Domestic violence and gender politics

In 1999 a colleague and I conducted a literature review on violence within relationships. We concluded that there were over 100 studies indicating that men and women initiated and committed aggressive acts about equally but women were more likely to suffer injury from this violence. We noted that most services were designed to assist women victims and address violence by their male partners and drew attention to this gender imbalance.

Aggressive acts and assaults in intimate relationships: towards an understanding of the literature

Goodyear-Smith FA; Laidlaw TM Behavioral Sciences & the Law, 17 (3), 285-304, 1999


Far more people in relationships are subjected to violent acts than those who receive injuries. The degree of damage sustained may not reflect the perpetrator’s intent to deliberately harm a partner. Data documenting aggressive acts determines the population at risk and their prevention and early treatment requirements; whereas data focusing on harm and injury helps determine emergency medical and refuge services. Data from national crime surveys, police records, or clinical populations should not be generalized to the population at large. Even if men perpetrate the majority of serious partner attacks, addressing the issue of female violence will significantly reduce the overall level of domestic violence. Judicial, medical, and social services should take note that while male violence may be more problematic, violence is a relationship issue, not a male issue.

I subsequently have a number of other publications addressing issues relating to partner abuse and to gender politics:

Improving men’s health benefits us all

Goodyear-Smith FA. Journal of Primary Health Care, 1 (4):256-257, 2009

Recognising and responding to partner abuse: challenging the key facts

Goodyear-Smith F New Zealand Medical Journal. 117(1202):U1074, 2004.


Inter-partner violence is a serious public health problem for a minority of the population. Frequently the problem is hidden and goes undetected. Recognising this violence within the primary healthcare setting and responding appropriately are laudable aims, with significant health gains. However it is important that in raising professional and public awareness of the issue, the case is not over-stated. Too often figures such as a NZ$141 million annual cost of family violence to health are quoted and presented as ‘fact’ without critical appraisal. Family violence is an emotional topic, and challenge to prevailing viewpoints may be misconstrued as a denial of the problem. These are important issues, and I invite academic debate.

Recognising and responding to partner abuse: challenging the key facts Letter to the Editor

Goodyear-Smith F. New Zealand Medical Journal. 117(1204):U1135, 20042.

Men’s health and the health of the nation

Johnston L, Huggard P, Goodyear-Smith F New Zealand Medical Journal,. 121 (1287): 69-76, 2008


The health of the male population is a substantial contributor to the health of the nation. In general, men have a poorer health status and lower utilisation of health services than women. They have a lower life expectancy and are more likely to die from avoidable deaths than women. Men’s health is increasingly being recognised as a specialty area of health promotion and of clinical practice. Male-specific approaches may assist in maximising the positive outcome of interventions aimed at educating men about their health issues, attracting men into seeking clinical services, and establishing and maintaining a gender-orientation in health services that encourages men to engage. With appropriate training and resources, primary health care is ideally placed to provide accessible, male-friendly services with lead to reduction in gender inequalities in health.

Response to ‘woman bites dog’ article on domestic violence

Goodyear-Smith F Letter to the Editor. New Zealand Medical Journal, 118 (1226) 1, 2005

Partner abuse

Goodyear-Smith F Letter to the Editor. New Zealand Family Physician, 30 (5): 313-314, 2003

Gendered approaches to health policy: how does this impact on men’s health?

Goodyear-Smith F, Birks S New Zealand Family Physician, 30 (1): 23-29, 2003.


New Zealand governmental agencies are promoting a gendered approach to health care policy and service delivery on the basis that women have special health needs not met by the existing health services. We argue against such an initiative on the basis that giving priority for female services disadvantages males, who already have higher morbidly and mortality than women. A needs rather than advocacy-driven public health policy directed at high-risk groups for specific health problems rather than specific populations may be the most efficient, equitable and effective means of disease prevention and treatment.

Positive Partners, Strong Families – evaluation of a community-based communication and conflict resolution course for couples

Goodyear-Smith F, Laidlaw T New Zealand Family Physician, 30 (4): 264-268, 2003


Using a domestic violence model focusing on faulty interaction patterns within relationships, a cognitive-behavioural intervention ‘Positive Partners, Strong Families’ was provided to couples to teach communication and conflict resolution skills in a community-based setting. This eight-week intervention taught participants to change their own attitudes and behaviours, which could then reflect upon the relationship itself. A pilot assessment was conducted. Data assessment (n=14) demonstrated significant differences before and after the intervention for consensus, satisfaction, affection, cohesion and use of reasoning to resolve conflicts. At six-month follow-up participants retained all improvements apart from consensus, indicating that the programme led to significant, sustained improvements in couples’ communication and conflict resolution abilities.

Physical assault in New Zealand

Goodyear-Smith F; Birks S, Laidlaw T Letter to the Editor. New Zealand Medical Journal, 111, (1070), 282, 24 Jul 1998.