Prevention of Dating Violence on College Campuses: An Innovative Program

Article excerpt

An innovative psychoeducational intervention designed to raise awareness, teach skills, and affect attitudes toward dating violence was presented to fraternity and sorority members. The content of the intervention focused specifically on ways that stereotypical and misogynistic beliefs contribute to dating violence. Initial evaluation indicated that the participants had significantly fewer stereotypical gender role attitudes that support dating violence. Implications are presented for the prevention of dating violence.

Dating violence is a significant problem on college campuses that requires preventive interventions (Hage, 2000; Knox, Custis, & Zustnan, 2000). In addition, sexist and stereotypical attitudes that support abusive dating behavior have been recognized as potential risk factors (Franchina, Eisler, & Moore, 2001; Riggs & O'Leary, 1996). Previous research has found that fraternity and sorority membership is related to stereotypical beliefs concerning gender differences and dating violence (Kalof & Cargill, 1991; Worth, Matthews, & Coleman, 1990), suggesting that fraternity and sorority members may be at high risk for involvement in dating violence. In this article, we evaluate current approaches by college counseling centers to prevent dating violence, describe a new prevention program, and discuss the effectiveness of this intervention for sorority and fraternity members.

It has been estimated that 1 in 3 college students has experienced or been the initiator of violence in a dating relationship (Lloyd, 1991 ; Thompson, 1991). Foo and Margolin (1995) estimated that more than one fifth of the undergraduate dating population are physically abused by their dating partners. It has been suggested that an even greater percentage of dating partners are psychologically abused than are physically abused (Sharpe & Taylor, 1999). Furthermore, research has shown that verbal abuse is related to physical aggression and that psychological abuse may precede physical abuse (Magdol et al., 1997).

Research has found the effectiveness of treating adults who have committed intimate violence to be limited, with outcome studies often finding high recidivism rates (e.g., Gondolf, 1999; Schwartz & Waldo, 2003), thus indicating a need for alternative approaches that are focused on prevention (Hage, 2000). Although the prevalence and variables associated with college dating violence have been well researched, a dearth of information exists with regard to innovative and successful intervention programs.

Often, university counseling centers conduct preventive interventions for dating violence in the form of educational presentations by counseling center staff. However, research indicates several limitations of this approach. First, the focus is often on the education of potential victims rather than on changing variables (e.g., attitudes, beliefs concerning dating violence) of both parties potentially involved in dating violence. In addition, it has been questioned if didactic presentations by staff are relevant to college students' life context (Kuffel & Katz, 2002). Identifying vehicles that convey factual messages and still capture the interest of a college student audience can be particularly challenging. Traditional efforts in psychoeducation often take the form of didactic presentations in a lecture format (Kuffel & Katz, 2002); however, peer-initiated interventions have been found to be more successful, particularly in increasing self-efficacy (Story, Lytle, Birnbaum, & Perry, 2002). Finally, criticism of education efforts about partner violence includes the concern that many programs focus on the individial and fall short of promoting cultural change (Hong, 2000). Thus, it has been suggested that the social and cultural factors that underlie intimate violence need to be addressed in preventive interventions (Hage, 2000; Walker, 1989), including attitudes and beliefs regarding dating violence (Slep, Cascardi, Avery-Leaf, & O'Leary, 2001). …


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