Acts without agents: an analysis of linguistic avoidance in journal articles on men who batter women

Am J Orthopsychiatry. 1991 Apr;61(2):250-7. doi: 10.1037/h0079243.


Articles on abuse of women by men were surveyed in eleven journals across four disciplines. Introductory sections from 46 articles were coded for linguistic choices--such as use of the passive voice, nominalization, and diffuse terminology--that obscure the attribution of responsibility. In half or more of the references to abuse, sentence structure and language were deemed problematic, with diffusion of responsibility the most frequent strategy of avoidance. Professional and gender biases were found, with articles by social workers less likely, and articles with male authors more likely, to contain problematic writing.

MeSH terms

  • Family Therapy
  • Gender Identity
  • Humans
  • Marriage / psychology
  • Publishing*
  • Research
  • Semantics*
  • Social Responsibility
  • Spouse Abuse / psychology*
  • Writing*