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

Sexism or Control: The Centrality of Control in Young Men's Intimate Partner Violence Perpetration

Sunday, January 20, 2013: 9:45 AM
Executive Center 3B (Sheraton San Diego Hotel & Marina)
* noted as presenting author
Pippin Whitaker, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC
Background and Purpose: Two million women and one million men experience rape, stalking, or physical assault by a current or former romantic partner each year in the U.S.(Tjaden & Thoennes, 2000). Not only do women report double incidents, but intimate partner violence (IPV) women experience is typically more severe (Johnson, 2006). Prominent explanations for gender asymmetry in IPV include attitudes about male dominance, hostility toward women, and men’s control-seeking (Harway & O'Neil, 1999). IPV prevention programs tend to focus on sexism more than control-seeking (Offenhauer & Buchalter, 2011). There are gaps in our knowledge of how attitudes and control co-relate to influence IPV. This study elaborates these relationships to build knowledge of IPV perpetration and to inform IPV prevention efforts.

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.