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Differences Between Perpetrators of Bidirectional and Unidirectional Physical Intimate Partner Violence

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Intimate partner violence (IPV) is a serious public health issue causing significant morbidity, mortality, and economic burden to its victims and society. Prior research suggests that bidirectional or reciprocal IPV perpetration (cases in which both partners perpetrate IPV toward the other) is common and more serious than unidirectional IPV. However, little is known about the characteristics of individuals and couples who engage in bidirectional versus unidirectional IPV.

Using Waves I and III of Add Health, a large, nationally representative sample of young adults, we compared characteristics of perpetrators of bidirectional and unidirectional physical IPV perpetration to each other and to nonperpetrators across a range of variables.

Among study participants, 18.3% reported IPV perpetration in their most recent important relationship, and 65.4% of that was bidirectional, meaning the participant also reported that their partner perpetrated against them. Bivariate analyses showed that both types of perpetrators—bidirectional and unidirectional—differed significantly from nonperpetrators on nearly all variables examined. In multivariate analyses, seven variables were related to bidirectional versus unidirectional IPV perpetration at the .05 level: sex, violent delinquency, substance use, poor grades, depression, having had sex in the relationship, and cohabitation status. There were few sex differences in variables related to reciprocity; only three variables showed differential correlation with reciprocity (early sexual initiation, depression, partner age difference); and only one (depression) remained significant in multivariate models, indicating that the correlates of IPV reciprocity were largely similar for men and women.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: July 1, 2011

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