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Aggression in dating relationships compared by country of origin.
Article Type:
Dating violence (Demographic aspects)
Dating violence (Forecasts and trends)
Seligowski, Antonia
West, Doe
Pub Date:
Name: College Student Journal Publisher: Project Innovation (Alabama) Audience: Academic Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Education Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2009 Project Innovation (Alabama) ISSN: 0146-3934
Date: Dec, 2009 Source Volume: 43 Source Issue: 4
Event Code: 010 Forecasts, trends, outlooks Computer Subject: Market trend/market analysis
Geographic Scope: United States Geographic Code: 1USA United States

Accession Number:
Full Text:
AIMS: The purpose of this study was to analyze prevalence levels of aggression in dating relationships and to compare this by country of origin. The study also seeks more understanding of the violence experienced by men in these countries. METHOD: A convenience sample was used; study participants were 194 females and 168 males ranging in age from 18 to 72. The measure analyzed was the Conflict Tactics Scale-Partner. Results of this scale were compared by country of origin. These included the U.S. and those in East Asia and Eastern Europe. Prevalence levels of aggression were also compared by gender. RESULTS: Participants born in Eastern Europe reported more violence than those in the U.S. and East Asia. Males born in the U.S. reported being the recipients of physical violence significantly more than women in the U.S. Also, females born in East Asia reported significantly more perpetrating of violence than males. In Eastern European countries of origin, females reported significantly more usage of negotiation in romantic relationships than males. CONCLUSION: Although some significant differences were found within countries, the differences are not enough to assert that any of the countries of origin experience more overall dating violence than the others.


Aggression in dating relationships (domestic violence) is a serious problem in any country, however it is not always clear what cultural phenomena underlie this behavior. Individuals who reside in the United States but were born in another country might have difficulty adjusting to different cultural and societal norms. As stated by Hussey, Chang and Kotch (2006), "migration and the process of adaptation to American society place unique strains on immigrant parents and their children." Perhaps if we better understand the norms of the countries where these individuals come from, we can develop more successful methods of dealing with domestic violence here in the U.S. For example, the traditional family structure in China is such that the husband makes all decisions and wives are inferior (Xu, Zhu, O'Campo, Koenig, Mock, & Campbell, 2005). Chinese households are hierarchical and it is generally expected that women remain obedient. This may explain the relatively large prevalence rate of lifetime intimate partner violence experienced by women in China, which is about 43% (Xu et al., 2005). Cultural norms are similar in Vietnam, where families are also patriarchal (Nguyen, Krantz, & Ostergren, 2008). In a study conducted by Nguyen et al. (2008) it was found that approximately 31% of women had experienced some sort of physical violence in their lifetime. Another 55.4% had experienced psychological abuse in their lifetime (Nguyen et al., 2008). In India, the prevalence of any form of violence experienced by women in their lifetime is 56% (Babu & Kar, 2009). Babu and Kar (2009) explain that inadequate and failure of timely payment of dowry is a significant reason for domestic violence in India. Another reason may be poor performance of duties expected of women (Babu & Kar, 2009). Like China and Vietnam, India's social system is patriarchal and women are socialized to be subordinate and believe that men have a tight to control them (Babu & Kar, 2009). This leads individuals to condone the violence experienced by women and perpetuates it by expecting women to be helpless. In both Vietnam and India it was found that domestic violence experienced by women was persistent across all social strata (Nguyen et al., 2008; Babu & Kar, 2009). Turkey also displays a patriarchal social system where men make all of the family-related decisions and have more of an influence over their wives' personal lives (Hortacsu, Kalaycioglu, & Rittersberger-Tilic, 2003). Women in Turkey are perceived as lower than men, having very little power and requiring supervision (Hortacsu et al., 2003). Justifications for this include gender stereotypes and religious beliefs which assume women to be passive victims (Hortacsu et al., 2003). A multi-country study by the World Health Organization found the following lifetime prevalence rates of physical violence experienced by women: 42% in Bangladesh, 13% in Japan City, 23% in Serbia and Montenegro, and 34% in Thailand province (Garcia-Moreno, Jansen, Ellsberg, Heise, & Watts, 2006). These statistics support an earlier review study of 35 countries which found that 10-52% of women reported being physically abused by an intimate partner in their life-time (Heise, Ellsberg, & Gottemoeller, 1999).

Understanding the cultural and societal norms and expectations that underlie domestic violence in other countries can help us attempt to reduce it in different cultural populations in the United States. What we must also keep in mind is that domestic violence is a great concern in the U.S. as well. Approximately two to four million American women are physically abused each year, and domestic violence occurs in about one in four families (Wenzel, Monson, & Johnson, 2004). Similar to other countries, this abuse affects women similarly across social strata (Wenzel et al., 2004). In a study conducted by Wenzel et al. (2004), it was found that 48% of surveyed women reported at least one incidence of domestic violence in their lifetime. A major gap in the literature is information about the prevalence rates of domestic violence experienced by men. The current study aims to shed some light on that query in addition to gaining more knowledge about the prevalence of aggression or domestic violence in dating relationships among individuals from differing countries of origin.



Participants in this study were 194 females and 168 males ranging in age from 18 to 72. Approximately 20% of the sample consisted of college students completing a psychology research methods course at a large urban university in the Northeast. In order to generate a data set for class research projects, these students completed a set of self-report measures assessing personality constructs and interpersonal attitudes and behaviors. In addition, each student was expected to recruit an additional male and female volunteer to contribute to the class data set. APA ethical guidelines were followed throughout this process.

Table 1 summarizes the demographic characteristics of the sample. As can be seen, the average respondent was Caucasian, born in the U.S., a student with some college education, in the upper middle class and single.

For the purposes of the present study, only one of the measures included in the questionnaire packet was analyzed, the Partner RCTS. The Partner RCTS is a 48-item measure designed to assess the level of aggression perpetrated and received in romantic relationships. The measure determines this level by asking participants to indicate how many times a particular event or behavior occurred in the past year. The participant selects a number ranging from 0-7, 0 being never, 6 being more than twenty times, and 7 being none in the past year, but some in previous years.

Data Analysis

Tests used to analyze the data included frequency analysis for descriptive statistics on the entire sample, as well as Independent Samples T-Tests to determine the descriptive statistics for the study variables. T tests were conducted to determine whether there were gender differences on any variable. Crohnbach's Alpha was conducted to determine the reliability of the Partner RCTS measure.


Table 2 provides the descriptive statistics for all the major study variables, separately by country of origin. T tests were run to determine whether there were differences on any of these variables depending on country of origin. These analyses revealed that participants born in the United States reported significantly more psychological and physical violence received than participants born in East Asia. Also, participants born in Eastern Europe reported significantly more psychological violence received and more physical violence perpetrated than participants born in the United States.

Tables 3, 4, and 5 provide descriptive statistics for the study variables separately by country of origin and gender. As can be seen, males born in the United States reported being the recipients of physical violence significantly more than women born in the United States. Also, females born in East Asia reported significantly more perpetrating of psychological and physical violence than males born in East Asia. In Eastern European countries of origin, females reported significantly more usage of negotiation in romantic relationships than males born in Eastern Europe.


In general, the sample does not show a high level of aggression in romantic relationships. However, not every subject was in a romantic relationship at the time of study and therefore this conclusion is not necessarily valid. The study revealed no significant gender differences on levels of psychological or physical violence in participants born in Eastern Europe. Although there are some significant differences between countries of origin as well as gender within those countries, these differences are not enough to assert that any one of the countries of origin exhibit more overall dating violence than the others. This may have an impact on future attempts to address domestic violence in the U.S. It is important to note that it may not be the amount of violence that separates individuals from different countries, but rather the cultural phenomena behind the abuse. When these underlying phenomena can be captured and understood, individuals working with domestic violence victims will be better able to address the problem.

One particular fallback of this study was that the sample was comprised mostly of college students, and not all of these participants were in dating relationships at the time. In order to gain better perspective, it would be useful in the future to give the measures used to only those participants who are in romantic relationships. By doing this, the study would gain a greater number of relevant participants. Also, country of origin was clearly skewed towards the United States. Perhaps a future study could target participants from more varying countries of origin so that the results would be more substantial.

* This research was conducted as part of fulfilling the requirements of a research methods course under the supervision of Kathie Malley-Morrision, EdD at Boston University in December 2006.


Babu, B .V. & Kar, S.K. (2009). Domestic violence against women in eastern India: a population-based study on prevalence and related issues. BMC Public Health, 9(1), 129.

Garcia-Moreno, C., Jansen, H. A., Ellsberg, M., Heise, L., & Watts, C. H. (2006). Prevalence of intimate partner violence: findings from the WHO multi-country study on women's health and domestic violence. Lancet 368(9543), 1260-9.

Heise, L., Ellsberg, M., & Gottemoeller, M. Ending violence against women. Baltimore, MD, Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999.

Hortacsu, N. Kalaycioglu, S. & Rittersberger-Tilic, H. (2003). Intrafamily aggression in Turkey: frequency, instigation, and acceptance. The Journal of Social Psychology, 143(2), 163.

Hussey, J. M., Chang, J., & Kotch, J. (2006). Child maltreatment in the United States: prevalence, risk factors, and adolescent health consequences. Pediatrics, 118(3), 933.

Nguyen, D. V., Krantz, G. & Ostergren, P.O. (2008). Intimate partner violence against women in rural Vietnam--different socio-demographic factors are associated with different forms of violence: need for new intervention guidelines? BMC Public Health 8, 55.

Wenzel, J. D., Monson, C. L. & Johnson, S.M. (2004). Domestic violence: prevalence and detection in a family medicine residency clinic. J Am Osteopath Assoc 104(6), 233-9.

Xu, X., Zhu, F., O'Campo, P., Koenig, M.A., Mock, V., & Campbell, J. (2005). Prevalence of and risk factors for intimate partner violence in China. American journal of public health, 95(1), 78-85.



Boston University
Table 1
Frequencies and Percentages of Demographic Characteristics of Sample
by Gender

Demographic                   Males        Females        Total
Characteristics              N     %       N     %       N     %

Ethnic Background

  Caucasian                  99    58.9   121    62.4   222    60.8
  African/African             3     1.8     8     4.1    11     3.0
  Asian/Asian                26    15.5    38    19.6    64    17.5
  Latin/Hispanic/            10     6.0    10     5.2    20     5.5
  Central American
  Indian Peninsula            8     4.8     1      .5     9     2.5
  Native/Aboriginal           2     1.2     0       0     2      .5
  Middle Eastern              2     1.2     0       0     2      .5

Country of Origin

  U.S.                      139    82.7   154    79.4   296    81.1
  Canada/U.K./Western         2     1.2     5     2.6     7     1.9
  Central/South America       3     1.8     9     4.6    12     3.3
  East Asia/Asian Pacific     8     4.8    14     7.2    22     6.0
  Russia/Eastern European    11     6.5    10     5.2    21     5.8
  Middle Eastern Country      2     1.2     0       0     2      .5
  Indian Peninsula            2     1.2     0       0     2      .5
  African                     1      .6     0       0     1      .3


  High School Grad           17    10.1    20    10.3    37    10.1
  Some College              109    64.9   150    77.3   262    71.8
  Associates                  6     3.6     4     2.1    10     2.7
  Bachelors                  24    14.3    15     7.7    39    10.7
  Masters                     4     2.4     4     2.1     8     2.2
  Professional/Doctoral       2     1.2     0       0     2      .5
  Some Grad Training/         6     3.6     0       0     6     1.6
    No Degree
  Trade/Technical School      0       0     1      .5     1      .3


  Student                   110    65.5   150    77.3   262    71.8
  Part-Time                  18    10.7    20    10.3    39    10.7
  Full-Time                  30    17.9    16     8.2    46    12.6
  Unemployed/Not              8     4.8     3     1.5    11     3.0
  Retired                     0       0     3     1.5     3      .8
  Other                       2     1.2     2     1.0     4     1.1

Social Class

  Upper                      13     7.7     7     3.6    20     5.5
  Upper Middle               66    39.3    92    47.4   158    43.3
  Middle                     63    37.5    68    35.1   134    36.7
  Working                    21   12.50    23   11.90    44    12.1
  Lower                       4     2.4     0       0     4    1.10

Marital Status

  Single                    160    95.2   178    91.8   341    93.4
  Married                     8    4.80    11     5.7    19    5.20
  Divorced                    0       0     3     1.5     3     .80
  Widowed                     0       0     1     0.5     1     .30

Table 2
Descriptive Statistics & T Test Results by Country of Origin

                U.S.         East Asia
             M      SD      M      SD         t

ctsngop    18.24   9.15   17.05    8.93
ctsngor    17.33   9.09   16.00    8.68
ctspsyp     6.16   6.21    4.60    6.78
ctspsyr     5.66   6.52    2.85    3.88     1.90 (^)
ctspsyp     1.61   4.32    1.10    2.49
ctspsyr     1.55   4.43     .35     .99     3.43 **

                U.S.        East Europe
             M      SD      M      SD         t

ctsngop    18.24   9.15   19.33   11.42
ctsngor    17.33   9.09   18.11    9.75
ctspsyp     6.16   6.21    7.94   10.28
ctspsyr     5.66   6.52    8.70   10.60    -1.78 (^)
ctspsyp     1.61   4.32    4.18   10.08    -2.12 *
ctspsyr     1.55   4.43    2.88    8.03

(^) = .051 < p < .10

* = p < 05

** = p = .001

Table 3
Descriptive Statistics & T Test Results by Gender for Participants
Born in the U.S.

                  Females         Males
                 M     SD        M     SD       t

ctsngop       17.74   8.48    18.75   9.90
ctsngor       17.17   8.55    17.46   9.75
ctspsyp        6.04   5.42     6.21   6.94
ctspsyr        5.08   5.57     6.33   7.48
ctsphyp        1.48   3.98     1.72   4.70
ctsphyr         .97   2.45     2.24   5.95    -2.19 *

* = p < .05

Table 4
Descriptive Statistics & T Test Results by Gender for Participants
Born in East Asia

              Females          Males
             M      SD       M       SD     t

ctsngop    18.15   9.86    15.00   7.12
ctsngor    17.31   9.50    13.57   6.90
ctspsyp     6.15   7.95     1.71   2.06   1.90 (^)
ctspsyr     3.15   4.24     2.28    335
ctsphyp     1.69   2.95      .00    .00   2.06 (^)
ctsphyr      .54   1.20      .00    .00

(^) = .051 < p < .10

Table 5
Descriptive Statistics & T Test Results by Gender for Participants
Born in East Europe


                Females          Males
               M      SD       M      SD       t

ctsngop     25.00    8.83   15.73   11.75    1.90 (^)
ctsngor     24.57    6.37   14.00    9.46    2.83 *
ctspsyp     10.57   12.31    6.10    8.81
ctspsyr      8.86   13.02    8.60    9.31
ctsphyp      4.00    6.83    4.30   12.23
ctsphyr      1.43    3.78    3.90   10.11

(^) = .051 < p < .10

* = p < .05

Table 6

Crohnbach's Alpha: .823 Number of Items: 6
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