CHAPTER 3 (part 4)
THE WINNIPEG HEALTH AND DRINKING SURVEY - WAVE 1
Diathesis Stress Model
In order to address both the socio-demographic and psychological variables
represented in this research, and in order to provide a more definitive explanation of
partner abuse, a diathesis stress model was selected for those purposes. This
approach "considers the often subtle interaction between a predisposition toward
disease (or disorders) - the diathesis - and the environmental, or life events disturbing
people - the stress" (p. 55, Davison & Neale, 1990).
According to Davison and Neale (1990), an important tenet of
this perspective is that both the diathesis and stress are necessary conditions in
the development of a particular state. Often used to describe the development of
schizophrenia (Buskist & Gerbing, 1990), this conceptual framework can also be
extended to a number of phenomena whose underpinnings are thought to involve both
biologically and environmentally based vulnerabilities. According to Graff
(1993), vulnerability factors are thought to be relatively stable, whereas stressors
may be experienced as acute or chronic.
The Present Study: Application to Partner Abuse
The diathesis-stress model was thought to be particularly well suited toward
explaining the problem of partner abuse. Our earlier research on courtship
violence employed this conceptual framework (Barnes et al., 1991) and demonstrated
that the inclusion of an interaction term (i.e., personality and alcohol consumption)
in the diathesis-stress regression model increased the amount of variance explained
over the amount explained by the main effects by seven percent. Previously,
theories that have guided research demonstrating associations between a number of
socio-demographic variables, personality, alcohol consumption, and the perpetration of abuse between intimate partners have not been successful in providing a complete
explanation of this phenomenon. The application of a diathesis-stress model
allowed for the integration of principles from a number of the theories previously
In this research, by conceptualizing personality, alcohol dependence,
socio-demographic variables (i.e., age, employment status, income, education, religion
and race), family background and past partner abuse as the diathesis, and life stress
events (i.e., job loss, job change, change in financial situation, change in residence,
birth of a child, retirement, start or finish school, change in marital status,
spouse's job loss, spouse's job change) and recent alcohol consumption as the stress,
an examination of their individual and combined effects in the prediction of partner
abuse was attempted. In the presence of both constitutional and environmental
risk factors, the likelihood for partner abuse was expected to increase. It was
expected that the application of a diathesis-stress model to the issue of partner
abuse would improve upon the explanatory value of previously advanced models.
Figure 1 illustrates the model tested in this research.
[Will be shown here when the graphics file becomes available. --WHS]
Assumptions Underlying the Research Project
This research project assumed that references to partner abuse were made within
the context of heterosexual relationships. Although it is recognized that there is a
growing body of literature on gay and lesbian partner abuse, it was deemed to be
beyond the scope of this research to explore the perpetration of partner abuse within this
The objectives of this project were as follows:
1) Examine the longitudinal relationships among socio-demographic variables, alcohol
consumption and dependence, personality and partner abuse.
Identify the incidence and prevalence of partner abuse in a large urban Canadian
Compare the rates of partner abuse between males and females.
Compare these rates of partner abuse with those of other Canadian and U.S. urban
Examine the stability of partner abuse during the course of the research project.
Examine whether the abuse perpetrated occurred in self defence.
Examine the consequences of partner abuse episodes based on whether medical
treatment was sought.
Examine whether the consumption of alcohol was a factor at the time of an abuse
Examine whether the relationship between the amount of alcohol consumed and the
occurrence of partner abuse is linear (i.e., such that the likelihood for abuse increases
with the amount consumed).
Examine the relationship between observing violence in the family of origin and the
perpetration of partner abuse.
Examine the relationship between recent life stress events (i.e., those occurring
during the past two years) and the perpetration of partner abuse.
The empirical literature and the diathesis-stress model as applied to abuse between
intimate partners suggest several testable hypotheses. A description of the
hypotheses tested in this research are as follows:
Descriptive statistics and correlational analyses were expected to reveal that:
- The incidence rates of male and female perpetrated partner abuse (i.e., abuse that
has occurred during the past year) as measured in Wave 2 will be consistent with those
reported in the literature (i.e., 10-14 percent).
- The pattern of partner abuse (i.e., frequency, severity, most common abuse tactics
and sex differences) found in Wave 1 of this research will also hold true for Wave 2 data.
- Partner abuse scores will be significantly higher among respondents who had
witnessed their parents' abuse of each other (as measured in Wave 2).
- Partner abuse scores will be significantly higher among respondents who had reported
having experienced life stress events (as measured in Wave 2).
- The relationship between the consumption of alcohol and the perpetration of partnerabuse will be curvilinear whereby individuals who consume moderate amounts of
alcohol will have higher mean partner abuse scores than those who consume low and high
amounts of alcohol (as measured in Wave 1 and Wave 2).
The main hypotheses, related to the diathesis-stress model were assessed by way of
logistic regression analyses and included measures drawn from Wave 1 and Wave 2. The
individual and combined main effects of the independent measures on current perpetrated
partner abuse (as measured in Wave 2) as well as their interactive contributions to its
prediction were evaluated for the following:
- 6. For males, witnessing mother's and father's abuse of each other, consuming alcohol
(measured in Wave 2), being unemployed, perpetrating past partner abuse, having low scores
on social conformity and having high scores on alcohol dependence, the Neuroticism Index,
(measured in Wave 1) and stress (measured in Wave 2) will significantly predict current
perpetrated partner abuse in Wave 2.
- 7. For females, witnessing mother's and father's abuse of each other (measured in Wave
2) being young in age, perpetrating past partner and having high scores on Esyenck's
Psychoticism Scale (EPQ-R), the Neuroticism Index, the MacAndrew Scale (measured in Wave
1) and stress (measured in Wave 2) will significantly predict current perpetrated partner
abuse in Wave 2.
based on the findings emerging from the literature reviewed, the following two
hypotheses were derived:
- 8. For males, the interaction between the following diathesis and stress factors
will significantly predict current perpetrated partner abuse in Wave 2 and add
to the explanatory power of the main effects model:
- deviance prone personality (i.e. high scores on the neuroticism index) and high
recent alcohol consumption,
- deviance prone personality (i.e., high scores on the neuroticism index) and life
- past environmental contributions (i.e. past partner abuse and violence in the family
of origin) and high recent alcohol consumption,
- past environmental contributions (i.e., past partner abuse and violence in the
family of origin) and life stress, and
- alcohol dependence and life stress.
- For females, the interaction between the following diathesis and stress factors will
significantly predict current perpetrated partner abuse in Wave 2 and improve upon the
explanatory power of the main effects model.
- high scores on deviance prone personality (i.e., neuroticism index and psychoticism scale) and past partner abuse,
- high scores on deviance prone personality (i.e., neuroticism index and psychoticism
scale) and life stress events,
- high scores on deviance prone personality (i.e., neuroticism index and psychoticism
scale) and high recent alcohol consumption, and,
- past environmental contributions (i.e., violence in the family of origin and past
abuse) and life stress.
Next: Chapter 4