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Courtship Violence: The Patterns of Conflict Resolution Strategies across Seven Levels of Emotional Commitment Author(s): Robert E.

Billingham Reviewed work(s): Source: Family Relations, Vol. 36, No. 3 (Jul., 1987), pp. 283-289 Published by: National Council on Family Relations Stable URL: . Accessed: 10/04/2012 09:17
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Courtship Violence: The Patterns of Conflict Resolution Strategies Across Seven Levels of Emotional Commitment*
Robert E. Billingham** Five hundred thirty-fivesubjects (174 males and 361 females) completed a questionnaire which used Straus'(1979) Conflict Tactics Scale subscores in an attempt to determine the impact that gender, level of emotional commitment, and interactive status had on the three subscores. Onlystatus yielded significant differences on all three subscores. Gender and level of commitment yielded significant differences only for the Reasoning and VerbalAggression subscores. The results strongly suggest that violence in relationships occurs much earlier in the development of emotional commitment than has been suggested earlier. In addition, these results suggest that for some couples violence may serve as a catalyst for moving the relationship to more committed levels of involvement. Finally, these data suggest that intervention/preventionprograms must be sensitive to the different roles that violence may serve in a relationship.

since Makepeace (1981) demonstrated that violence occurs in a substantial minority of dating relationships, there has been a profusion of articles which have both confirmed and expanded upon this particular area of interpersonal relationship violence (Bernard,Bernard, & Bernard, 1985; Billingham & Sack, 1987; Cate, Henton, Koval, Christopher, & Lloyd, 1982; Henton, Cate, Koval, Lloyd, & Christopher, 1983; Laner & Thompson, 1982; Makepeace, 1983, 1986; Sack, Keller, & Howard, 1982). Because of this prevalence in the use of violence among courting couples, Laner and Thompson (1982) have suggested that "a theory of violence between adult intimates, if not a broad 'family' violence theory, may be useful in explaining both marital and premarital violence" (p. 232). However, this call for a unified theory is based largely on the similarities between dating couples in more serious relationships and married couples. In fact, Laner and Thompson (1982) present 11 characteristics which serious dating pairs and married pairs have in common. Among these are: greater time at risk, greater presumed range of activities and interests, greater intensity of involvement, an implied right to influence one another, and sex differences that potentiate conflicts. This unified theory in all likelihood would be based on the literaturewhich suggests that greater intimacy results in the potential for greater risk for violence because of the characteristics listed above. However, what must not be overlooked in the quest for a guiding theory is that there is a substantial body of dating violence literature which suggests that, at least for some couples, violence may serve as a catalyst which moves the relationshiD
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to greater levels of commitment. It is this issue which the present study seeks to address. In the first study investigating courtship violence, Makepeace (1981) noted that 44.7% of the relationships which had experienced violence remained intact. Further,of these, 28.9% reported that the relationship had actually become more deeply involved. Cate et al. (1982) found that of the 53% who were still dating the abusive partner, 37% reported that the relationship had improved. Among high school students Henton et al. (1983)found that of the 41% who were still dating the person who had abused them, 36% reported that the relationship had improved. Finally, Roscoe and Benaske (1985) reported that 5% of the respondents who had experienced violence reported that the violence led to an actual improvement in the relationship. Additionally, when researchers have asked about the "meaning" attached to the violence, Cate et al. (1982) reported that regardless of whether the respondent was the abuser or the abused, about 29% interpreted the violence as love. Henton et al. (1983)found that 26.5% of the victims and 31.3% of the aggressors interpreted the violence as love. Finally, Roscoe and Benaske (1985) found that 5% of the female victims attributed the perpetrator's act to love. When these consequences and interpretations of the acts of violence are combined with the reports of "no change" in the relationship, which range from 15.8% (Makepeace, 1981) to 41 % (Cate et al., 1982), it becomes clear that, at least for some individuals, violence is not viewed as a destructive force in their relationship. An importantcomponent in understanding the impact and interpretation

of acts of violence within a relationship focuses on when the violence first occurs within the dating relationship. Cate et al. (1982) found that 72% of the respondents first experienced violence after the relationship had become more serious. Therefore, 28% experienced violence during casual dating. Laner and Thompson (1982) and Laner (1983) reported that relationships defined as serious and meaningful showed higher rates of abuse and aggression than did those defined as casual. Henton et al. (1983) reported that in 76.9% of the cases, violence was first experienced after the couple became seriously involved. This means that in 23.1 % of the relationships the violence occurred during casual dating. Finally, Roscoe and Benaske (1985) found that physical violence was more likely to be reported as involving serious partner commitment (86%) ratherthan in casual dating (14%). Once again, the studies cited generally support the hypothesis that greater commitment provides an opportunity for a greater risk of violence. However, these studies also report a substantial amount of violence at the casual dating level which must be taken into account in both theory development and in the development of prevention programs and treatment strategies.

*An earlier version of this paper was presented at the Biennial Meeting of the Society for Research on Adolescence, Madison, WI, in March, 1986. **Robert Billingham is an Assistant Professor, DepartIndiana University, ment of Applied Health Science, Bloomington, IN 47405.

Key Words: conflict resolution, courtship violence, dating violence. (FamilyRelations, 1987, 36, 283-289.)


The present study therefore sought to clarify the relationship between level of commitment in a relationship and the use of violence as a conflict tactic. This was done using four unique considerations. First, commitment was defined as level of emotional commitment which ranged from casual dating with little emotional commitment to engaged to be married ratherthan as "serious" or meaningful. Second, a serious error in past studies on courtship violence is that victims, victimizers, and mutual violence couples are always lumped together for analyses. In the present study the patterns of the use of conflict tactics for four groups (neither partner had used violence, victims, victimizers, and mutual violence) were studied. It should be noted that Cate et al. (1982), Henton et al. (1983), and Sack, Keller, and Howard (1982) report statistics for these groups but no analyses were conducted. However, Billingham and Sack (1986a) found that interactive status produced significant differences in all of Straus' (1979) Conflict Tactics subscales. Third, since Straus designed his instrument such that there is a gradual increase in coerciveness and aggression across all of the items (Straus, 1979, p. 78), the use of Violence as a conflict tactic should not be investigated as if it were a phenomenon isolated from the use of Reasoning and Verbal Aggression strategies. This is particularly important both for theory construction and for the development of educational, treatment, and intervention strategies since major keys as to why violence as a conflict tactic is used may lie in the pattern of the use of the Reasoning and Verbal Aggression strategies. Finally, the prevalence of violence across the seven levels of emotional commitment was investigated in order to help clarify the question as to when the use of Violence as a conflict tactic begins to appear in relationships.

which the questionnaires were distributed);and (c) currently involved in a dating relationship. The median age for both the males and females was 21 years.

Straus' (1979) Conflicts Tactic Scale (CTS) Form A was used to measure the use of various conflict tactics. In its original form the CTS was designed to measure how spouses acted during conflicts or disagreements. In the present study the wording of this instrument was changed so that it could be used by dating couples. The CTS consists of 14 items which are evaluated by the respondents in terms of how they responded during conflicts. Each respondent rated each of the 14 items using a scale ranging from 0 (never)to 5 (more than once a month). The present study used all three of the CTS subscores for a more complete picture of conflict tactics. The Reasoning subscore was obtained by summing items 1 through 4 (tried to discuss the issue calmly, did discuss the issue calmly, got information to back my side of things, and brought in [or tried to] someone else to help). The Verbal Aggression subscore was obtained by summing items 5 through 9 (argued heatedly but short of yelling, yelled and/or insulted, stomped out of the room, and threw something [but not at partner]or smashed something). The Violence subscore was obtained by summing items 10 through 14 (threatened to hit or throw something at partner; throw something at partner; pushed, grabbed, or shoved partner;hit [or tried to hit] partner but not with anything; and hit [or tried to hit] partner with something hard). The ranges of scores for the subscores are: Reasoning, 0 to 20; Verbal Aggression, 0 to 25; and Violence, 0 to 25. It should be noted that the higher the score, the less successful the couple was at resolving the conflict. Therefore a "high" Reasoning score reflects a greater difficulty with conflict resolution than does a lower score. It would be expected therefore that a higher Reasoning score would be found among respondents who had used violence than among those respondents who had not. It should be noted that a modified form of Straus' CTS has been used extensively in the investigation of courtship violence. In the present study Level of Emotional Commitment was selected for use rather than "length of time dating your current partner." Level of Emotional Commitment was based on the

respondents' responses to the following 7-level scale: 1. Casual dating, little emotional attachment. 2. Someone you have dated often, but to whom you are not emotionally attached. 3. Someone to whom you are emotionally attached, but you are not in love. 4. Someone with whom you are in love. 5. Someone with whom you are in love and would like to marry, but have never discussed marriage with them. 6. Someone with whom you are in love and have discussed marriage, but have made no plans. 7. Someone with whom you are engaged to marry. issues Two methodological should be noted. First, "level of emotional commitment" was selected as an independent variable because of the author's experience with students who have known each other for less than a month but are engaged, as well as students who have dated the same partner for years but who are not emotionally attached to that partner.This is not to imply that emotional commitment is a unidimensional variable. Rather, the goal was to allow each respondent to subjectively evaluate his/her own emotional commitment to his/her partner and to the relationship regardless of the criteria used for this evaluation. Other variables (such as length of time dating partner,presence of a sexual relationship, and even future educational goals) can influence emotional commitment and would be appropriate to covariates in future research. However, they were beyond the framework of the present study. Second, while the seven levels of commitment used could have been reduced to fewer categories, it was believed that the use of seven levels would provide a clearer picture of the pattern of use of Conflict Tactics. Had only three or four categories been used, it was anticipated that the analysis would have yielded results which were consistent with the earlier research (i.e., as the level of commitment increases, the use of violence increases). However, it was anticipated that by using the seven levels, subtle differences based on status would be uncovered. Thus, the hypothesis that violence may be used by some individuals/couples to propel the relationship to a greater level of commWt ment could be investigated more acJuly 1987


The respondents in the present study were a subpopulation taken from a larger study on col lege students' wil1ingness to participate in alternative marriage and family relationships (Billingham & Sack, 1986b). In the present study 535 respondents (174 males and 361 females) met the following criteria for inclusion: (a) not currently married; (b) either white or black American citizens (this criteria was included due to the large number of international students enrolled in the classes in


curately by using the seven levels rather than only three.

A series of 2 x 4 x 7 (gender by interactive status by level of emotional commitment) ANOVAprocedures were conducted for the Reasoning and Verbal Aggression subscores. In order to clarify the role that gender and level of emotional commitment might have in those relationships which do include violence, a 2 x 2 x 7 (gender by violent status by level of emotional commitment) ANOVA was conducted. To enhance the presentation and discussion of these analyses, Multiple Classification Analysis (MCA) using the hierarchical approach were also conducted (See Table 1). The presentation of these analyses will be presented separately for each of the CTS subscores. Because of the unequal cell sizes encountered, all of the multiple range analyses were based on the Scheffe procedure and alpha was set at .05.

Questionnaires were distributed in classes at a large Midwestern university. Those classes which were thought to enroll students from a wide variety of backgrounds and interests were chosen as distribution points. These courses were: human sexuality, life span development, marriageand family interaction, and adolescent development. These classes yielded students in a total of 57 different majors. Questionnaires were distributed and completed as part of the class period. The questionnaires were completed priorto scheduled breaks or the end of class. The completed questionnaires were brought by the respondents as they left the classroom and dropped into a collection box provided by the investigator. While some respondents may have felt uncomfortable completing the questionnaire in class, the resulting responses are consistent with responses reported via anonymous procedures. The project was identified as "helping us to understand how individuals interact in relationships" rather than as a project investigating violence. Also, the data collection occurred during class sections that were totally unrelated to the topic of violence. Therefore, the data should be viewed to be as accurate and unbiased as can be expected from any university student population.

Significant differences in Reasoning scores were found based on gender, F(1, 484) = 3.97, p < .05; status, F(3, 484) = 19.32, p < .001; and level of commitment, F(6, 484) = 7.92, p < .001. In addition, a significant interaction was found to exist between sex and status, F(3, 484) = 2.97, p < .05. There were no other significant 2-or 3-way interactions. Table 1 shows that the difference found based on gender resulted from the males (M = 8.58) having lower

scores than did the females (M = 9.44). The difference found based on status resulted from status 1 (M = 8.11) respondents having significantly lower scores than did status 2 (M = 10.75), status 3 (M = 10.75), and status 4 (M = 11.73) respondents. In other words, as soon as violence (regardless of which member of the couple used violence) enters the relationship, the Reasoning scores were found to be significantly higher than those for respondents who reported that neither they nor their partners had used violence. The significant differences found based on level of emotional commitment resulted from level 1 (M = 6.76) respondents having significantly lower scores than did level 5 (M = 11.15), level 6 (M = 10.37), and level 7 (M = 10.45) respondents. In other words, the only significant differences existed between those respondents who had no emotional commitment to their partnerand those who were in relationships where the possibility of marriage had entered into the relationship. Of particular importance in this analysis was the finding of the significant interaction between gender and status. As noted earlier, the females as a group had significantly higher Reasoning scores than did the males. This finding is consistent with the prior research that has presented results on Reasoning scores. However, Table 2 demonstrates that status 2 (victims) and status 4 (mutual violence) males have higher Reasoning scores than do

Table 1. Multiple Classification

Analysis for the CTS Subscores Reasoning Grand Mean = 9.16 Verbal Aggression Grand Mean = 6.44 Unadjusted Eta Dev. -1.02 0.49 .03 -1.01 1.64 1.63 2.45 .31 .29 -2.12 -0.94 -0.13 -0.33 2.13 1.04 1.56 .29 .28 .173

Violence Grand Mean = 3.63 n 38 102 .08 Unadjusted Dev. Eta 0.79 -0.30 .14 Adjusted Beta Dev. 0.63 -0.24 .11

Variable/ Category Sex Male Female Status 1 2 3 4 Commitment 1 2 3 4 5 6 7

n 174 361

Unadjusted Eta Dev. -0.58 0.28 .08

Adjusted Beta Dev. -0.24 0.11

Adjusted Beta Dev. -0.65 0.31

.13 -2.00 0.86 3.67 5.45 .55 -1.89 -0.80 -0.68 0.92 1.43 1.11 0.49 .23 -1.30 -1.29 -0.82 0.55 1.71 0.74 0.94 -1.96 0.90 3.42 5.38

362 33 38 102

-1.05 1.59 1.76 2.57

38 102 .54 24 9 22 17 9 48 9 .19 .352

-1.21 0.45 .21 0.12 -0.18 0.19 0.00 -0.63 0.23 -1.18 .11

1.11 0.41 .19 0.09 -0.24 0.01 -0.08 -0.40 0.35 -1.31 .12 .006

124 25 82 62 39 159 44

-2.40 -0.72 -0.05 -0.13 1.99 1.21 1.29

R2 July 1987



Figure 1: Mean reasoning scores for the four statuses across seven levels of emotional


14.0 12.0 CO
10.0 _

8.0 0 O





-4-Status Status * Status - Status

2 3 4 Mean
I 7

tactics. Third, there is a surprising similarity between the patterns for the status 2 (victims) and status 4 (mutual violence) respondents. Keeping in mind that status 4 respondents are victims who have hit back while the status 2 respondents are victims who have not (or not yet) hit back, it is possible that both groups make earnest efforts to resolve their conflicts through the use of Reasoning but that these efforts, for whatever reason, fail. Also, it should be noted that these results indicate that the status 2 and 4 respondents continue to try to resolve their conflicts via Reasoning, while the status 3 (victimizers) respondents rely less on Reasoning as the level of emotional commitment increases.

Verbal Aggression
Significant differences in Verbal Aggression scores were found based on gender, F(1, 484) = 13.28, p < .001; status, F(3, 484) = 81.12,p < .001; and level of emotional commitment, F(6, 484) = 4.60, p < .001. There were no significant 2- and 3-way interactions. Table 1 shows that the difference based on gender resulted from the males (M = 5.42) having lower scores than did the females (M = 6.93). The difference found based on status resulted from the status 1 (M = 4.44) respondents having lower scores than did the status 2 (M = 7.30), status 3 (M = 10.11), and status 4 (M = 11.89) respondents. In addition, the status 2 (M = 7.30) respondents had signifi-

1 2 3 4 5 I 6

Levels of Emotional Commitment

their female counterparts. In fact, status 2 (victims) males have the highest Reasoning scores of any of the groups. Additional information concerning the relationship between status and level of emotional commitment is presented in Figure 1. As can be seen, only status 1 respondents clearly fit the expected pattern of increase in Reasoning score as the level of commitment increases. There are three points of particular note. First, there is a sharp decrease in the Reasoning score found at level 4 (in love with partner) for all of the statuses which include violence. This decrease is followed by a sharp increase in the scores at level 5 (would like to marry their partner but have not discussed marriage). From this point the Reasoning scores for the status 4 (mutual violence) respondents increases, while the scores for status 2 (victims) and status 3 (victimizers) decrease. Second, at the lowest level of emotional commitment (casual dating) the status 3 (victimizers) had the highest Reasoning scores while this same group had the lowest scores at the highest level of commitment (engaged). A possible explanation for this, and one which will become more clear as additional results related to the other CTS scores are presented, is that as the roles in the relationship become entrenched (i.e., victimizer and victim), then the threat or potential for violence alone precludes the victimizer from having to 286

use Reasoning strategies to resolve conflicts. Therefore, while status 1 (neither partner had used violence) respondents have increasing scores, perhaps due to the emotional factors related to greater commitment, the status 3 (victimizers) respondents have lower scores because once the relationship becomes relatively permanent they do not have to rely on Reasoning

Figure 2: Mean verbal aggression scores for the four statuses across seven levels of emo-

tional commitment.





4.0 >





-o-- Status --e-- Overall

2 3 4 Mean

Levels of Emotional

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cantly lower scores than did the status

3(M = 10.11)andstatus4(M = 11.89)

respondents. In other words, those respondents who had not themselves used violence had significantly lower Verbal Aggression scores than did those respondents who had used violence. The difference found based on level of emotional commitment resulted from level 1 (M = 4.55) respondents having significantly lower scores than did the level 6 (M = 7.55) respondents. In other words, the only significant difference found for the Verbal Aggression scores was between casual daters and those respondents who had talked to their partners about marriage but had made no plans. Additional information concerning the relationship between status and level of emotional commitment is presented in Figure 2. As was the case for the Reasoning scores, it is only for the status 1 (neither had used violence) respondents that the expected pattern of an increase was clearly demonstrated in Verbal Aggression scores as the level of emotional commitment increased. In fact, for both the status 2 (victims) and status 4 (mutual violence) respondents, lower Verbal Aggression scores were found at the higher levels of emotional commitment than were found at the lower levels. There are three points of particularnote concerning the Verbal Aggression scores. First, recalling that the Reasoning scores for the status 3 (victimizers) respondents at the highest levels of emotional commitment were the lowest scores recorded, Figure 2 shows that this same group's Verbal Aggression scores are almost equivalent to the scores found for the status 4 (mutual violence) respondents. In fact, beginning with level 3 (emotionally attached, not in love), the pattern of scores for the status 3 and 4 respondents is strikingly similar. These high VerbalAggression scores coupled with the decreasing Reasoning scores further support the suggestion that status 3 (victimizers) respondents who are involved in more committed relationships may rely more on the threat of violence ratherthan violence itself as a conflict tactic. Second, because the status 2 (victims) respondents' scores drop so sharply, and, with the exception of level 4 (in love with partner),remain low, it can be hypothesized that victims are reasoners. Finally, because the only significant difference found based on level of commitment was between level 1 and level 6, it seems appropriate to suggest that a high level of Verbal Aggression as a conflict tactic
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appears early in the emotional development of the relationship. Further,these data support the belief that, at least for some couples, the high levels of Verbal Aggression found in more committed relationships are due to the acceptance of these tactics early in the relationship rather than the contemporary suggestion that these tactics appear as a result of the establishment of a committed relationship. This rationale will become more clear as a result of the presentation of the results of the Violence scores.

The only significant difference found for the Violence scores was based on status, F(1, 115) = 4.98, p < .05. In this case the status 3 respondents (M = 2.42) had lower scores than did the status 4 respondents (M = 4.08). In other words, higher violence scores were found for those respondents in mutual violence relationships. However, it is the lack of significant differences based on level of commitment which is of greater importance to this study. Figure 3 demonstrates that when the two statuses' scores are combined (the combined mean), there appears to be a gradual increase in Violence up to level 6 and a sharp decline at level 7 (engaged). However, when the status 4 (mutual violence) scores are examined, we find that the two highest levels of Violence occur at level 1 (casual dating) and level 6 (discussed marriage but

have made no plans). Violence scores are lowest at level 5 (would like to marry partner but have not discussed marriage).These data strongly suggest that, at least for status 4 (mutual violence) respondents, violence occurs very early in the relationship. This further suggests that the more committed relationships are those which have accepted Violence as a legitimate conflict tactic, rather than as previously suggested that Violence occurs after the relationship has become more committed. When the scores for the status 3 (victimizers) respondents are noted, the use of Violence as a conflict tactic is also present even at the lowest levels of emotional commitment. Perhaps more important to this discussion is the observation that when level 7 (engaged) is ignored, statuses 3 and 4 are almost mirrorimages of each other. In other words, when the status 4 scores are higher, the status 3 scores are lower. In fact, at levels 3 and 5 we observe the lowest scores for the status 4 respondents and the highest scores for the status 3 respondents. These results suggest that Violence may serve different purposes for the two groups. Noting that there is a gradual decrease in the Violence scores for the status 4 (mutual violence) respondents, it may be that these individuals are lulled into believing that "things will get better" as the level of commitment increases. Then, at level 6 (discussed marriage but made no plans) the emotional

Figure 3: Mean violence scores for the two violence statuses across seven levels of emotional commitment.

C 0









8.0 6.0 4.0 2.0 0.0 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 =

Levels of Emotional Commitment


commitment to the relationship may be such that the increases in Violence may be rationalized as a legitimate part of the relationship. Finally, at level 7 (engaged) the apparent decrease in Violence may further reinforce the notion that things have improved while in fact the prevalence of violence has simply returned to more normal levels. When the pattern for the status 3 (victimizers) respondents is observed, the Violence scores are almost flat across the levels of emotional commitment with two exceptions. There are major increases in the Violence scores at level 3 (emotional commitment) and level 5 (would like to marrypartner but have not discussed marriage). These data suggest an interesting possibility. When emotional commitment and the possibility of marriage enter a status 3 relationship, the victimizers may increase their use of Violence to test the relationship in order to determine whether or not their partner is "safe" enough before they take the ego risk to move the relationship to greater levels of emotional commitment. Once the relationship has moved to a higher level of emotional commitment, there is a dramatic decrease in the use of Violence as a conflict tactic. This hypothesis is further supported by noting that the Violence score is higher at level 5 than at level 3. Therefore, more consideration of the safety of the relationship must be done priorto talking about marriage.

Discussion Theoretical Considerations

In the present study four interactive statuses were identified which were based on the absence or use of violence in dating relationships. These statuses, along with gender and level of emotional commitment, were examined for their impact on the use of conflict tactics. The results of the present study demonstrate that status as an independent variable must be included in future research investigating relationship violence. Status was the only variable which resulted in significant differences for all three conflict tactics subscores. It should be noted that several authors (Cate et al., 1982; Henton et al., 1983; Lane & GwartneyGibbs, 1985; Sack, Keller, & Howard, 1982) have provided descriptive data for one or more of these statuses. However, they did not attempt to analyze their data based on status to determine their importance as variables associated with this phenomenon. In addition, by using status as an independent variable, important infor288

mation has been added to two interesting yet disturbing findings from earlier studies. First, Roscoe and Benaske (1985), Henton et al. (1983)and Cate et al. (1982) found that some respondents reported that their relationships had actually improved as the result of violence. The results of the present study suggest that, at least for some individuals, violence may be a way of testing the relative safety of a relationship before movement to greater emotional commitment is risked. Second, several authors (Cate et al., 1982; Henton et al., 1983; Laner, 1983; Laner & Thompson, 1982; Roscoe & Benaske, 1985) have found that violence between dating partners is either more likely to be used for the first time, or higher rates are found among more serious relationships than among casual relationships. The results from the present study demonstrate that violence is present even in the earliest stages of emotional commitment for both the mutual violence relationships and the victimizers' relationships. While the peaks of violence for the two groups occur at different levels of emotional commitment, the peaks for both groups occur after emotional commitment has entered the relationship. However, the presence of violence among mutual violence respondents is essentially flat across the levels of emotional commitment, while there are two major peaks for the victimizers. These data suggest that the assumptions concerning the occurrence of violence in dating couples which have been made based on the earlier research must be modified to recognize that violence may serve different purposes depending upon how it is used within the relationship. These data suggest that when violence is found in more committed relationships, it may be present because the relationship has accepted violence as a legitimate conflict tactic from the earliest levels of emotional commitment. Any future attempts at a unified theory of violence must take this group into account. While it is believed that these interpretations are essentially accurate, two notes concerning the generalizability of these results should be noted. First, since the data were collected from students currently enrolled in university classes, no generalizations should be made beyond that population without caution. Second, the responses provided by the respondents were based on their cu rrent dating relationships. Therefore, there is no way of

knowing if the relationship statuses changed over time [i.e., if status 1 (neither partnerhad used violence) relationships became either status 2, 3, or 4 relationships]. Also, there is no way of knowing if any particular relationship survived to higher levels of emotional commitment. Unfortunately only longitudinal data can answer these questions. Nevertheless, the resu Its from the present study provide important data to this area of study and offer important suggestions for future research.

Practical Applications
While the discussion to this point primarily on the has focused theoretical considerations of these results, the results also provide some important information which can be of immediate use to those in the applied fields. As an example, both Puig (1984) and Bogal-Allbritten and Allbritten (1985) recommended that universities engage in some form of media campaign to inform faculty, staff, and students about the problem of dating violence and the available resources for dealing with the problem. Puig's (1984) discussion of one university's awareness program included a section in which "a brief videotape or film, focusing on the psychological and social factors that cause women to remain in abusive relationships was presented" (p. 269). The results from the present study strongly suggest that awareness programs must address the total spectrum of dating violence (i.e., both women and men as victims, victimizers, and mutual participants in violent relationships). While there may be a component of sexism involved in premarital violence (Laner & Thompson, 1982), practitioners would be well advised to keep such a theoretical consideration at the covert level of intervention lest they alienate male victimizers who have been found to have higher traditionally masculine sex role scores than did non-abusive males (Bernardet al., 1985). In addition, these results suggest that some individuals may use violence to test the safety of the relationship before risking movement to a greater emotional level. This evidence is consistent with other research findings that the violent act is often interpreted as an act of love (Cate et al., 1982; Henton et al., 1983; Roscoe & Benaske, 1985). Practitioners then must not dismiss violent acts as simple acts of power, aggression, or desire for dominance in the relationship. Rather the practitioner must, at the very least,
July 1987


attempt to determine if the violent act might in fact have been a distorted act of love. If this proves to be the case, then an intervention strategy which focuses on a redefinition of expressions of love would be more appropriate and perhaps more effective than a strategy which merely attempts to eliminate the violence. Finally, programs aimed at intervention and prevention must begin to take into account the results based on the interactive status. The data showing that violence occurs early in mutually violent couples suggests that efforts should be aimed at helping these couples develop more appropriate problem-solving strategies. For the couples described as victimizers, however, intervention and prevention should include a component which addresses the issue of the victimizer's possible need to test the relationship. The important point is that prevention or intervention should be based on the characteristic of the particular couple ratherthan on a nebulous label such as "violent couple."

Foundations of Parental
Acceptance-Rejection Theory
by RONALD P. ROHNER, Uniuersity of Connecticut

IoCo .iNlop",



REFERENCES J. L., Bernard, Bernard, S. L., &Bernard,M.L.(1985).Courtship violence and sex typing. Family Relations, 34, 573-576. Billingham, R. E., & Sack, A. R. (1986a). Courtship violence and the interactive status of the relationship.
Journal of Adolescent Research, 1, 315-325.

"Ata timewhennational hysteriaover the oldandvexingproblem of childtreatment is at its height,and simplesolutions,basedon passingfashionsandpet theories of thedayare being rapidlyimplemented, Ronald Rohner is to be commendedfor his cautious and sober examinationsof the causes and consequencesof parentalsentiments-warmth, acceptance, rejection-world-wide. His work is in the best tradition of psychological " anthropology. -Nancy Scheper-Hughes, University of California, Berkeley "Ithinkthe book is a majorcontribution because Rohnerhas come up witha uniqueand usefulsolutionto the problemsof studyingchildabuse cross-culturally." -Richard J. Gelles, University of RhodeIsland "Rohner is on to something ... whathe says radically challengescontemporary, relativistic cultural anthropology.... He marshallshis evidenceand makes a strongcase." -Jay Belsky,Pennsylvania State University "Acomprehensive, nontechnical and veryreadable straightforward, accountof workonan important social issue." -J.W. Berry,Queens University "Donein a verysimple,personal,and almostconversational manner.It readseasily.My overallevaluationis stronglypositive." -Walter J. Lonner,WesternWashington University This thought-provoking study is about love-the kind of love that parents can give or withhold fromtheirchildren. Thewarmth dimension of parenting is characterized at one end by parentalacceptance and at the other by parentalrejection.This work examinesthe antecedents,consequences,and correlatesof these phenomenain the Unitied States and across manycultures.A vitalquestionis posed:Whatgivessome children the capacityto moreeffectively thanmostchildren? rejection cope withperceived parental Theproblematic between perceivedparental relationship rejectionand childabuse and neglectis also discussed. The authorbreaksnew groundby offering a theoretical foundation positedin his parental acceptance-rejection theory(PARtheory)for the studyof these and other issues.
CONTENTS: Series Editor's Foreword M. SZINOVACZ / Acknowledgments / Introduction / 1. Conceptual Foundations of Parental Acceptance-Rejection Theory / 2. Researching Parental Acceptance and Rejection: The Universalist Approach / 3. PART Within the Whole: The Sociocultural Systems Model / 4. PART's Personality Theory and Its Historical Antecedents /5. Converging Evidence on PART's Personality Theory / 6. Parental Acceptance and Rejection in Life-Span Perspective / 7. Coping with Perceived Rejection / 8. Parental Acceptance-Rejection, Expressive Behaviors, and Expressive Systems / 9. Epilogue: Looking Back and Looking Ahead / Appendix A: Child Abuse and Neglect and Parental Rejection / Appendix B: The Child PARQ, the Child PAQ, and the Background Data Schedule / References New Perspectives on Family / 1986 / 248 pages / $25.00 (c)

Billingham,R. E., &Sack, A. R.(1986b).Genderdifferences in college students' willingness to participate in alternative marriage and family relations. Family
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Billingham,R. E., &Sack, A. R. (1987).Conflict resolution tactics and the level of emotional commitment among unmarrieds.Human Relations, 40, 59-74. Bogal-Allbritten,R. B., & Allbritten, W. L. (1985). The hidden victims: Courtship violence among college
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Lane, K. E., & Gwartney-Gibbs,P. A. (1985). Violence in 6, 45-59. Laner,M. R. (1983).Courtshipabuse and aggression: Contextual aspects. Sociological Spectrum, 3, 69-83. Laner, M. R., & Thompson, J. (1982). Abuse and aggression in courting couples. Deviant Behavior: An Interdisciplinary Journal, 3, 229-244. the context of dating and sex. Journal of Family Issues,

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Makepeace, J. M. (1981). Courtship violence among college students. Family Relations, 30, 97-102. Makepeace, J. M. (1983). Life events stress and courtship violence. Family Relations, 32, 101-109. Makepeace, J. M. (1986). Gender differences in courtship violence victimization. Family Relations, 35, 383-388. Puig, A. (1984). Predomestic style: A growing college

nel, 25, 268-269. Roscoe, B., & Benaske, N. (1985). Courtship violence experienced by abused wives: Similaritiesin patterns of abuse. Family Relations, 34, 419-424. Sack, A. R., Keller, J. F., & Howard, R. D. (1982). Conflict tactics and violence in dating situations. International Journal of Sociology

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July 1987