Society for Social Work and Research

Sixteenth Annual Conference Research That Makes A Difference: Advancing Practice and Shaping Public Policy
11-15 January 2012 I Grand Hyatt Washington I Washington, DC

17392 The Impact of Multiple Forms of Victimization On Women's Use of Violence In a Random Sample of Incarcerated Women

Thursday, January 12, 2012: 2:30 PM
Constitution D (Grand Hyatt Washington)
* noted as presenting author
Echo A. Rivera, MA, Graduate Assistant, Michigan State University, E Lansing, MI
Sheryl Pimlott Kubiak, PhD, Associate Professor, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI
Deborah Bybee, PhD, Professor, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI
Lee R. Eshelman, BA, Research Assistant, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI
Background and Purpose: Attention to women's use of violence, particularly in partner relationships, has been of increasing interest among scholars, practitioners and policymakers. While some argue that there is no difference between men's and women's use of, or motivations for violence, others believe that gendered differences exist in both areas. To date, most of the research on women's use of violence has focused on partner relationships but there is little research examining the complex relationship between victimization history and perpetration of violence across partners and non-partners. In addition, much of the current research on the association between perpetration and victimization has been conducted using convenience samples of students. This study examines the context for violent behavior among a marginalized population of women to understand the relationships between cumulative victimization and perpetration of violence across targets.

Methods: A survey was collected from a random stratified sample of incarcerated women (N=574) in one Midwestern prison. Completion of the survey was voluntary and anonymous. This analysis focuses on variables related to current /past criminal behavior; victimization and perpetration of physical abuse and intimidation by/toward partners and non-partners; and personality inventories (e.g., anger, conduct problems). Hierarchical and k-means cluster analyses were used to group women based on patterns of perpetration toward partners and non-partners. Multinomial logistic regressions were conducted using victimization histories as predictors for perpetration cluster membership.

Results: Women were grouped into one of five perpetration clusters: 1) no perpetration, 2) physical abuse and intimidation toward partners, 3) physical abuse toward non-partners, 4) intimidation toward non-partners, and 5) high physical abuse and intimidation toward partners and non-partners (n=291, 109, 57, 60, 57 respectively). Clusters showed significant differences in substance use, anger and personality. For example, women in cluster #1 and #2 (no perpetration and partner perpetration) had significantly fewer substance use disorders than women in the high perpetration group (cluster #5). Similarly, women in the no perpetration group (#1) had significantly lower scores on conduct problems, antisocial personality behaviors, and instrumental /expressive anger than women in all other clusters. Victimization histories provided additional context and predictive power for understanding women's perpetration. Not only did victimization predict cluster membership, but also we found that the specific type of victimization (i.e., physical abuse or intimidation) and assailant (i.e., partner or non-partner) mattered. For example, women who experienced physical abuse by non-partners were more likely to perpetrate physical abuse toward non-partners (cluster #3; OR=14, CI=3.6-52.3). Several significant interactions emerged, providing a complex picture of how cumulative victimization history predicts perpetration cluster membership.

Conclusions and Implications: Although women's engagement in violent behavior, particularly violence that is criminal, is far less than men's, it is important to understand the patterns and likely motivations of their aggression within and outside of partner relationships. Social work practitioners and researchers interested in reducing and/or preventing sequalae associated with violence against women must consider both women's perpetration and victimization in the development and implementation of interventions designed specifically to address the cumulative impact of trauma on women's lives.

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