Attachment theory and science provides a unique perspective on the dynamics and motivations in domestic violence cases. The Dynamic Maturational Model of Attachment and Adaptation (DMM) provides an advanced and detailed description of adult self-protective strategies. While detailed attachment styles (patterns of strategies) are complex, there are some common patterns in cases of domestic or interpersonal violence. This list captures a few of the key aspects and presentations of each aspect when the victim, or recipient of coercive control, tends to utilize A-patterned self-protective attachment strategies, and the aggressor tends to utilize C-patterned self-protective attachment strategies.
|Common DMM-attachment aspects and facets in DV cases||CSI QUICK GUIDE|
|A-Patterns: victim facets||Aspect||C-Patterns: coercive facets|
|Negative minimize/avoided, positive emphasized even at expense of safety and children’s needs.||Affect||Quick to display negative affect, oscillate between positive and negative to control.|
|Sequentially thin “People should not cross the border illegally. If there’s a wall then they can’t cross it… We should build a wall.”||Cognition||Sequentially overbroad “They are pouring across the border, raping and murdering our women and children…. We must build a wall!”|
|Over-attributed. “Sorry, I shouldn’t have done that.”||Causation||Unknown. “I didn’t do anything.”|
|Over-attributed. “Sorry, I’ll take care of it.”||Responsibility||Avoided. “NOW look what you’ve done!”|
|Self. “Sorry, it’s all my fault.”||Blames||Others. “It’s all your fault.”|
|Self. “I’ll take care of it.” “If I rely on others, I’ll just be let down.”||Relies on||Others. “You need to fix this.” or “I can’t dooo it”|
|Others. “Let’s take care of you first.”||Perspective||Self. “Let’s take care of me first.”|
|Not allowed, minimized, irrelevant. “I don’t need a safety plan, I’ll be fine.”||Vulnerability||None and/or total. “They can’t hurt me!” and/or “They are trying to kill me! You have to help me!!”|
|Minimized. “It really wasn’t that bad and the kids are doing just fine.“||Past||Persists, intrudes. “My spouse has been hounding me since day one, it’s never ended.”|
|Unchangeable. “There isn’t anything I can do, why try!”||Future||Ever-changeable. “I don’t know if I should agree. What if my spouse changes their mind and doesn’t testify?”|
|Thin, dry, lacks details and episodes, denotative. Can involve fast talking in order to prevent questions or self-reflection, and often lacks recall of or minimizes past negative events. Yarnball (tossed).||Narrative||Blurred facts & episodes, rich, connotative. Run on speech bouncing from episode to episode strung together by a common feeling. Snowball.|
|Shame, closeness (sometimes), potential rule violations, intrusion of negative affect.||Primary triggering emotions||Humiliation, rejection, jealousy, unpredictability, demands of rule compliance from others|
|Silence until explosion. Nonrigid anger can motivate out of depression. Rules followed, and rules used to control. (Feels like volcano, or walking on thin crust.)||Coercion||Oscillates aggression with charm/disarm behaviors to control. Rules not followed, used to control. (Feels like being in hurricane and the eye gives false relief.|
|Please note: this list simply identifies common elements seen in DV cases when the “victim” is using DMM A-strategies and the “aggressor” is using DMM C-strategies. There are several other common dynamics not captured in this chart, such as bullies using A strategies, and couples both using C strategies.||© Mark Baumann 2021|
This list also identifies aspects (primary issues) of self-protective behaviors and thoughts, and the different facets (unique presentations), in the cognitive-affective divide. The differences are more apparent during stress or exposure to subjectively perceived danger, particularly when it involves a relationship with a person (spouse, professional person, etc.) who can provide protection from the danger. These facets represent relatively intense expressions of the aspect. Individual facets are commonly found in combinations with other facets. Similar-appearing behaviors can have different functions. Predominant use of one side can lead to predictable but biased patterns of information processing. Based on Dr. Patricia Crittenden’s Dynamic Maturational Model of Attachment and Adaptation (DMM).
Many of the terms above are described in various articles on the Conflict Science Institute web site. Attachment for lawyers (really for anyone), 13 Shiny Objects (understanding coercive control from an attachment perspective), and the article It’s legal to harm children: Attachment healing in custody and domestic violence cases are good starting places.