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Overview of Findings by the Authors

#2 Prevalence of Physical Violence in Intimate Relationships:
Part 2. Rates of Male and Female Perpetration

Sarah L. Desmarais, Kim A. Reeves, Tonia L. Nicholls, Robin P. Telford, & Martin S. Fiebert 96 pages.

Full manuscript available in Partner Abuse Vol. 3, Issue no. 2 (2012), pp. 170-198

Our final sample included 111 articles that reported 272 rates of physical IPV perpetration: 25 articles reported 34 rates for male perpetration, 14 articles reported 24 rates for female perpetration, and 72 articles reported 214 rates for both men and women. There were 19 population-based studies, 24 studies of smaller community samples, 17 studies of middle and high school students or adolescents, 30 studies of university and college students or young adults, and 21 studies of clinical samples. The majority of articles (85.6%, k = 95) reported findings of studies conducted in the United States. Sample sizes ranged widely from N = 53 to N = 89,601, with a mean of 2,340.91 (SD = 8,748.44), median of 670, and mode of 356 participants per study. Studies varied in their operational definition and measurement of IPV, though almost three-quarters of studies (73.0%, k = 81) reported prevalence rates measured using the CTS, CTS2, or items or scales drawn from the CTS instruments.

Findings underscore the pervasiveness of physical violence in heterosexual relationships. Across all studies included in this review, approximately one-quarter of participants (25.3%) reported perpetrating physical IPV. Physical IPV perpetration was reported by approximately one in four individuals both in their lifetime (24.2%) and in the year prior to the study (25.6%). Approximately one in five (22.9%) reported perpetrating physical IPV in their current or most recent relationship. Consistent with prior reviews, rates of physical IPV perpetrated by men and women generally were more similar than they were different, with slightly rates for women than for men (pooled prevalence for female perpetration = 28.3% and male perpetration = 21.6%). There also was considerable consistency in the rates of physical IPV perpetration across countries, ranging from a pooled estimate of 14.1% for studies conducted in Australia to 31.8% for studies conducted in New Zealand

Rates of physical IPV perpetration ranged widely across studies for both men (1.0% to 61.6%) and women (2.4% to 68.9%). Much of the variation can be attributed to the highly diverse sampling methods and study procedures. For instance, studies differed in their operational definitions of physical IPV perpetration and in their reporting of minor and/or severe IPV. Studies also varied in their measurement timeframes; some reported lifetime and/or past year prevalence rates, others reported rates for the current or most recent relationship, and still others used different reference periods altogether (e.g., past two months, past six months). Taken together, results add to a growing body of literature documenting symmetry in rates of physical IPV perpetration by men and women.

The present review represents a comprehensive summary of the current state of knowledge regarding physical IPV perpetration among heterosexual men and women in English-speaking, industrialized nations. With similar rates of physical IPV perpetrated by men and women, gendered explanations of IPV do not adequately account for our findings. Of note, however, results of the current review pertain only to the presence or absence, and not the severity or context, of perpetration. Thus, rather than perpetuating the debate regarding the comparability of physical IPV perpetrated by men and women, findings should be used to support the development and implementation of interventions that acknowledge the use of violence by women in intimate relationships but also recognize how participants’ treatment needs may differ. Intervention strategies that are both gender-inclusive and gender-sensitive may have the greatest potential for reducing IPV.

Though most studies included in our review employed a measurement approach based on the CTS, researchers varied considerably in their sampling and study procedures, their operation definitions of IPV, and in their reporting of results by severity (e.g., minor vs. severe IPV) or consequences (e.g., any physical IPV vs. IPV that resulted in injury). Future research synthesis efforts should include systematic coding and analysis across these variables. Moreover, we compared perpetration rates across rather than within studies; thus, future research should examine the degree to which there are similarities or differences in victimization and perpetration rates across and within samples. Finally, most studies were conducted in the United States, limiting cross-national comparisons; thus, future research efforts should focus on building evidence regarding the prevalence of physical IPV perpetrated by men and women in other English-speaking, industrialized countries.


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