Women's Intellectual Contributions to the Study of Mind and Society

Students, as part of an advanced seminar, examined and wrote about the lives of these women, their intellectual contributions, and the unique impact and special problems that being female had on their careers.

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Lenore Walker

Early Life, Education, and Career

Lenore Walker has become known for her endless work for victims of domestic violence and her many theories of how and why abuse happens and various treatment methods. She is one of the first women to speak out against domestic violence and has done much to educate others on the dynamics of domestic violence situations. Dr. Walker's theories have paved the way for family violence and violence against women. Her theories are often used today as educational tools for those learning to help people in abusive situations.

Dr. Walker received her A.B. from Hunter's College of the City of New York in 1962. She then began her work in psychology by teaching children with emotional disorders and problems. During this time Dr. Walker married Morton Flax and had two children. She then went on to receive her master's degree from the City College of the City University of New York in 1967. This allowed her to continue her work with children by working as a staff psychologist in the New York City school system. She made a significant contribution by improving reading levels and lowering mental health problems. She also helped educate the parents of the children, which in turn improved their reading abilities as well (American Psychological Association [APA], 1988).

Dr. Walker received her doctorate in 1972 from Rutgers University in New Jersey. She continued working with children, but this time in a community outreach program for troubled children. Dr. Walker noticed a pattern of behaviors associated with some of the children and linked this to abuse in the home. After meeting with some of the mothers, she noticed that they displayed some of the same symptoms as the children. These findings caused Dr. Walker to want to investigate patterns of abuse more closely (APA, 1988).

In 1975, Dr. Walker began work as a faculty member at the Colorado Women's College. She left there in 1981, which is when she decided to open her own practice, Walker & Associates, which focused on family violence and violence against women. Today Dr. Walker is the President and C.E.O. of the practice. She also became interested in the legal aspect of domestic violence and began to testify in court for women who have killed or seriously injured their abuser (Walker, 2001). In the eighties and early nineties, Dr. Walker became nationally recognized in the media. She made numerous television and talk show appearances, including Oprah, Dateline, and Good Morning America (APA, 1988).

Dr. Walker is still very busy and uses her time to educate others and provide resources for those interested in domestic violence. She is a professor at Nova Southeastern University center for Psychological Studies in Florida and is also the head of their Forensics Psychology department (Walker, 2001).

Dr. Walker has been a member of the American Psychological Association since 1974 and has held numerous positions in the APA and has been in active in many different divisions of the APA. She served on the APA Board of Directors from 1989-1990 and has been president of Divisions 35 Feminist Psychology, 12 Clinical Psychology, and 46 Media Psychology. Dr. Walker has also founded The Feminist Therapy Institute and was their chairperson from 1982-1984. She is also the executive director of the Domestic Violence Institute, which provides resources for battered women and shelters (The Domestic Violence Institute [DVI], 2004).

Dr. Walker has received numerous recognitions for her work in domestic violence. She has received many alumni awards, including being inducted into the Colorado Woman's Hall of Fame in 1987. In 1994, Dr. Walker received the APA and National Women's Health Award. In 2000, she received the APA Presidential Citation and in 2001, she was the APA Division 43 Family Psychologist of the Year. In 2002, Dr. Walker received the APA Presidential Citation for work in feminist and forensic psychology (DVI, 2004).

Impact of Being Female

Dr. Walker was one of the first women to speak out against domestic violence and work towards victim's rights and finding a solution to domestic violence worldwide. In the beginning of her career, Dr. Walker did much work with children, which was seemed as a suitable position for women. Even though the concept of women working with children is seen to limit the careers of women, it actually helped Dr. Walker. It caused her to see what violence in the home can do to children and their mothers. It also made her realize that in order to help the children, the women must be helped first. Dr. Walker was also very criticized for her feminist thinking and theories. She has been called a liar, man-hater, as well as a male batterer, due to the fact that her husband committed suicide in the 1970s (APA, 1988).

Work and Research

Dr. Walker's three primary areas of interest are feminist psychology, family violence, and violence against women.. She has written a total of twelve books and has been published in many journal articles, magazines, and newspapers. Her famous book, The Battered Women, is known for bringing the issue of domestic violence into the public eye (Walker, 2001). From 1978 to 1981, she did interviews and studies on battered women. The major study she did was the Battered Women Syndrome study. Out of this study, she developed theories on how and why domestic violence occurs. She also developed theories on treatment and survival. Dr. Walker became a consultant to many shelters and she developed many questioners to help develop her theories (APA, 1988).

One of her theories became known as the "Cycle of Violence Theory." The theory is broken into three phases. The first phase is tension building. In this first phase there is minor battering. Phase two is acute battering incident. In the second phase the abuser takes control. The third and final phase is called, " Kindness and contrite loving behavior." This is what is known as the honeymoon period. During this phase the batterer apologizes and expresses love for the other person. The phases then restart and they become worse over time unless there is intervention. (Walker, 1979).

The second theory is her "Learned Helplessness Theory." It also contains three components. The first is information about what will happen. This is when the woman begins to learn what will happen to her. The second is thinking or cognitive representation about what will happen. In this phase the woman knows what is going to happen to her, but many times does not react to it. The third is behavior toward what does happen. In this phase, the woman feels she cannot change the outcome of the situation, so she does not even try to. Dr. Walker also labeled a couple of consequences from this theory such as depression and anxiety. There can also be a change in the perception of violence. Many women do not realize how hurtful or even deadly violence can be (Walker, 1979).

Throughout her work, Dr. Walker has developed ways to treat family violence. The first step is prevention. For prevention to occur many societal and personal changes need to take place. First is a reduction in violence in society. There needs to be an elimination of sex role stereotyping. Also a reduction in the harshness of child discipline can help prevent family violence. For women already in danger, intervention of some type needs to take place, whether it is from a family member, friend, or even a stranger. Dr. Walker also lobbied for shelters and safe houses to be built throughout the country for women to have a place to go. The next step to treat is through psychotherapy, group therapy, and couples therapy. The role of the counselor is important in these treatments. The counselor should be prepared to deal with all of the issues, including the specific battering incident, not just outward symptoms, such as depression (Walker, 1979).

Dr. Walker has spent her career fighting for the rights of victims in domestic violence situations. She has also worked to find the causes of domestic violence, as well as how to treat it. Being a woman, many criticized Dr. Walker for her feminist thinking, but she kept going and eventually made a huge impact in psychology. While many do not know of her, the work she has done on domestic violence has shaped the way people today are taught about the issue.


American Psychological Association. (1988). Lenore Walker. American Psychologist, 43.

Walker, L. (2001). Retrieved September 15, 2004 from Nova Southeastern University. www.cps.nova.edu/Faculty/Ffultime/walker/walker.html.

The Domestic Violence Institute. (2004). Dr. Lenore E. Walker. Retrieved September 15, 2004 from Psychwebs. http://www.psychwebs.com/drlewalker.htm

Walker, L. E. (1979). The battered woman. New York: Harper & Row.

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