Predictors of physical intimate partner violence in the lives of young women: victimization, perpetration, and bidirectional violence

Niki Palmetto, Leslie L Davidson, Vicki Breitbart, Vaughn I Rickert
Violence and Victims 2013, 28 (1): 103-21

BACKGROUND: Dating violence in young people is highly prevalent, and bidirectional violence characterizes most violent relationships. However, there is limited data on predictors of bidirectional violence in young relationships.

PURPOSE: To examine the frequency of victimization, perpetration, and bidirectional physical violence in young women's relationships and compare individual and relationship characteristics across violence profiles.

METHODS: Six hundred eighteen young women visiting an urban reproductive health care clinic completed an anonymous survey using the Conflict in Adolescent Dating Relationships Inventory to measure their experience of violence with a partner in the last year.

RESULTS: Thirty-four percent of women reported at least one instance of physical violence (3% "victim only" 12% "perpetrator only," 19% "bidirectional"). The frequency of violence in the previous year within the bidirectional profile was significantly higher than both the victim-only and perpetrator-only profiles. In all adjusted models, younger age, childhood sexual abuse, witnessing parental intimate partner violence (IPV), and relationship length remained significant. Black race was predictive of both perpetration and bidirectional violence, but not victimization. Compared to nulliparous women or those with one previous pregnancy, those who had had two or more had twice the odds of both victimization and bidirectional, but no increase in odds of perpetration.

CONCLUSIONS: Bidirectional violence was the most common profile and was associated with the highest frequency of violent behaviors. Contrary to expectation, only two variables differed significantly across the three violence profiles. However, as hypothesized, bidirectional relationships were characterized by longer length, lending moderate support for social learning theory as one explanation underlying the occurrence of bidirectional violence.

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