Academic journal article Violence and Victims

Attitudinal Acceptance of Intimate Partner Violence among U.S. Adults

Academic journal article Violence and Victims

Attitudinal Acceptance of Intimate Partner Violence among U.S. Adults

Article excerpt

Attitudinal acceptance of intimate partner violence (IPV) is an important correlate of violent behavior. This study examined acceptance of IPV using data collected from a nationally representative telephone survey of 5,238 adults. Multivariable logistic regression analyses were used to test for associations between sociodemographic characteristics, exposure to violence, question order, and acceptance of hitting a spouse or boyfriend/girlfriend under specific circumstances. Depending on the circumstance examined, acceptance of IPV was significantly higher among participants who were male and younger than 35; were non-White; were divorced, separated, or had never married; had not completed high school; had a low household income; or were victims of violence within the past 12 months. Participants were more accepting of women hitting men; they also were consistent'; more likely to report tolerance of IPV if they were asked first about women hitting men rather than men hitting women. Reports of IPV tolerance need to be interpreted within the context of the survey. Efforts to change IPV attitudes can be tailored to specific IPV circumstances and subgroups, and these efforts should emphasize that the use of physical violence is unacceptable to both genders.

Physical violence among intimate partners is a highly prevalent problem in the United States. In 1996, 35% of female and 3% of male homicide victims were killed by an intimate partner (Maguire & Pastore, 1998). Data collected between 1995 and 1996 with the National Violence Against Women Survey indicate that over 1.3 million women and 834,000 men were physically assaulted by an intimate partner in the past 12 months (Tjaden & Thoennes, 1998). These data also indicate that 22.1% of women and 7.4% of men reported being assaulted by an intimate partner at least once in their lifetime. Approximately 22.4 million physical assault incidents a year, or 26% of all nonfatal physical assault incidents are committed by a current or former intimate partner (Potter, Sacks, Kresnow, & Mercy, 1999).

While attitudinal acceptance of intimate partner violence (IPV) is often associated with the use of violence within intimate relationships (Briere, 1987; Eiskovits, Edleson, Guttmann, & Sela-Amit, 1991; Hanson, Cadsky, Harris, & Lalonde, 1997; Saunders, Lynch, Grayson, & Linz, 1987; Smith, 1990; Stith & Farley, 1993) relatively little is known about the prevalence of these attitudes in the U.S. and which subgroups of the general population are most accepting of IPV. One recent study examined a subsample of 524 adults from the nationally representative 1994 Gallup survey to assess approval of marital violence (Straus, Kantor, & Moore, 1997). When asked if there were "any situations that you can imagine in which you would approve of a wife slapping her husband's face," 22% said "yes." Ten percent approved of a husband slapping a wife. Previous research has also shown that reports of approval for intimate violence are tied to the context in which the violence occurs (Greenblat, 1983). The current study attempts to extend these findings by assessing approval of context-specific IPV. We will examine approval of violence that occurs after being hit by one's partner as well as violence that is used to "discipline" or control a partner.

The specific goals of the current study are (a) to determine the prevalence of tolerant attitudes toward the use of violence in intimate relationships (spouse or boy/girlfriend) within the general population of U.S. adults and (b) to examine whether levels of acceptance differ by sociodemographic characteristics. Because previous research has found that rates of violence among intimates or acceptance of IPV vary by gender, age, race/ethnicity, marital status, urbanicity, income, and education levels (Greenfeld et al., 1998; Holtzworth-Munroe, Smutzler, & Bates, 1997; Straus, Kantor, & Moore, 1997), we hypothesized that these factors might be associated with acceptance of IPV in the current study. …

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