CHAPTER 3 (part 3)
THE WINNIPEG HEALTH AND DRINKING SURVEY - WAVE 1
1. The prevalence of female perpetrated partner abuse was 39.1 percent with the most
common abuse tactic also being "throwing or smashing something (but not directly at
partner)" (23.6%). See Table 4.
Table 4. Female perpetrated violence (Wave 1 data) (Sommer et
|Type of violence
||Number of occurrences
|Minor violence acts
||Threw or smashed something (not at partner)
||Threatened to throw something (not at partner)
||Threw something at partner
||Pushed, grabbed or shoved
|Severe violence acts
||Hit partner with something hard
Note: There are 2 missing cases. Overall violence scale
statistics: Mean = 7.38, S.D. = 3.37, and range = 6-28.
2. Partner abuse by female respondents was significantly predicted by being young in
age and having high scores on Esyenck's Psychoticism Scale (EPQ-R), the Neuroticism Index
and the MacAndrew Scale. An interaction effect was found between alcohol consumption
and the EPQ-P. The strongest predictor of partner abuse by women was the main effect
of having high scores on the EPQ-P. Table 5 illustrates the results of a standard
multiple regression model testing both main and interaction effects.
Table 5: Standard multiple regression analyses predicting female
perpetrated partner abuse (Sommer et al., 1992).
|Years of education
|Alcohol consumption & EPQP
|Alcohol consumption & Neuroticism Index
|Alcohol consumption & EPQE
|Alcohol consumption & EPQL
|Alcohol consumption & Mac
Note: * p < .05, ** p < .01, *** p <.001
F(19,240)=4.87, p < .001,
adj. R2 =0.22.
Limitations of Wave 1 Partner Abuse Data
Wave 1 research has made an important contribution to the family violence
literature because it is one of the first general population studies to investigate
the prevalence of partner abuse by including both socio-demographic and individual
variables in its analyses.
Yet, in spite of the findings provided by this research, a
number of theoretical and empirical questions have been raised. A discussion of Wave
1 results and its subsequent limitations follows.
Wave 1 data provides support for the role of both socio-demographic and
individual risk factors in the perpetration of partner abuse. As might be
expected, the regression analyses yielded abuser profiles that differed for males and
females. The one common predictor, however, is the finding that both male and
female abusers are most likely to score high on the Neuroticism Index.
Results demonstrated that male and female partner abusers can be distinguished
in terms of how alcohol abuse influences the likelihood of perpetration. Whereas
alcohol dependence and the consumption of alcohol (as it interacted with Neuroticism)
were found to be salient factors in the prediction of male perpetrated violence, the
same did not hold true in the prediction of female perpetrated violence.
Although the interaction between Eysenck's P Scale and
alcohol consumption was found to be a weak predictor for female abusers, it appears
that the role of alcohol in partner abuse is experienced differently by males and
In an attempt to explain this sex difference, our article on female perpetrated
spouse abuse (Sommer et al., 1992) relied upon Frieze and Schafer's (1984) cognitive
model. According to this model, "a drinker's reactions will depend upon the
social context in which drinking occurs and the prior expectations of the person about how the alcohol will affect him or her" (p.277). We suggested that "the
effects of alcohol consumption are thought to be dependent upon an individual's
cognitive interpretation of the physiological arousal experienced in a manner that is
consistent with prior sex-role socialization" (Sommer et al., 1992, p. 1321). For
women, the physiological effects associated with alcohol consumption may be interpreted
as emotional warmth, whereas for men, it may be interpreted as power.
The contextual role of alcohol abuse in the perpetration of partner abuse is an
issue that has arisen from this research.
Specifically, the question "Is alcohol consumed during
an abuse episode?" is in need of being answered. In doing so, it will be possible
to determine whether it is the reaction to the immediate effects of alcohol
consumption, or merely the alcoholic lifestyle, that is most influential in the
perpetration of partner abuse.
The socio-demographic risk factors found to be significant for male (i.e.,
unemployment, nonwhite) and female abusers (i.e., young age) are also consistent with
the findings of other general population surveys on partner abuse.
Contrary to those derived from clinical data (Gondolf et al., 1990), abusers in
this, and other general population based research, were not necessarily defined as
being of low SES backgrounds even though the male data demonstrated that being
unemployed was a risk factor.
Further, the finding that being nonwhite was also a salient
factor in the prediction of male perpetrated spouse abuse, needs to be considered
cautiously since our male sample was 93.3 percent white.
Finally, the finding that female abusers are most likely to
be young in age is consistent with other research (Kennedy & Dutton, 1989; Shupe
& Stacey, 1987; Stacey & Shupe, 1983; Straus et al., 1980), as well as with
the profile of the deviance prone individual (Sommer et al., 1992).
Although Wave 1 data included the socio-demographic variables most often used
to define a sample, several other variables commonly investigated in family violence
research were omitted. For example, the effects of violence in the family and
life stress events were not considered in the analysis of Wave 1 data. In view
of the extensive literature suggesting that each of these factors are important correlates
of partner abuse, it is thought that they too, may add to the explanatory power of a
Finally, with respect to the prevalence of perpetrated partner abuse, Wave 1
data demonstrated that 26.3 percent of males and 39.1 percent of females in this
random sample of adult Winnipeg residents acknowledged at least one incident of
partner abuse during the course of their relationship with their current
partner. While the prevalence rates of partner abuse reported are consistent
with Straus et al.'s (1980) findings, explanations regarding a significant sex difference
(Sommer et al., 1991) in its occurrence remain a matter of speculation.
The recency of the partner abuse was also not examined. Establishing whether
the abuse reported is part of a well established pattern or behaviour, or simply an
isolated event, possibly occurring early on in the relationship is a matter that
Contextual issues (i.e., the perpetration of abuse occurring
in self defence), as well as the consequences of partner abuse (i.e., partner's need
for medical attention following a partner abuse episode) were not examined, and remain
a challenge for future research.
The limitations just described indicate that the study of abuse between
intimate partners like any other area of research is not without its problems. It was
the goal of this study to be sensitive to these issues and to attempt to overcome them
by way of the methods outlined in the following chapter. In so doing, some of
the uncertainty regarding the dynamics underlying both male and female perpetrated
partner abuse was clarified.
Next: Chapter 3 Part 4