Abstract: Examining the Effects of Trauma, Depression, and Gender Roles on Men's Intimate Partner Violence Perpetration: A Mixed Methods Study (Society for Social Work and Research 25th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Social Change)

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719P Examining the Effects of Trauma, Depression, and Gender Roles on Men's Intimate Partner Violence Perpetration: A Mixed Methods Study

Tuesday, January 19, 2021
* noted as presenting author
Laura A. Voith, PhD
Hyunjune Lee, MSW, Doctoral Candidate, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, OH
Katie Russell, MSSA, Doctoral student, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, OH
Background and Purpose: Despite decades of research and significant efforts by practitioners and advocates, intimate partner violence (IPV) in the United States remains a public health issue that disproportionately affects racial/ethnic minorities. Given that factors causing IPV are likely to interact with gender, class, and race, attention to the study of IPV perpetration from the perspective of men of different races and socioeconomic standings is warranted. Though researchers have examined factors associated with men’s IPV perpetration, such as exposure to IPV in childhood, mental health issues in adulthood, and rigid gender roles in adulthood, few studies have explored how these experiences precipitate the use of violence and rarely with low-income men of color.

Methods: An explanatory mixed methods design (i.e., the follow-up explanations model) was used to determine which life experiences were important to men’s IPV perpetration, and to gauge how these underlying mechanisms function to precipitate men’s IPV perpetration based on their lived experience in a two-phase study. In Phase I, men in a batterer intervention program (BIP) completed a comprehensive, cross-sectional survey (N = 67). The majority of the men were employed (86.6%), Black (76.1%), high school graduates (49.3%), and reported an annual income less than $20,000 (71.6%). Ordinary least squares regression was used to examine the associations between IPV and theoretically supported risk factors of IPV (e.g., trauma symptoms, depression, gender roles). In Phase II, processes explaining how these factors might lead to IPV perpetration were explored using narrative analysis on semi-structured follow-up interviews with a subsample of men (N = 11) who completed the survey.

Results: Depressive and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms together predict men’s physical, psychological, and injury IPV perpetration. At the predictor level, men experiencing greater severity of PTSD symptoms were more likely to report higher frequency of all three types of IPV perpetration, when depression was held constant. Men experiencing greater severity of depressive symptoms were more likely to report lower frequency of physical IPV perpetration, when PTSD was held constant. Participants’ collective narrative illustrates how key factors, such as adverse childhood experiences, PTSD, depression, social isolation, anger, and restricted emotionality, work together to culminate in IPV perpetration. Key to these stories were men’s use of isolation to “cope,” and their sense of abandonment and betrayal, which served as a turning point leading to diminished trust and increased restricted emotionality with others.

Conclusion and Implications: Findings shed light on potential trajectories and antecedents that manifest in men’s IPV perpetration, providing implications for practice techniques and program development with low-income men of color in BIPs.