Domestic Violence Beliefs and Perceptions among College Students

By Nabors, Erin L.; Dietz, Tracy L. et al. | Violence and Victims, December 2006 | Go to article overview
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Domestic Violence Beliefs and Perceptions among College Students


Nabors, Erin L., Dietz, Tracy L., Jasinski, Jana L., Violence and Victims


This study builds on current research, investigating the relationships between sociodemographic variables and domestic violence attitudes and beliefs among college students. Data from the Relationship Characteristics Study conducted in 2001, which includes a sample of 1,938 college students, are used to replicate and extend the research of Carlson and Worden (2001, 2005), the developers of the attitudes and beliefs items. In addition, the research portends to analyze factors associated with domestic violence causation endorsement, physical and sexual abuse, stalking, and verbal abuse beliefs, including gender, race and ethnicity, university year, parents' education, family income, parents' marital status, and relationship status. Results are consistent with the rates reported by the item developers. Further, results demonstrate that sociodemographic variables are correlated with physical and sexual abuse and verbal abuse beliefs and causation endorsement.

Keywords: dating violence; intimate partner violence; public opinions; attitudes; partner abuse

With more than three decades of research on intimate partner violence, domestic violence is now generally recognized as a serious social problem. However, despite existing research evidence (Sugarman & Hotaling, 1989 ), it is not as widely known that dating couples are significantly more likely to be violent in their relationships than married couples. Specifically, college students experience extremely high rates of dating violence that range between 20% and 50% (Bryant & Spencer, 2003; Lloyd, 1991; Makepeace, 1981, 1986; Shook, Gerrity, Jurich, & Segrist, 2000; Straus, 2004). Because dating violence among college students is such a widespread problem, it is important to understand what lies at the foundation of this type of abuse. One possible factor is a belief system supporting the use of violence against intimate partners.

Researchers have found a strong correlation between beliefs supportive of domestic violence and acts of intimate partner violence (Archer & Graham-Kevan, 2003; Archer & Haigh, 1999; Bryant & Spencer, 2003; Riggs & O'Leary, 1996). However, studies investigating the question of who is most likely to hold beliefs accepting domestic violence are limited in both number and scope and often arrive at inconsistent findings. The current study provides an analysis of the relationships between sociodemographic variables and beliefs supportive of domestic violence among college students using recently available data from the Relationship Characteristics Study (Dietz & Jasinski, 2003). In addition, the results from this study also contribute to the understanding of a newly developed scale to measure beliefs about domestic violence (Carlson & Worden, 2005; Worden & Carlson, 2005). With the knowledge provided by this research, prevention programs can be more effectively directed toward college students who are most likely to hold beliefs supportive of domestic violence.

LITERATURE REVIEW

Dating Violence Among College Students

Undeniably, college students experience exceptionally high rates of dating violence. Worldwide figures from the International Dating Violence Survey (Straus, 2004 ) suggest that anywhere from 17% to 45% of university students had physically assaulted their intimate partner in the year prior to the survey, and up to 20% had assaulted their partner so severely as to cause injury. In fact, rates of severe violence among university students are considerably higher than among the general population (see, e.g., Tjaden & Thoennes, 2000). Results from the International Dating Violence Survey (Straus, 2004) indicate that between 4% and 20% of students had used severe forms of violence, including using a gun or knife on their partner, punching or hitting with a solid object, choking, slamming their partner against a wall repeatedly, beating up their partner, purposefully burning or scalding their partner, or kicking their partner (Straus, 2004).

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