Academic journal article Violence and Victims

What Happens after I Hit? A Qualitative Analysis of the Consequences of Dating Violence for Female Perpetrators

Academic journal article Violence and Victims

What Happens after I Hit? A Qualitative Analysis of the Consequences of Dating Violence for Female Perpetrators

Article excerpt

Objectives: The primary goal of this study is to qualitatively examine reinforcing and punishing consequences following the perpetration of physical aggression by women in dating relationships because recent theoretical conceptualizations of intimate partner violence have emphasized an examination of such consequences. Method: Participants were 25 undergraduate women in current dating relationships who reported previous perpetration of physical dating violence and completed a qualitative, theoretically based interview on the consequences of their aggression perpetration. Results: Findings demonstrated that violent episodes resulted in both reinforcing and punishing consequences, with 100% of instances resulting in reinforcing consequences for the perpetrator and 76% classified as punishing, which were divided into 15 different classes of outcomes. Conclusions: These findings suggest that dating violence prevention programming could focus their efforts on increasing use of nonaggressive behaviors leading to reinforcing outcomes among dating couples during conflict resolution. This also has important implications for theoretical models of intimate partner violence.

Keywords: dating violence; reinforcement; aggression; behavioral theory

Dating violence among college students is a serious and devastating problem in the United States and internationally (Straus, 2008). Research indicates that the prevalence of dating violence ranges from 20% to 30% for physical and sexual aggression and from 70% to 90% for psychological aggression (Desmarais, Reeves, Nicholls, Telford, & Fiebert, 2012; Shorey, Cornelius, & Bell, 2008a). Perpetration of dating violence appears stable across time, with rates of perpetration remaining relatively consistent across 2.5 years (Capaldi, Shortt, & Crosby, 2003). Although it is clear that both men and women perpetrate dating aggression, recent research suggests that women perpetrate at similar or greater rates than males, and less research has focused on variables that influence female perpetration specifically. For example, Desmarais and colleagues (2012) recently conducted a thorough and comprehensive review of the literature and found that across several studies and different statistical methodologies, women perpetrated more physical violence in intimate relationships and concluded that the findings underscored the need for research aimed at understanding women's use of violence in intimate relationships. That is, although we must not minimize the consequences to female victims, which can be quite severe (Archer, 2000), we also need to draw attention to the range of potentially harmful consequences for male victims of dating violence. These include risks to physical health such as broken bones, chronic disease, and injuries to internal organs as well as risks to mental health, such as depression and anxiety (Coker et al., 2002; Hines & Malley-Morrison, 2001). Given these problematic outcomes, it is important to better understand factors that increase the probability of dating violence perpetration because these could become the focus of intervention efforts aimed at reducing aggressive behavior. Recent theory on intimate partner violence (IPV; i.e., Bell & Naugle, 2008) has called for an examination of the consequences of perpetrating dating aggression because it is believed that reinforcing consequences following acts of aggression may increase risk for perpetrating future aggression. Given the high rates of female perpetration in college samples, it is important that research systematically examine factors related to women's perpetration of dating violence. Therefore, this study qualitatively examined the proximal consequences following perpetration of physical aggression among female perpetrators of dating violence. This study extends previous research by examining the range of consequences of perpetration for female perpetrators using qualitative methods, which allows a better contextual analysis of the consequences for individual violent episodes for the dating couple. …

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