and Giller, 1983; Wilson and Herrnstein, 1985), virtually no integrated research reviews focus specifically on acts of violence. Instead the explanations for the relationship between gender and interpersonal violence have remained in disparate intellectual fields and in various theoretical camps, including biological, social psychological, structural, and methodological.

The purpose of this paper is to examine critically the research pertaining to gender and interpersonal violence with an eye toward providing a better understanding of the role of gender in producing different rates and types of interpersonal violence. Every attempt is made to present relevant data from all intellectual traditions.1 However, as can be seen, the work on violence among males far exceeds the work on violence among females. As a result, readers will find that this review provides a synthesis of the omissions in our knowledge of the relationship between gender and interpersonal violence. We begin by defining the concepts that provide the framework for this analysis.


The Panel on the Understanding and Control of Violent Behavior limits its consideration of violent human behavior to interpersonal violence, which is defined as behavior that "threatens, attempts, or actually inflicts physical harm." This definition of violence is composed of the following three elements: (1) behavior, by one or more persons, that threatens, attempts, or inflicts physical harm (i.e., the harmful act need not be completed to be included in this study); (2) intentional infliction of physical harm (i.e., the definition excludes negligence and recklessness); and (3) one or more persons who are objects of the harmful behavior (i.e., the victims).

The term sex is used to refer to genetic sex or the chromosomal makeup of the individual. It is "sex" and not "gender" to which we refer when making the distinction between people who are biologically male or biologically female (Schur, 1984:10). By contrast, the term gender refers to the sociological, psychological, and cultural patterns that are used to evaluate and to shape male or female behavior. The evidence suggesting that gender is socially constructed is now well documented (e.g., see Macaulay, 1985; Bender, 1988:15, note 38; Epstein, 1988). However, because gender is imposed on sex by acculturation and socialization, it is not surprising to find that these two concepts are still used interchangeably (cf. Widom, 1984:5). The failure to distinguish sex

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