Dating abuse is no longer a rare event in current society. It is estimated that one out of every four college students who are dating experience physical, sexual, and/or emotional abuse. (The Dating Project 2001) This violence occurs in all socioeconomic, racial, ethnic, and religious groups. It has no sexual preference as it exists in gay and lesbian communities at approximately the same rate as in heterosexual relationships. (The Dating Project 2001) According to a 2000 UNICEF study, up to half the female population of the world is subject to domestic violence.

Dating abuse is generally divided into three different categories: emotional, physical and sexual abuse. Emotional abuse is usually defined as insults, name-calling, yelling, threats, humiliating partner in public or in private, and/or isolating a partner from friends or family. (The Dating Project 2001) Physical abuse is usually hitting, pinching, shoving, restraining, destroying property, choking, and/or threatening to harm a partner. (The Dating Project 2001) Sexual abuse is rape, sexual abuse, or any coercion or manipulation of a partner to engage in sexual conduct. Arguments within a dating relationship are normal, however, behaviors to gain or maintain power over a partner is abuse. (The Dating Project 2001)

This topic is a growing concern and can be seen in today’s media. The Oprah Winfrey Show aired on February 28, 2002 a show titled “Teen Dating Abuse” featuring Dr. Jill Murray. The show gave an overview of this epidemic and alerted the public to the following warning signs of abuse within teen dating relationships: isolation, emotional changes, constant communication between partners, jealousy issues and constant excuses for behaviors, marks, or behavior from one or both partners.

Dating abuse is not without horrible physical and psychological consequences on both the abuser and the person he/she is abusing. Victims of dating abuse are 11 times more likely to experience clinical depression and six times more likely to experience social phobia than their peers. Also, these victims are at the increased risk of suicide, alcohol and drug problems. (Bowker 1986)

Much research has been done concerning abuse within dating relationships. These researches have targeted the abused, the abuser and characteristics of each. Other topics explored include argumentativeness and verbal aggressiveness within relationships, victimization and coping strategies and negotiation styles as discriminators of violence in dating relationships. These studies have yielded results that are useful in educating, preventing and ending dating abuse.

It has been shown among college students which factors are significantly correlated with both physical and emotional abuse. Knox, Custis and Zusman (2000) identified which characteristics of a dating relationship and the persons involved make an individual more susceptible to being a victim of both emotional and physical abuse.

The sample for this research was composed of six hundred and twenty undergraduate college students who had never been married. Approximately half (51.7%) reported to be casually dating, while the other 48.3% were involved in a committed relationship. Ten months was the median length of the relationship with their current partner

It was found in this study that individuals who were most likely to be recipients of physical abuse were females in a committed relationship, age twenty or older. Also, living with someone who they were not married to and physically or emotionally abusing a partner made the individual more likely to be physically abused.

Similarly it was found that females in a committed relationship who have lived with someone they were not married to, who were twenty or older and had been physically abused by a partner were more likely to experience emotional abuse.

Billingham, Hockenberry and Stewart (1995) assessed whether or not there was a relationship between narcissism and sexual victimization. Female undergraduate students who were attending classes at a large Mid-Western university completed questionnaires that contained both a narcissism scale and a scale, which measured self-reported levels of sexual victimization. All the women were of college age, and were within the range of seventeen and twenty-three years old. The study was also limited to those who identified themselves as white to eliminate cultural differences.

The narcissism scale that was used within this study was the Narcissistic Personality Inventory (NPI; Raskin & Hall 1979). It is compromised of forty multiple-choice items that would assess aspects of narcissism as defined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSMD-III). A sexual behavior inventory was used to determine the degree to which women reported that they experienced sexual aggression. This consisted of twenty behaviors a male may have used in order to obtain sex from his partner.

This study found that narcissistically abusive women are viewed to be more sexually aggressive then non-exploitative women and therefore more likely to be targets of sexual victimization. It seems that women who are unconsciously guided by these qualities would be expected to participate in situations where they are at a greater risk (i.e. substance use or abuse.)

A study was done concerning negotiation and coping strategies as discriminators of physical and mental abuse (Bird & Smith 1991). Data was gathered via a questionnaire that was mailed to a select sample of freshman student living on campus of a mid-Atlantic university. 

The Ways of Coping Inventory (Folkman & Lazarus 1986) were given to determine which strategy each participant commonly used. The results indicated one of eight coping styles: denial, accepting responsibility, problem solving, confrontation, social support, spiritual belief, self-control and escape.

A ten-item conflict scale was used to report violence used on the participants by their partners and to indicate violence sustained from their partner. A powers strategy scale was used to measure five negotiation styles: negative affect, direct appeal, bargaining, emotional appeal, and indirect appeal.

The study found showed that people with negative affect, social support and confrontation characteristics were found to be more likely to confront or blame their partner and were much more likely to be part of a violent relationships. Those who coped by seeking social support were significantly less likely to be in a violent relationship.

Ronfeldt and Kimerlin (1998) reported on a study that examined the relationship of satisfaction with relationship power and physical violence against their dating partner in a sample of heterosexual male undergraduates. The Conflict Tactics Scale (CTS; Straus 1979) was used to measure the behaviors in which people may engage during conflicts along with the Psychological Maltreatment of Women Inventory (PMWI; Tolman 1989), which measures individual attempts to isolate, dominate, humiliate, and threaten his partner.

The study found that about sixteen percent of the sample reported observing paternal marital abuse and twenty-three percent reported engaging in physical violence against their partner within the past year. The study concluded that witnessing paternal conjugal violence has moderating effects on the relationship between physical abuse and violence. Exposure to marital conjugal violence strengthens the relationship between psychological and physical abuse.

Venable and Martin (1997) explored the relationship between argumentativeness and verbal aggressiveness in dating relationships in a sample of 305 undergraduates. Two hypotheses were explored in this study: 1. That people’s satisfaction will be negatively related to their perceptions of their partner’s use of verbal aggressiveness; and 2. People’s satisfaction will be negatively related to their own use of verbal aggression in their dating relationships.

A ten-item trait-relationship specific version of the Argumentative Scale (Infante & Rancer 1982) was used to measure self and partner argumentativeness. Similarly self and partner verbal aggressiveness was measured by an adapted version of the Verbal Aggressiveness Scale (Infante & Wigley 1986).

Both of the hypothesis were supported and the study concluded that both self and partner use of verbal aggressiveness had a negative effect on communication and relationship satisfaction.
James, West, Deters and Armijo (2000) focused on high school students’, ages 14 to 18 years old, experience of dating abuse. Data was obtained from thirty-seven adolescents who were enrolled in an alternative high school in the Pacific Northwest.

The adolescents were administered the a violence survey for youths to gather information on demographics, dating behaviors and other related variables. Three quarters of the surveys indicated that the participants’ partner did something to make them jealous and half indicated that their partner would not allow them to do things with other people, threatened to terminate the relationship, prohibited them from speaking with other people, brought up painful past experiences and blamed them for bad things that the partners did. This study supported the idea that dating abuse was a problem among high school age adolescents.

Past research shows that there are certain factors that make a persona more vulnerable to being in an abusive relationship. Being above the age of twenty, living with a partner that you are not married to, and sexually aggressive women are more likely to be in an emotionally and/or physically abusive relationship. However, past research has not looked at personality traits that may affect a women’s susceptibility to become a victim of dating abuse. Therefore, it is proposed in this study that there is a relationship between the personality trait of introversion and the vulnerability of an individual being in an abusive dating relationship.

Works Cited

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Anna Perkins is a relationship writer who offers her own forthright opinion over the worlds of dating, romance, relationships , marriage and friendships. She loves cats, traveling, spending time with her son and husband.

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