Abstract: The Directionality of Intimate Partner Violence: Sexual Orientation and the Predictions of Perpetration and Victimization Among Men (Society for Social Work and Research 25th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Social Change)

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624P The Directionality of Intimate Partner Violence: Sexual Orientation and the Predictions of Perpetration and Victimization Among Men

Tuesday, January 19, 2021
* noted as presenting author
Bobby Younce, Doctoral Student, The University of Utah, College of Social Work, Salt Lake City, UT
Philip Osteen, PhD, Associate Professor, Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL
Jodi Frey, PhD, LCSW-C, Associate Professor, University of Maryland at Baltimore, Baltimore, MD
Background and Purpose: Historically, intimate partner violence (IPV) researchers have used a gendered narrative with men perceived as IPV perpetrators on female partners; however, Nowinski and Bowen (2012) reported rates of men experiencing victimization from IPV as nearly identical to rates of victimization among women. Little is known about the directionality of IPV among men, and directionality has significant implications for services delivery. Unidirectional IPV involves one victim and one perpetrator, whereas bidirectional violence involves both partners experiencing perpetration and victimization.

Sexual orientation, conceptualized here as same- or mixed-gendered partners, may impact the directionality of IPV among men. Additionally, directionality and common correlates of IPV (e.g., depression, anger, alcohol) have not been studied. This study answers two research questions: (1) Is IPV directionality associated with depression, anger, and alcohol use? (2) Is IPV directionality associated with sexual orientation after controlling for common correlates.

Methods: Data come from a larger RCT on the effectiveness of online suicide intervention among working-age men (ages 24-64). Men were recruited throughout Michigan, and sample demographics closely mirror U.S. Census Bureau data for MI. The current sample only includes men in relationships (n=257). The sample is predominantly white (80%) and in a mixed-gendered relationship (83%). Data were collected on-line 2-weeks after study randomization. We used the HANDS to measure depression; the DSM-5 APA Cross-Cutting Measure single-item to measure anger; and AUDIT-C to measure alcohol use. IPV was measured using the Psychological Aggression Scale. Data were analyzed using multinomial logistic regression.

Results: Data reveal high levels of IPV, with 84% of men reporting bidirectional IPV, 10% reporting unidirectional IPV, and 6% reporting no IPV. IPV correlates (depression, anger, alcohol use) were not statistically significant. Sexual orientation was a statistically significant predictor after controlling for the other covariates. Sexual orientation did not predict bidirectional versus unidirectional IPV (OR=.99, p=.98). Men in mixed-gender relationships were seven times more likely than men in same-gendered relationships to report bidirectional IPV compared to no IPV (p=.001). Similar results were observed for unidimensional IPV compared to no IPV (OR=7.23, p=.02).

Conclusion and Implications: The high occurrence of IPV in this sample is notable, especially given the counts of bidirectional IPV. Male victimization is likely under-reported, and the rates reported in this sample may reflect a relationship between victimization and mental health and/or a greater likelihood of reporting victimization through online formats. Approximately 95% of men scored “likely” or “very likely” for major depression; this restricted range likely impacted the predictive utility of HANDS scores. Results that men in mixed-gender relationships were more likely to report bidirectional and unidirectional IPV compared to men in same-gender relationships was unanticipated. Adherence to traditional social norms among men could lead to missed opportunities to identify IPV among men. Research using samples with more variability in mental health may further extricate the association between sexual orientation and IPV and suggest strategies for working with men to decrease IPV.