The Influence of Childhood Maltreatment and Self-Control on Dating Violence: A Comparison of College Students in the United States and South Korea

By Gover, Angela R.; Jennings, Wesley G. et al. | Violence and Victims, May 1, 2011 | Go to article overview

The Influence of Childhood Maltreatment and Self-Control on Dating Violence: A Comparison of College Students in the United States and South Korea


Gover, Angela R., Jennings, Wesley G., Tomsich, Elizabeth A., Park, MiRang, Rennison, Callie Marie, Violence and Victims


Various aspects of social learning and self-control theories have been applied to partner violence among multiple samples in the United States, but these theoretical approaches have been less commonly studied cross-culturally. Consequently, childhood maltreatment and low self-control have been identified as risk factors for various outcomes in primarily American samples. This study examined the relationships between childhood maltreatment, low self-control, and dating violence among college students in South Korea and the United States. Findings indicated that experiencing childhood maltreatment and having low self-control were key predictors of perpetration and victimization for both psychological and physical relationship violence. Witnessing interparental violence during childhood was less consistently predictive of one's involvement in a violent dating relationship. Implications for theory and policy are discussed.

Keywords: exposure to violence; dating violence; domestic violence; cultural contexts

A great deal of empirical research has focused on dating violence perpetration and victimization (Gover, 2004; Gover, Kaukinen, & Fox, 2008; Gray & Foshee, 1997; Langhinrichsen-Rohling, Hankla, & Stormberg, 2004; Makepeace, 1981; Rennison & Welchans, 2000; Stein, Tran, & Fisher, 2009; Worth, Matthews, & Coleman, 2000). From this vast body of knowledge, it is clear that a sizeable proportion of individuals experience some type of violence within dating relationships (Rennison & Welchans, 2000; Straus & Gelles, 1990; Tjaden & Thoennes, 2000). Empirical work has also demonstrated that dating violence comes in multiple forms, including physical violence and psychological abuse (Johnson, 1995, 2001, 2006; Johnson & Leone, 2005), and that risk factors of both victimization and perpetuation of dating violence often overlap (e.g., Foshee, Linder, MacDougall, & Bangdiwala, 2001; Gover et al., 2008; Langhinrichsen-Rohling et al., 2004). Research further indicated that dating violence is not a phenomenon perpetuated only by males and experienced only by females (Fergusson, Boden, & Horwood, 2008; Magdol et al., 1997; Rennison & Welchans, 2000; Tjaden & Thoennes, 2000). For example, Straus and Gelles (1986) provided empirical evidence that both men and women perpetrate violence within intimate relationships.

Several theories have been applied to the understanding of victimization and perpetration. Two of the most commonly invoked theories are social learning theory and selfcontrol theory. Social learning theory suggests that individuals learn behaviors in childhood through observation of parents or guardians, and replicate those behaviors in their own lives (Akers & Sellers, 2009; Bandura, 1973; Lewis & Fremouw, 2001). Comparatively, self-control theory predicts that criminal perpetration may be determined by an individual's lack of self-control; however, self-control theory has been applied to many recent studies focusing on victimization as well (Baron, Forde, & Kay, 2007; Finkel & Campbell, 2001; Holtfreter, Reisig, & Pratt, 2008; Schreck, Stewart, & Fisher, 2006, Schreck, Wright, & Miller, 2002; Sellers, 1999).

Although our knowledge of dating violence comes from a rich and informative theoretical and empirical literature, it is limited by a relative lack of a comparative research (Fisher & Wilkes, 2003). That is, the bulk of our understanding stems from data gathered in the United States. Additionally, psychological abuse is commonly left unexamined, with the focus being on physical abuse. A comparative approach offers the possibility for a greater understanding about the predictors of dating violence perpetration and victimization. For example, one limitation of prior research is the inconsistent findings reported for the impact of social learning variables on relationship violence. Further, without a comparative focus, it remains unknown whether research findings are generalizable to other contexts and to other countries. …

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