Beginning with Makepeace's (1981) pioneering work on dating violence, research has continued to present a sobering picture of the extent to which violence occurs in dating and courtship relationships (Perry & Fromuth, 2005). This violence is not strictly confined to one gender, as both men and women are victimized with women using as much or more violence against their male partners (Marcus & Swett, 2002). For instance, O'Keefe and Treister (1998) report that 45.5% of males and 43.2% of females have experienced at least one incident of physical aggression from dating partners during the course of their dating. The high prevalence rates for dating violence, first noted over 20 years ago by Roscoe (1985), indicate the degree to which violence in dating continues to be acceptable (Pleck, 2004).
A number of factors that may contribute to the acceptance of dating violence have been identified in previous research. These include parental violence experienced as a child (Foshee, Ennett, Bauman, Benefield, & Suchindran, 2005; Lichter & McCloskey, 2004), the seriousness, importance, and length of the dating relationship (Neufeld, McNamara, & Ertl, 1999; O'Keefe, 1997), being humiliated by a partner (Taylor & Sorenson, 2005), and justness of retaliation to violence initiated by a partner (Frieze, 2005). However, additional factors that may be critical to examine based on the extensive media attention they have generated, are those relating to sports participation.
Several studies have focused on the relationship between acceptability of dating violence and sports participation (e.g., Forbes, Adams-Curtis, Pakalka, & White, 2006; Bloom & Smith, 1996; Crosset, Ptacek, McDonald, & Benedict, 1996; Mintah, Huddleston, & Doody, 1999). According to Forbes et al. (2006), males who were active in high school sports were more approving of dating violence and physical aggression. Unfortunately, these studies focused on athletic involvement as a global, uni-dimensional concept. In actuality, athletic involvement is a complex variable, comprising several dimensions, some of which may be more salient to the acceptability of dating violence than others. It may be that only some of the characteristics of athletic involvement are associated with the acceptability of violence.
Interestingly, Rossi, Schuerman, and Budde (1999) found characteristics of the individual (respondent-level characteristics) to be less important than characteristics of the situation (case-level characteristics) in decisions regarding abuse and neglect. That is, characteristics of violent interactions themselves were found to be more important in judgments about violence than the personal characteristics of the respodents making the judgments. This would suggest that characteristics of athletic involvement may be less important predictors of the acceptability of dating violence than characteristics reflecting the dynamics of dating violence interaction.
Because of the complexity of factors influencing individuals' perceptions of violence, Miller and Bukva (2001) argue that respondent- and case-level characteristics need to be examined concurrently. This strategy is followed in the present study. In addition to the three respondent-level characteristics of athleticism (i.e., athletic participation, competitiveness, and need to win), three characteristics of violent couple interactions that may relate to the acceptability of violence are also included in the study: initiator's violence, recipient's reaction, and the initiator-recipient gender combination.
Athletics and Acceptability of Dating Violence
Perhaps no social issue in sports has received more media attention in the past decade than male athletes' violence against women. A significant number of male athletes have made more headlines off the field than on due to their violence in intimate relationships (Crosset, 1999). Media stories about the aggressive acts of high school, collegiate, and professional athletes continue to appear in the news (e. …