Abstract: Traditional Gender Beliefs, Gender Disparities, and Intimate Partner Violence Perpetration (Society for Social Work and Research 26th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Racial, Social, and Political Justice)

Traditional Gender Beliefs, Gender Disparities, and Intimate Partner Violence Perpetration

Thursday, January 13, 2022
Liberty Ballroom K, ML 4 (Marriott Marquis Washington, DC)
* noted as presenting author
Julia O'Connor, PhD, MSW, MPH, Assistant Professor; Violence Against Women Cluster Member, University of Central Florida, Orlando, FL
Kristina Nikolova, PhD, Assistant Professor, Wayne State University, Detroit, MI
Iris Cardenas, PhD, LSW, Doctoral Student, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ
Background: Views supporting gender inequality reinforce and perpetrate acts of violence against women, including intimate partner violence (IPV). This study examines the relationship between gender role disparities, traditional gender beliefs, and IPV perpetration. Gender role disparities – when the woman in the relationship is in a non-traditional role (e.g., earns more or is more educated) – have been found to increase perpetration of IPV in some studies and reduce perpetration in others (a backlash effect of some empowerment interventions). Traditional gender beliefs may be a mechanism to help better understand such relationships. The research questions for this study are: 1) Do gender role disparities predict perpetration of IPV among men? And 2) do traditional gender beliefs explain the relationship between gender role disparities and IPV perpetration?

Method: This study uses survey data from the United Nations Multi-Country Study on Men and Violence in Asia and the Pacific. The survey was conducted from 2010 to 2013. The final sample was made up of 4,303 men in Bangladesh, China, Indonesia, and Papua New Guinea. The sample self-reported on gender beliefs, IPV perpetration, and gender disparities (if the woman in the relationship was more, the same, or less educated and if the woman in the relationship earned more, the same, or less than the man).

This study used the following methods: 1) Regression-based path analyses to examine differences in mean levels of IPV perpetration for relationships where the woman earns more or is more educated versus women who earn the same or who earn less (same for education) than their male partners. 2) Path analyses were used to examine the role of traditional gender beliefs as a mediator between gender role disparities and IPV perpetration.

Results: The findings indicate that a woman earning more than a man reduced IPV perpetration. However, this protective effect was reduced when men hold more traditional gender beliefs, such that, when a woman earns more, men hold less equitable attitudes. The same type of relationship was found for education disparities and perpetration of IPV: education disparities reduced perpetration of IPV and the relationship was partially mediated through traditional gender beliefs. Thus, education disparity predicted men holding more inequitable gender beliefs; however, holding more equitable gender beliefs reduced the risk of IPV perpetration.

Conclusions: There are many efforts to improve women’s employment and education opportunities. These findings indicate that efforts to increase women’s empowerment by improving their educational and economic opportunities could result in lower levels of IPV. Regarding research question 1, our analyses indicate that men whose partners earn more or are more educated than them are at lower risk of perpetrating IPV. Addressing research question 2, there are also indirect effects of women’s higher education or income because it increases men’s inequitable gender beliefs which in turn places them at risk of perpetrating IPV. This suggests that attempts to improve women’s educational and employment outcomes must consider a potential backlash effect unless there are efforts to address the indirect effects of women’s higher employment or education.