Category: Violence / Aggression

Symposium

Association of Beliefs Justifying Coercive Control With Dating Violence in Girls at Risk for Conduct Problems

Friday, November 17
8:30 AM - 10:00 AM
Location: Indigo Ballroom B, Level 2, Indigo Level

Keywords: Intimate Partner Aggression | Couples / Close Relationships | Adolescents
Presentation Type: Symposium

Background:  Adolescence and emerging adulthood represent a period of elevated risk for intimate partner violence (IPV). This risk is elevated in youth with a history of conduct problems, who tend to selectively partner with deviant, aggressive peers and romantic or sexual partners. In a sample of youth at familial risk for conduct problems, this study aimed to examine whether beliefs systems justifying the use of coercive tactics by males and females is associated with deviant partner behavior, beliefs about sexual behavior, and involvement in IPV.


Method: Ninety-nine urban, diverse preschoolers at familial risk for conduct problems were recruited for a family-based intervention study, and were randomly assigned to intervention or control conditions. Ten years later, 45 preschoolers and 43 of their siblings completed an assessment of their romantic relationships, including measures of dating behaviors, beliefs about coercive conflict tactics and sexual behavior, and IPV. The study focuses on the 54 females, including targets (n = 27) and siblings (n = 27) who participated in this 10-year follow-up (M age = 16.5, SD = 5.2, range = 10-28).   


Results: Regression analyses, controlling for age suggest that: 1) Beliefs justifying males’ and females’ use of coercive control in dating relationships were highly correlated; 2) Girls’ justification of coercive control by male partners was associated with girls’ IPV victimization, but not with their IPV perpetration; 3) Girls’ justification of coercive behavior by female dating partners was associated with both IPV victimization and perpetration risk, and with deviant partner behavior, beliefs promotive of early sexual activity, and decreased odds of retaliation if victimized by a partner.


Conclusions:  Belief systems justifying coercive controlling behaviors in dating relationships may represent a key social cognitive risk for IPV in girls at familial risk for conduct problems. Beliefs justifying females’ coercive control towards a partner appear to be particularly related to risk for early sexual activity, deviant behavior with a partner, and involvement in IPV. If replicated, these results suggest that prevention of IPV in at risk girls should attend to their cognitions regarding coercive control by both dating partners.

Miriam K. Ehrensaft

Associate Professor
Duke University

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