Academic journal article Violence and Victims

"If I Can't Have You, No One Can": Development of a Relational Entitlement and Proprietariness Scale (REPS)

Academic journal article Violence and Victims

"If I Can't Have You, No One Can": Development of a Relational Entitlement and Proprietariness Scale (REPS)

Article excerpt

Relational proprietariness and entitlement have been theoretically related to partner violence following the threat of relationship dissolution. To date, however, no measure has been employed to verify such accounts. A multistage item pool development and refinement strategy was employed, resulting in a 32-item measure with strong construct validity. An online survey administered to 279 students resulted in an interpretable factor structure of sexual proprietariness and entitlement, consisting of social, behavioral, and information control, and a potential factor of face threat reactivity. These factors added unique variance to the prediction of instrumental and expressive aggression, were related to self-esteem and attachment, and were not contaminated by social desirability. Recommendations for bolstering the face threat reactivity factor and future studies are suggested. This measure provides a new tool that contributes to the prediction of intimate partner violence.

Keywords: domestic violence; possessiveness; jealousy; proprietary beliefs; self-esteem; attachment

In the United States, about 900,000 intimate violent offenses against women occur each year. Approximately 1,300 women are victims of uxoricide, or intimate partner murder (Rennison & Welchans, 2000). Numerous studies have been conducted to examine the factors that relate to these acts of intimate violence. One of the few constructs that has been proposed as a precipitant of relational aggression is the threat, attempt, or act of leaving a romantic relationship (Brewer & Paulsen, 1999; Brewster, 2002; Campbell et al., 2003; Coleman, 1999; Davis, Ace, & Andra, 2000; Dearwater et al., 1998; Dutton & Kerry, 1999; Easteal, 1993; Farr, 2002; Fleury, Sullivan, & Bybee, 2000; Gentile, 2001; Hall, 1997; Johnson, 1995; Kennedy & Dutton, 1989; Kienlen, Birmingham, Solberg, O'Regan, & Meloy, 1997; Roberts, 2002; Serran & Firestone, 2004; Wallace, 1986). Del Ben and Fremouw (2002) found that in 70% of the cases of actual or attempted femicide, the victim had initiated relationship dissolution. In other words, research indicates that violence often occurs proximal to threats or attempts to depart the relationship, and it is the partner suggesting or attempting to depart who is most likely to suffer the consequences. The fact that violence occurs proximal to a partner's threatened or actual departure, however, does not by itself constitute evidence either of a conceptual or empirical link to proprietariness and entitlement. There are several potential problems with such an interpretation.

First, the intervals of time in previous studies vary widely, from days to months and even up to a year after partner separation (e.g., Schwartz, 1988; Smith, 1990). second, relationship breakups tend to coincide with other processes that have been suggested as causes of intimate violence, such as conflict, jealousy, anger, the discovery or suspicion of infidelity, and even simple relational dissatisfaction (Jacobson, Gottman, Gortner, Berns, & Shortt, 1996; Morton, Runyan, Moracco, & Butts, 1998; Stith, Smith, Penn, Ward, & Tritt, 2004). For example, 98% of intimate violence occurs in the context of verbal conflict (Stets, 1995). Relational conflict can reflect a variety of potential causes of both relationship dissolution and violence. Third, relationship breakups can be a result of, rather than the cause of, violence (Kurz, 1996; Sev'er, 1997). Fourth, several studies either have found no relationship between estrangement status and violence (e.g., Hilton et al., 2004; Toews, McKenry, & Catlett, 2003) or found that estrangement threat or status represented a relatively small risk factor or percentage of cases (e.g., Block & Christakos, 1995; Gondolf & Heckert, 2003). Fifth, some findings run contrary to the gender-based asymmetries generally anticipated (e.g., De Weerth & Kalma, 1993; Henning & Feder, 2004), suggesting that the phenomenon may be more complex than assumed. …

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