Cross-National Differences in Rates of Physical and Sexual Assault From the International Dating Violence Study

Murray A. Straus, University of New Hampshire

It is now widely recognized that relationships between partners in marital, cohabiting, and dating relationships are often violent (Barnett, Miller-Perrin, and Perrin 1997; Gelles and Straus 1988). Recognition of the high-risk nature of dating relationships is important in order to take steps to make intimate partner relationships free of violence. However, it is not widely recognized that dating couples are even more likely to be violent than married couples, despite the fact that the higher rate has been demonstrated by over 50 studies, starting in the 1980's (Fisher, Cullen and Turner; 2000; Stets and Straus 1989; Sugarman and Hotaling 1989). For purposes of primary-prevention (Cowen 1978; O'Leary and Sweet Jemmott 1995), it is vital to increase understanding of the etiology of dating-couple violence because the behavior at that point in the life-cycle can establish patterns that persist over a lifetime. The International Dating Violence study will contribute to that needed increased understanding by using a cross-national comparative design to investigate the social causes of dating partner violence (DPV). This preliminary paper, however is restricted to comparing the rates from the first set of nations and to discussing possible explanations for the differences. Empirical tests of those explanation will be in subsequent papers.

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Updated 05/20/2006