A comprehensive model of dating violence: Testing the integration of social learning and attachment theories

Kristen M Kingsfogel, Marquette University

Abstract

The study of aggression between dating partners has grown substantially since it was first recognized as another form of "intimate partner violence" (Makepeace, 1981). However, until recently, this research has focused primarily on the analysis of isolated variables. In an effort to understand the relative contribution of proposed risk factors to the explanation of violence between intimates, current research efforts utilize multivariate analysis within stated theoretical models. Building on a model of social learning (Riggs & O'Leary, 1989) and attachment theory, this study used structural equation modeling to examine relations among aggression in the family of origin, attitudes, attachment style, peer norms, trait anger, aggressive personality, substance use, relationship conflict, commitment, partner's aggression, and aggression in dating relationships. The sample included 390 male and female public high school students. Results indicated that for males, exposure to parent-child and interparental aggression was associated with more accepting attitudes toward aggression, perceptions of dating aggression as normative in peers, and a tendency to experience anger and be aggressive, which in turn was related to greater aggression towards dating partners. In addition, a tendency to be aggressive was related to dating aggression through higher levels of relationship conflict. Overall, a comprehensive model including these family, intrapersonal, and situational variables accounted for 71% of the variance in male dating aggression. For females, exposure to parent-child and interparental aggression was associated with a tendency to experience anger and be aggressive, an anxious attachment style, and substance use. In turn, aggressive personality was associated with relationship conflict and female dating aggression, while substance use, attachment style, and conflict were associated with female dating aggression through exposure to the partner's aggression. In addition, an anxious attachment style was related to higher levels of conflict through increased levels of commitment to the relationship. This comprehensive model accounted for 76% of the variance in female dating aggression scores. Overall, the study showed that exposure to violence in the family of origin is related to male dating aggression through several attitudinal, behavioral, and situational factors. For females, in addition to the emotional, attachment, and behavioral factors that partially link exposure to family violence to dating aggression, a large portion of their dating aggression is related to the current dating relationship, including partner's aggression, relationship conflict, and commitment level. The differences between male and female use of dating aggression suggested that males' background and individual characteristics influence their use of aggression, while female aggression is largely used in response to an abusive dating situation.

Recommended Citation

Kristen M Kingsfogel, "A comprehensive model of dating violence: Testing the integration of social learning and attachment theories" (January 1, 2001). Dissertations (1962 - 2010) Access via Proquest Digital Dissertations. Paper AAI3049931.
http://epublications.marquette.edu/dissertations/AAI3049931

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