Prevalence of Dating Violence and Victimization: Regional and Gender Differences

Article excerpt

Over the past two decades, a substantial amount of research has been devoted to violence in partner relationships within various groups. While the violence that occurs in the relationships of college-aged men and women, cohabiters, or married couples may not be of the same nature as that which occurs in adolescent dating, it has been suggested that abuse in high school dating relationships can establish a pattern of violence that may carry over into later relationships, affect marriage, and have lifelong consequences (Roscoe & Callahan, 1985; Roscoe & Kelsey, 1986; Halpern, Oslak, Young, Martin, & Kupper, 2001), including various eating disorders (Thompson, Wonderlich, Crosby, & Mitchell, 2001). Since the experience of partner violence begins, on average, around 15 (O'Keefe, Brockopp, & Chew, 1986) and affects 10- 35% of high school students either as victims or as perpetrators, this period of adolescence provides a window of opportunity to address violence and abuse in partner relationships as an important health issue (Wekerle & Wolfe, 1998; Silverman, Raj, Mucci, & Hathaway, 2001), and therefore, represents a critical time for fundamental prevention and intervention.

Examining reported prevalence rates of adolescent dating violence is important for quantifying the problem, but these areas have varied greatly in the literature, ranging from 10% to 50% (Archer & Ray, 1989; Foshee, Linder, MacDougall, & Bangdiwala, 2001; Lewis & Fremouw, 2001; Silverman et al., 2001). As noted by Jackson (1999), there are a number of methodological explanations for these discrepancies. In many of the studies by social class, ethnicity or racial identity is confounded with urban or rural community residence which may lead to inconsistent results (Harway & Liss, 1999). Furthermore, comparisons between studies have been difficult because units of measurement often vary. In spite of these concerns, previous research has indicated that there is evidence that prevalence rates for violence in partner relationships may vary from one sample population to the next and, specifically, from one region of the country to the next (Laner & Thompson, 1982; Sugarman & Hotaling, 1989). With the exception of the Halpern et al. (2001) study on adolescent partner violence, no published study to date has inclnded a sample base wide enough to allow comparisons on dating violence between one sub-population and another.

Additionally, within prevalence studies, the widespread use of Straus' (1979) Conflict Tactics (CT) scales had led many to conclude that dating violence, particularly in adoiescent relationships, is perpetrated by both men and women alike (Avery-Leaf, Cascardi, O'Leary, & Cano, 1997; Henton, Cate, Koval, Lloyd, & Christopher, 1983; Foshee, Linder, & Bauman, et al., 1996; Halpern et al., 2001). Reported violence in adult relationships is more frequently reported as perpetrated by males toward their female partners, while adolescent patterns of violence and abuse appear to be less differentiated by gender (Martin, 1990). However, violence perpetrated by males is generally more severe with females being approximately 10 times more likely to be killed by an intimate partner than are males (U.S. Department of Justice, 1998). There is also evidence that females are more likely than males to describe their violent behavior as self-defense in nature, while males are more likely to describe their aggressive behavior as motivated by needs to intimidate, control, or coerce (Jasinski & Williams, 1998; Follingstad, Rutledge, McNeill-Harkins, & Polek, 1992).

While, historically, research has focused on individual-level variables to identify those most at risk for victimization or perpetration of dating violence, the acceptance of violence (Sigelman, Berry, & Wiles, 1984; Straus, 1980; Symonds, 1978) and the influence of institutional or regional themes are possible correlates (Bernard & Bernard, 1983; Brodbelt, 1983; Straus, 1977) worth exploring. …