Academic journal article Journal of College Counseling

Dating Violence and Self-Injury among Undergraduate College Students: Attitudes and Experiences

Academic journal article Journal of College Counseling

Dating Violence and Self-Injury among Undergraduate College Students: Attitudes and Experiences

Article excerpt

An Internet-based survey about dating violence and self-injury was completed by 1,777 undergraduates. A regression analysis tested if recent dating violence victimization and perpetration experiences predicted whether participants self-injured in the past 90 days, after controlling for demographic variables and attitudes toward self-injury and dating violence. Although the regression model explained only 6% of the variance in self-injury, the relationship may indicate a co-occurrence of dating violence and self-injury.


Two significant issues that can influence college students' functioning are dating violence and self-injury. Previous researchers have studied these issues as separate phenomena, but they have not determined what relationships, if any, exist between the two behaviors. The purpose of this study was to use a cross-sectional survey to explore the links between attitudes about and experiences of dating violence and self-injury among college students.

Dating Violence Among College Students

Dating violence involves abusive behaviors that occur within the context of a dating relationship, "a relationship in which two individuals share an emotional, romantic, and/or sexual connection beyond a friendship, but they are not married, engaged, or in a similarly committed relationship" (Murray & Kardatzke, 2007, p. 79). Dating violence can include various forms of abuse--including physical (Sugarman & Hotaling, 1989), sexual (Carr & VanDeusen, 2002), and psychological or emotional (Carr & VanDeusen, 2002; Murphy & Hoover, 1999)--and is common among college student populations. Reported rates of physical dating violence for college students range from 20% to 45% (Amar & Gennaro, 2005; Makepeace, 1981, 1986; Straus, 2004). Murray and Kardatzke concluded from a review of the literature that sexual dating violence victimization is experienced by approximately one third of female and one tenth of male college students. Psychological dating violence seems to be the most common form of college student dating violence, with one national study indicating that between 80% and 90% of male and female college students had been victims or perpetrators of psychological dating violence (White & Koss, 1991). Both men and women may be either perpetrators or victims of dating violence, although male-perpetrated violence is often of greater severity (Makepeace, 1986; Sugarman & Hotaling, 1989).

To better understand the aforementioned prevalence statistics, researchers have begun to explore college students' attitudes toward dating violence. West and Wandrei (2002) presented 157 college students with videotaped situations depicting dating violence victims. Their findings indicated that male students, as compared with female students, were "somewhat more likely to hold generally violence-condoning, victim-blaming attitudes" (West & Wandrei, 2002, p. 981). College students' attitudes influence their likelihood of being involved in a violent dating relationship (Carr & VanDeusen, 2002; Pipes & LeBov-Keeler, 1997). For example, dating violence perpetration seems to be more likely among individuals who are more tolerant of violence against women (Carr & VanDeusen, 2002), and people involved in abusive relationships tend to believe that dating violence is more common than it actually is (Pipes & LeBov-Keeler, 1997).

Regardless of the type of violence that occurs within an abusive dating relationship, the general function of the violence is to maintain the perpetrator's power and control over the victim within a context of domination and manipulation (Lloyd & Emery, 2000; Smith & Donnelly, 2001). This context may make it more likely that an abused dating partner will remain in the abusive relationship in that this partner may come to accept the violent behaviors as normal (Pipes & LeBov-Keeler, 1997). Thus, a victim of dating violence may become increasingly isolated within that relationship, leading to further negative consequences, such as social isolation (Lloyd & Emery, 2000), physical injury resulting from the abuse (Amar & Gennaro, 2005), and mental health problems (Amar & Gennaro, 2005; Clements, Ogle, & Sabourin, 2005; Coffey, Leitenberg, Henning, Bennett, & Jankowski, 1996). …

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