Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Men's Aggression toward Women: A 10-Year Panel Study

Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Men's Aggression toward Women: A 10-Year Panel Study

Article excerpt

The present study examined the longitudinal course of men's physical and psychological aggression toward a partner across 10 years, using a community sample of young couples (N = 194) from at-risk backgrounds. Findings indicated that men's aggression decreased over time and that women's antisocial behavior and depressive symptoms predicted changes in men's aggression. This suggests the importance of studying social processes within the dyad to have a better understanding of men's aggression toward a partner.

Key Words: aggression, antisocial behavior, depressive symptoms, longitudinal.

Aggression toward a partner in both physically and verbally or emotionally abusive forms has very negative outcomes for adults, including injury (Archer, 2000) and relationship breakdown (Lawrence & Bradbury, 2001). Understanding intraindividual changes in partner aggression would be highly informative for prevention and treatment programs and thus is a key research priority. Several studies on nationally representative and community samples have indicated that the prevalence rates of aggression toward a partner tend to be highest at young ages and to decrease with age (Archer; Gelles & Straus, 1988). On the basis of cross-sectional data, O'Leary (1999) estimated that the prevalence of physical aggression by men would show a sharp rise from ages 15-25 years, a peak prevalence at around age 25 years, and a sharp decline to about age 35 years. Studies of partner aggression, however, have mainly been confined to either cross-sectional or short-term longitudinal data and are primarily descriptive; thus, little is known about the important issues of desistance and persistence in men's aggression toward a partner, especially across the ages of the early 20s through early 30s, and how these intraindividual changes unfold over time.

Evidence from other areas of couples' research, such as clinical and social psychological research on interpersonal processes in couples relationships (see Robins, Caspi, & Moffitt, 2000, for further discussion), have all indicated that characteristics of both men and women play a crocial role in the adjustment of male-female romantic dyads. Such dyadic perspectives have remained relatively unattended in the partner aggression field, however, despite findings from recent developmental research in the past 10 years on the dyadic nature of aggression in couples (e.g., Andrews, Foster, Capaldi, & Hops, 2000; Capaldi & Clark, 1998; Magdol, Moffitt, Capsi, & Silva, 1998; Woodward, Fergusson, & Horwood, 2002). Men's aggression has been routinely viewed as a result of men's own characteristics, whereas possible partner effects or relational aspects within the dyad have been less considered (Capaldi & Kim, 2007). Partly because of failure to recognize partner effects and relational aspects, partner aggression has been viewed as a static phenomenon rather than an evolving process. Consequently, both the longer term course of partner aggression and the processes underlying intraindividual change over time are not well understood. The major goals of the present study were to increase understanding of the long-term course of partner aggression for men, including both physical and psychological aggression, and of the individual and relationship factors that predicted increases or decreases in aggression over time. To address these goals, trajectories of men's physical and psychological aggression were each examined over 10 years in early adulthood (early 20s through early 30s). Predictors examined include both men's and their partners' psychopathology (antisocial behavior and depressive symptoms), as well as relationship satisfaction and characteristics of the relationship.


Studies on samples of young adults, such as cohabiting or newlywed couples (Aldarondo, 1996; Mihalic, Elliott, & Menard, 1994) and the National Family Violence Survey (Feld & Straus, 1990), have been consistent in finding desistance rates of around 50% over a 1 -year period for men who had shown any violence (suggesting that persistence rates were also around 50%). …

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