Nature of Intimate Partner Violence Against Native American Women: Understanding Control, Conflict, and Socioeconomic Contexts

Lorraine Halinka Malcoe, University of New Mexico

Little is known regarding the nature of intimate partner violence (IPV) against Native American women. Feminist theorists posit that men's use of violence against women in intimate relationships is fundamentally a means of coercive control to maintain power over women. In contrast, family conflict theorists argue that violence is a tactic used by some partners to resolve conflicts of interest that arise naturally in relationships. Recently, Johnson has proposed two distinct forms of IPV, one characterized by control and another rooted in conflict. However, many Native American scholars contend that IPV against Native women should be understood within the contexts of Western imperialism and colonialism, whose consequence has been massive loss of lands and resources, severe disruption of traditional gender roles and family structures, and high levels of poverty among many tribes. This paper examines the multiple contexts of control, conflict, and socioeconomic conditions in order to improve understanding of the nature of IPV against Native American women. Data are drawn from a cross-sectional, in-person interview study conducted in 1999 with 431 low-income Native American women aged 14-45 years. Participants were recruited from tribally operated Women-Infant and Children's Nutritional Program (WIC) clinics, tribal facilities, and a vocational school, all in western Oklahoma (response rate = 80.9% of eligible women). IPV victimization was assessed using modified revised Conflict Tactics Scales. Context measures included: 1) a control tactics scale consisting of three subscales: partner's severe control (6 items, alpha=0.80), partner's jealous control (10 items, alpha=0.91), and respondent's jealous control (8 items, alpha=0.83); 2) a 12-item relationship conflict scale that assessed reasons for arguments: partners' jealousy/drinking (8 items, alpha=0.86), and money/household responsibilities (4 items, alpha=0.81); and 3) socioeconomic characteristics including family income and resources, and respondent's and partner's employment status and education.

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Updated 05/20/2006