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.
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