Maiju Tanskanen, PhD-student, Institute of Criminology and Legal Policy, University of Helsinki


In the past few decades, the complexity of intimate partner violence (IPV) has been addressed by calling for typological explanations that classify IPV into subtypes. Some suggested IPV classifications, such as the typologies proposed by Johnson (1995; 2008) and Holtzworth-Munroe and Stuart (1994), have been highly influential to IPV theory. Moreover, recognition that there may be several types of IPV with different causes and consequences could be beneficial not only for the sake of theory development but also for preventive purposes, as different IPV subtypes may call for specialized prevention and treatment efforts (e.g., Kelly & Johnson, 2008).

The current study

The aim of the current study was to define an empirically derived typology by analyzing whether experiences of physical or sexual IPV cluster into classes. The subtypes were identified based on five factors: gender of the victim, control-seeking by the perpetrator, generality of the perpetrator’s violent behavior, substance use by the perpetrator and the bidirectionality of violence in the relationship.

The current typology adds to prior research on IPV subtypes in three main ways. First, the majority of previous typologies are based on severe male-to-female violence, and it remains somewhat unclear whether they are applicable when IPV is defined in more inclusive terms. Second, the typology of the current study is data-driven and based on a nationally representative survey sample, whereas prior typologies are commonly constructed from highly selective samples. Third, although the factors used to define the typology are largely adapted from prior research, the study also includes characteristics that have been relatively overlooked as independent factors by prior typological research, such as perpetrator substance use and bidirectional violence.

Data & methods

The data for the current study is derived from the Finnish National Crime Victim Survey (FNCVS) 2019 (N=4332), which is based on a nationally representative stratified random sample of the Finnish population aged 15 to 84. For the purpose of analyzing IPV subtypes, the data was restricted to those who reported having experienced physical or sexual violence at the hands of a current or former married, co-habiting, or dating partner at some time since the age of 15. The IPV measure included a variety of violent acts, ranging from minor (e.g., grabbing or preventing from moving) to more severe violence (e.g., kicking or strangling), including also sexual violence (forced sexual intercourse or other sexual acts and attempts at such). The number of respondents (IPV victims) used in the analysis was 856, of whom 642 were women. Latent class analysis (LCA) and latent class regression analysis (LCA) were used as the main analysis methods in identifying the IPV subtypes.


The analysis identified three latent subtypes of IPV:

  • The IPV-only perpetrator (IOP) class. The largest class (estimated population share 52.9%) represents a gender symmetric IPV subtype: approximately half the victims in this class are women. Generally violent perpetrators are rare in this group, and the amount of reported substance use by the perpetrator is the lowest among the classes.
  • The substance-related violence (SRV) class. The primary characteristic of the second largest class (26.1%) is that it is experienced predominately by women. Moreover, it contains the highest proportion of respondents reporting substance use by the perpetrator.
  • The generally violent and controlling perpetrator (GVC) class. The least common type of IPV (20.9%) also contains a high proportion of female victims. This class is characterized by controlling and generally violent perpetrators as well as the highest proportion of respondents reporting mutual violence in the relationship.

While the vast majority of male IPV victims were assigned to the IOP class (83.2%), IPV reported by women was more evenly distributed across the classes, although the IOP class was the most common class for women as well (39.0%). In the SRV class, only 2.8% of respondents assigned to the class were male, whereas in the GVC class the proportion of men was 21.8%.

Discussion & conclusions

The current study replicates several prior findings. More specifically, the analysis identified some subtypes that seem to correspond to the seminal typologies proposed by Johnson (1995; 2008) and Holtzworth-Munroe and Stuart (1994). However, the SRV class of the current study lacks an evident counterpart in either of the two typologies. Overall, the finding of substance-related violence as a separate IPV subtype is novel, and it has clear policy implications. Notably, while the association between IPV and substance use is well established, IPV interventions do not traditionally address substance use issues, although there are empirical findings suggesting that substance abuse treatment could reduce IPV (e.g. Murphy & Ting, 2010; Stuart et al., 2009).

The current study has several limitations that concern especially the validity of some measures used in the analysis, as the data is limited to what is known and reported by the victim. Consequently, any conclusions should be drawn with caution. Further research is required to validate the relevance and generalizability of the current typology, especially in other cultural contexts. Future typological research would benefit from using data from multiple complementary sources (e.g., combined survey and register-based data) in addition to data allowing for both longitudinal and dyadic analysis.


Holtzworth-Munroe, A., & Stuart, G. L. (1994). Typologies of male batterers: Three subtypes and the differences among them. Psychological Bulletin, 116(3), 476-497.

Johnson, M. P. (1995). Patriarchal terrorism and common couple violence: Two forms of violence against women. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 57(2), 283-294.

Johnson, M. P. (2008). A typology of domestic violence. Intimate terrorism, violent resistance, and situational couple violence. Boston, MA: Northeastern University Press.

Kelly, J. B., & Johnson, M. P. (2008). Differentiation among types of intimate partner violence: Research update and implications for interventions. Family Court Review46(3), 476-499.

Murphy, C. M., & Ting, L. (2010). The effects of treatment for substance use problems on intimate partner violence: A review of empirical data. Aggression and Violent Behavior, 15(5), 325-333.

Stuart, G. L., O’Farrell, T. J., & Temple, J. R. (2009). Review of the association between treatment for substance misuse and reductions in intimate partner violence. Substance Use & Misuse, 44(9-10), 1298-1317.