Empirically Examining Theoretical Barriers and Catalysts To Engaging Men in Violence Prevention
In response to high intimate partner violence prevalence rates among college students, schools across the country have increased their efforts to prevent men’s perpetration of violence against women. To date, research examining the efficacy of these programs indicates that they are successful in reducing men’s violence-accepting attitudes and may even reduce men’s behavioral intentions to commit violence. However, the violence prevention field has yet to address the issue of men’s under-representation in prevention efforts.
Only a minority of men are violent, and recently prevention advocates have stressed the importance of engaging non-violent men in ending violence against women. Non-violent men can have an influence on the culture and environment that perpetuates men’s violence against women by challenging and ultimately changing the social norms that support it. Though the number of violence prevention interventions for college men has recently increased, it is imperative that an understanding of barriers and catalysts for men’s involvement inform the development of such programs.
The current study addresses gaps in the prevention literature regarding men’s involvement in preventing violence against women by examining the relationship between conformity to traditional masculine norms, men’s support for gender equality, violence, and violence prevention self-efficacy.
Participants included 349 heterosexual males aged 18 to 25 years old (M = 20.94 years, SD = 2.17 years) from across the United States. Data was collected using a survey administered via the internet. Racially, the participants were representative of the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2005-2007 American Community Survey (2008): 64% were Caucasian, 10% were Hispanic, 8% were Asian-American, 7% were African-American, 2% identified as “Biculural,” 2% were East Indian, 1% were Middle Eastern, 2% identified as “Other,” and 4% preferred not to identify their race.
Structural equation modeling was used to test a hypothesized model specifying relationships between men’s conformity to traditional masculine norms, violence prevention self-efficacy, experiences of relationship violence, and support for gender equality. The hypothesized structural model demonstrated excellent fit to the data: χ2(67, N = 349) = 161.53, p ≤ .01; RMSEA = 0.06; TLI = .98; CFI = .96; WRMR = 1.05.
Findings indicate men who conform to traditional masculine norms are more likely to and experience violence in their relationships, and they report less violence prevention self-efficacy. However, men’s support for gender equality mediates the relationship between conformity to traditional masculine norms and violence prevention self-efficacy. Specifically, more conformity to masculine norms is related to less support for gender equality; and greater support for gender equality is related to higher levels of violence prevention self-efficacy.
Conclusions and Implications
Findings suggest that to reduce men’s violence towards women in intimate relationships, men’s conformity to masculine norms must be reduced. However, to increase men’s willingness to become involved in violence prevention efforts, men’s active support for gender equality must be increased. To successfully engage men as allies in violence prevention, activists must encourage men to examine the relationship between gender and violence.