Sexism or Control: The Centrality of Control in Young Men's Intimate Partner Violence Perpetration
Methods: Data were from a cross-sectional online survey of mostly white male undergraduate students from a public Southeast University with 28% responding. Respondents were 27% fresher, 17% sophomore, 29% junior, and 26% senior, with a mean age of 20 (SD=1.74). The survey measured attitudes of male dominance and hostile sexism, desire for control, and IPV perpetration. A mediation analysis using multinomial logistic regression was used (Baron and Kenny, 1986). Independent variables were male dominance, hostility toward women, and control-seeking. Age was a control variable. The dependent variable was IPV perpetration: physical IPV = 2, psychological only IPV =1, or no IPV=0 (reference category). Analyses were conducted with Stata/SE version 12.
Results: Results suggest control-seeking mediates the relationship between male dominance and IPV and partially mediates the relationship between hostility toward women and IPV. After controlling for age, male dominance was a significant predictor only of physical IPV (physical IPV OR=1.18, p=.005). The addition of control-seeking (physical OR=1.65, p<.001) mediated the influence of male dominance on physical IPV perpetration (physical OR=1.019, p=.772). Hostility toward women was a significant predictor of physical and psychological IPV (psychological IPV OR=1.31, p<.001; physical IPV OR=1.54, p<.001). The addition of control-seeking (psychological IPV OR=1.27, p<.001; physical OR=1.52, p<.001), partially mediated the influence of hostility toward women on IPV (psychological IPV OR=1.21, p=.001; physical OR=1.34, p<.001).
Conclusions and Implications: Results support that control-seeking plays a central role in much IPV. Social work practitioners working with youth and young adults especially should include a focus on control-seeking in relationships. To the extent that added content implies reductions, addition of control-seeking should be at the expense of male dominance but not of hostility toward women. Research into the factors that contribute to control-motivated IPV is warranted based on these preliminary findings. Theoretical implications will be discussed.