Abstract: Intimate Partner Violence in Interracial Couples: A Comparison to White and Ethnic Minority Monoracial Couples (Society for Social Work and Research 14th Annual Conference: Social Work Research: A WORLD OF POSSIBILITIES)

12855 Intimate Partner Violence in Interracial Couples: A Comparison to White and Ethnic Minority Monoracial Couples

Saturday, January 16, 2010: 11:00 AM
Pacific Concourse L (Hyatt Regency)
* noted as presenting author
Rachel A. Fusco, PhD , University of Pittsburgh, Assistant Professor, Pittsburgh, PA
Purpose: There is evidence that intimate partner violence (IPV) looks different between White and ethnic minority monoracial couples, but little is known about IPV in interracial couples. Interracial couples may experience the racism and discrimination ethnic minority monoracial couples face without a strong social support network to buffer negative effects. This decreased social support may place interracial couples at increased risk for IPV, and also at elevated risk of more severe and chronic IPV compared to monoracial couples. This exploratory study aims to better understand IPV in interracial couples by answering the following question: Are IPV characteristics of interracial couples different from IPV characteristics of White and ethnic minority monoracial couples?

Method: Police collected data on every IPV event in a municipality over a one year period (N=1,562). Demographic characteristics were used to code couples as either interracial, White, or ethnic minority monoracial. Descriptive statistics were utilized to develop a clearer picture of the couples in this municipality. To understand the differences in IPV event characteristics between interracial and monoracial couples, odds ratios with 95% confidence intervals were calculated. Two models were developed, one comparing interracial racial couples to monoracial White couples and another comparing interracial couples to monoracial ethnic minority couples.

Results: Odds ratios showed differences in IPV between interracial and ethnic minority monoracial couples. Interracial couples were more likely to have a history of prior abuse, engage in mutual assault, and have the perpetrator arrested than ethnic minority monoracial couples. Victims of IPV in interracial couples were also slightly more likely to be injured in the violence. However, there were no significant differences between the couples in terms of substance use or children present during the IPV event. Differences between interracial and White monoracial couples also emerged. Interracial couples were more likely to have children present during an IPV event, to have a prior report of IPV, to have the IPV result in a victim injury, and to have a perpetrator arrested than White couples. Interracial couples were more likely to engage in mutual assault than White couples. However, interracial couples were about 50% less likely than White couples to use drugs or alcohol before or during the IPV event.

Conclusions: IPV in interracial couples shows unique differences compared to violence in monoracial couples. Although IPV in these couples was more chronic and severe, substance use was not a factor. Clearly there are other factors contributing to serious violence in interracial couples. The number of interracial couples in the U.S. continues to grow, and there is evidence that these couples are under stress from their environment which may place them at greater risk for IPV. More research on this population is needed to better understand the unique challenges and needs these couples face so they can be provided with appropriate services and resources to help them sustain successful partnerships.