Academic journal article Violence and Victims

Gender Differences in Attitudinal Acceptance of Intimate Partner Violence Perpetration under Attachment-Relevant Contexts

Academic journal article Violence and Victims

Gender Differences in Attitudinal Acceptance of Intimate Partner Violence Perpetration under Attachment-Relevant Contexts

Article excerpt

Attachment theory has been one of the leading theoretical frameworks in the last few decades for explaining physical violence within romantic relationships. In this study, the authors examined differences in attachment patterns and attitudinal acceptance of violence perpetrated in romantic relationships among men and women. The Attitudinal Acceptance of Intimate Partner Violence questionnaire was developed to measure acceptance of intimate partner violence (IPV) under attachment-relevant contexts of abandonment, as well as other contexts identified in the literature. Results indicated that men with higher degrees of attachment anxiety were more accepting of both male- and female-perpetrated IPV under contexts of abandonment, and men with higher degrees of attachment avoidance were more accepting of female-perpetrated IPV under contexts of abandonment. Implications for research and treatment are discussed.

Keywords: IPV perpetration; physical violence; IPV acceptance; IPV justification; physical assault

Reports estimate that approximately 4.8 million and 2.9 million intimate partner assaults are committed against U.S. women and men each year, respectively, and affect around 25% of women and 7% of men in their lifetime (Tjaden & Thoennes, 2000). Although these estimates suggest that women comprise most of intimate partner violence (IPV) victims, research has continuously indicated that women perpetrate acts of IPV at rates comparable to men (Archer, 2000; Kwong, Bartholomew, & Dutton, 1999; Stets & Straus, 1990; Straus & Gelles, 1986; Swahn, Simon, Arias, & Bossarte, 2008). This latter finding is controversial and some suggest that it only reflects minor assaults initiated by men and women, as men have been shown to be more likely than women to repeatedly beat their partner during a 1-year period and inflict severe physical injury that requires medical treatment (Morse, 1995).

It is particularly important to study IPV in young adults. A growing body of evidence is documenting high frequencies of IPV in youth, beginning in adolescents, and decreasing with age. For example, Bookwala, Frieze, Smith, and Ryan (1992) reported that most of college men (55%) and women (58%) in their sample endorsed being physically aggressive with a dating partner at least once. Graves, Sechrist, White, and Paradise (2005) similarly reported that 51% of incoming freshman women said that they had been physically aggressive with a partner, although the use of violence dropped to 26% in their fourth year. Bookwala, Sobin, and Zdaniuk (2005) found that younger couples were more likely than older couples to use violence and other maladaptive conflict resolution strategies, which may place younger adults at greater risk for IPV. One important variable that has received some attention in understanding relationships characterized by violence has focused on situational dyadic processes (Langhinrichsen-Rohling, 2010), as this may inform prevention and intervention efforts for abusive relationships (McHugh, 2005).


Contexts that contribute to the occurrence of IPV are particularly hard to study because one cannot ethically observe or induce physically aggressive partner disputes in real time. Therefore, researchers have relied on retrospective self-report methods to identify potential motivating factors in IPV perpetration, and have historically identified self-defense and retaliation as contributing factors. However, reports have shown that self-defense as a motivation for physical aggression was used less than half the time in a traumatized sample of battered women (Saunders, 1986), less than 40% of the time in a sample of women court-referred to batterer intervention programs (Stuart et al., 2006), and less than 20% of the time in a sample of dating couples (Follingstad, Wright, Lloyd, & Sebastian, 1991). Retaliation was a motivation for about 35% of women attending a batterer intervention program (Stuart et al. …

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