Possible predictors of relationship violence

October 27, 2005

Men behave in certain ways to retain their partner and to continue their relationship with her. Sometime it's sweet, like holding hands or giving flowers, and sometimes it's a harbinger of danger. A study published in the latest issue of Personal Relationships identifies several specific acts and tactics that lead to the possibility of violence. Vigilance over a partner's whereabouts was the highest-ranking tactic predicting violence across the researchers' three-study investigation. Emotional manipulation, such as a man saying he would "die" if his partner ever left also was predictive of violence. Monopolization of time and the threat to punish for infidelity also were signals of violence. Showing love and care was among the tactics not associated with violence. "Mate retention behaviors are designed to solve several adaptive problems, such as deterring a partner's infidelity and preventing defection from the mating relationship," author Todd K. Shackelford explains.

In the first two studies, the researchers asked independent samples of men and women to report on men's retention behaviors and men's violence against their partners. In the third study, they asked husbands and their wives to report on men's retention behaviors and violence against wives. The highest-ranking correlations between single acts and violence were not consistent across the three studies. But acts such as "dropped by unexpectedly to see what my partner was doing" and "called to make sure my partner was where she said she would be" were the overall third and fifth highest predictors of violence. These acts fall into Vigilance, which the couples reported as the highest-ranking tactic leading to violence and the only tactic across all three studies that uniquely predicts violence. "At a practical level, results of these studies can potentially be used to inform women and men, friends and relatives, of danger signs-- the specific acts and tactics of mate retention that portend the possibility of future violence in relationships in order to prevent it before it has been enacted," the authors conclude.
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This study is published in the December issue of Personal Relationships. Media wishing to receive a PDF of this article please contact journalnews@bos.blackwellpublishing.net

Personal Relationships is an international, interdisciplinary journal that promotes scholarship in the field of personal relationships throughout a broad range of disciplines, including psychology, sociology, communication studies, anthropology, family studies, child development, and gerontology. It is published on behalf of the International Association for Relationship Research.

Todd K. Shackelford is Associate Professor of Psychology at Florida Atlantic University. He has published over 120 articles, is on the Editorial Boards of 15 journals, and is Associate Editor of the journal Personality and Individual Differences. Dr. Shackelford is available for media questions and interviews.

Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

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