Bidirectional Violence Occurs in the Majority of Violent Intimate Relationships

Intimate partner violence (IPV) occurs in a large percentage of young adult relationships. Several factors increase the likelihood of IPV, including low socioeconomic status, living in urban communities, drug and alcohol use, witnessing or experiencing familial or domestic violence, and younger age. It has also been theorized that many relationships that experience IPV also have a component of reciprocity. In other words, many victims of IPV may also perpetrate violence against their partners. And although it has been shown that more women are victims of IPV resulting in physical injury than men, it is unclear whether or not women perpetrate a large portion of retaliatory or reciprocal aggression in violent relationships.

To get a better idea of the rates of bidirectional IPV, Niki Palmetto of the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University in New York recently conducted a study based on self-reports from 618 young adult women in committed relationships. She looked at history of violence, victimization, and perpetration. Over one third of the women reported having experienced at least one episode of IPV, with 12% reporting only perpetrator violence, 3% reporting being the victim only, and 19% reporting bidirectional violence. This means that nearly one in five women in this study report being both the victim and perpetrator of violence in their relationships. Factors that increased risk for bidirectional status included history of childhood sexual abuse, exposure to family IPV, younger age, and longer relationship duration.

Palmetto also found that African-American women and those who had more than two previous pregnancies were most likely to report bidirectional violence. She believes that pregnancies can present a threat to both partners, thus increasing the risk for violence. Also, Palmetto theorizes that African-American women who contribute to the financial well-being of their families may have less tolerance for victimization and may be more prone to retaliating with aggression when they are victimized. This dynamic would directly increase the rate of bidirectionality among this segment of women. Palmetto also points out that this study was based on self-reports from a nondiverse sample of women. She hopes future research extends these findings by studying women of varying ages, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status. Until then, Palmetto feels her findings contribute significantly to this area of research. She said, “We believe this study to be a critical step in the examination of bidirectional violence within adolescent and young adult dating relationships.”

Palmetto, Niki, et al. (2013). Predictors of physical intimate partner violence in the lives of young women: Victimization, perpetration, and bidirectional violence. Violence and Victims 28.1 (2013): 103-21. ProQuest. Web.

© Copyright 2013 All rights reserved.

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

  • Leave a Comment
  • dolly k

    April 2nd, 2013 at 10:50 AM

    Of course if I were in that situation I’d be fighting back. I can give just as good as I can get.

  • ER

    April 2nd, 2013 at 10:43 PM

    This sounds like a justification to the act that more men are abusive. I would love to see the figure for when exactly the women retaliate. I’m sure its bit the first or second time but only after continued abuse.

  • Tim

    November 22nd, 2017 at 1:16 PM

    It isn’t about when women retaliate, but when the person (female or male) retaliates. As a male victim of female abuse I tolerated it for a very long time before, in sheer frustration, I began to respond because a gentile response got me nowhere. It started when I was prevented from leaving the house, then I was stopped from backing off into a quiet room, I was told I must argue, but it always went on until I complied. I eventually tried shouting “give me space” or “stop, stop, stop”. She wouldn’t stop. She even told me she could do whatever she liked, that I mustn’t retaliate.
    Eventually I began to throw things, but not at her. It coincided with me banging my head against the wall, which I had never done before. I began to drink – not a problem before. Who is the abuser? Is it the one who “imprisons” or the prisoner who needs to escape? The first study that demonstrated abuse is 50/50 male/female was back in 1963 and there have been many since, especially recently. The evidence for equal abuse by females is huge, but is largely ignored.

Leave a Comment

By commenting you acknowledge acceptance of's Terms and Conditions of Use.


* Indicates required field.

GoodTherapy uses cookies to personalize content and ads to provide better services for our users and to analyze our traffic. By continuing to use this site you consent to our cookies.