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Dominance and symmetry in partner violence by male and female university students in 32 nations


  • Straus, Murray A.


The study investigated the widely held beliefs that physical violence against partners (PV) in marital, cohabiting, and dating relationships is almost entirely perpetrated by men, and that the major risk factor for PV is male dominance in the relationship. The empirical data on these issues were provided by 13,601 university students in 32 nations who participated in the International Dating Violence Study. The results in the first part of this paper show that almost one-third of the female as well as male students physically assaulted a dating partner in the previous 12 months, and that the most frequent pattern was bidirectional, i.e., both were violent, followed by "female-only" violence. Violence by only the male partner was the least frequent pattern according to both male and female participants. The second part of the article focuses on whether there is gender symmetry in a crucial aspect of the etiology of partner PV -- dominance by one partner. The results show that dominance by either the male or the female partner is associated with an increased probability of violence. These results, in combination with results from many other studies, call into question the assumption that PV is primarily a male crime and that, when women are violent, it is usually in self-defense. Because these assumptions are crucial elements in almost all partner PV prevention and treatment programs, a fundamental revision is needed to bring these programs into alignment with the empirical data. Prevention and treatment of PV could become more effective if the programs recognize that most PV is bidirectional and act on the high rate of perpetration by women and the fact that dominance by the female partner is as strongly related to PV as dominance by the male partner.

Suggested Citation

  • Straus, Murray A., 2008. "Dominance and symmetry in partner violence by male and female university students in 32 nations," Children and Youth Services Review, Elsevier, vol. 30(3), pages 252-275, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:cysrev:v:30:y:2008:i:3:p:252-275

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. David Sugarman & Murray Straus, 1988. "Indicators of gender equality for American states and regions," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 20(3), pages 229-270, June.
    2. repec:aph:ajpbhl:10.2105/ajph.2005.079020_5 is not listed on IDEAS
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    Cited by:

    1. Björklund, Katja & Häkkänen-Nyholm, Helinä & Huttunen, Teppo & Kunttu, Kristina, 2010. "Violence victimization among Finnish university students: Prevalence, symptoms and healthcare usage," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 70(9), pages 1416-1422, May.
    2. Zanoni, Lee & Warburton, Wayne & Bussey, Kay & McMaugh, Anne, 2014. "Child protection fathers' experiences of childhood, intimate partner violence and parenting," Children and Youth Services Review, Elsevier, vol. 46(C), pages 91-102.
    3. repec:eur:ejisjr:235 is not listed on IDEAS

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