The Society for Social Work and Research

2013 Annual Conference

January 16-20, 2013 I Sheraton San Diego Hotel and Marina I San Diego, CA

Sense of Entitlement and Dating Abuse Among College Students

Sunday, January 20, 2013: 8:45 AM
Executive Center 3B (Sheraton San Diego Hotel & Marina)
* noted as presenting author
Corinne Warrener, MSW, Research Associate, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ

Although rigorous data about the nature, prevalence and sequelae of dating violence are becoming more readily available, perpetration in dating relationships remains understudied.  The dating violence literature overwhelmingly focuses on victimization and the small amount of information on perpetration has focused on gender roles and the debate over whether men or women perpetrate more frequently; this leaves a major gap in understanding the characteristics of perpetration.  A potentially important area that has not been fully explored is the connection between dating violence and the personality construct of entitlement.  Existing research provides evidence that entitlement is connected to aggression within non-intimate relationships, however this has yet to be explored in the area of intimate relationships such as dating.

The purpose of the presentation is to explore the relationship between sense entitlement and dating violence perpetration.  Entitlement is understood as the act of privileging oneself over the partner.  The study uses Self Salience Theory as a foundation for understanding the relationships between entitlement, gender, and externalizing behaviors such as abuse and aggression.  Self Salience Theory helps explain how these variables work together and the current study seeks to confirm the theory’s hypotheses.


Data comes from a population based survey of undergraduate and graduate students at a private university in the Northeast.  Students completed an online, anonymous questionnaire.  For this presentation, only those in the emerging adulthood phase will be included in the analysis to capture trends for this developmental stage (n=541).  Multiple imputation was used to account for missing data.


Results indicate significant correlations between sense of entitlement and emotional abuse, economic abuse, and physical abuse, but not sexual abuse.  Furthermore, entitlement and social desirability are significantly correlated, indicating that people with higher entitlement are less likely to give socially desirable responses.  T-tests indicate significant differences in gender and entitlement, with women having a higher score.  Women were also found to have higher scores than men for physical abuse and emotional abuse.


The findings of the study have implications for practice, policy, and research.  In terms of practice, a better understanding of how entitlement impacts behavior will help inform intervention strategies.  Entitlement could be used as a screening mechanism for practitioners and be targeted as an area for intervention by challenging ideas about entitlement and fostering discussions about the individual rights of both people in a relationship.  Prevention efforts can also target faulty beliefs about entitlement.  This study is of particular importance because it samples from an entire student population, rather than targeting an offender sample.  Furthermore, it examines both male and female perpetration and seeks to explain trends across both sexes.  The study also examines a range of abusive rather than focusing on just physical abuse, as is common in the literature.  Finally, the study confirms certain hypotheses of Self Salience Theory and contributes to the foundation of the theory by exploring it within the context of intimate dating relationships.  Future research can continue to explore the hypotheses of this theory.