Faculty Scholarly Dissemination Grants


Motivations for Self-Defensive Violence among College Students in Dating Relationships




College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Date Range



Physical aggression in college dating relationships is a prevalent problem. Researchers have found that approximately 20-37% of dating couples have experienced physical violence in their dating relationship (Magdol, et al., 1997). In addition, there is evidence to suggest that women are as likely, if not more likely, to use physical aggression against their partners (Archer, 2000). The current investigation was designed to better assess contextual behaviors that lead individuals to classify their aggressive behaviors as self-defensive. College students (N=193) completed a measure developed to assess reasons for self-defensive violence. Participants also completed a measure of relationship aggression (CTS2; Straus et al., 1996). Results suggested that individuals conceptualized self-defense broadly, including perpetration to prevent physical, psychological, or sexual abuse of the self, to protect personal property, and to prevent the abuse of others. Women most often indicated engaging in self-defensive violence to stop emotional abuse, while men were more likely to endorse engaging in such violence to prevent physical abuse of another individual. These data expand the discussion of self-defensive violence by providing a better indication of the behaviors that are labeled self-defensive in the context of violent dating relationships for men and women. It also calls into question common assumptions regarding the function of female-perpetrated violence and provides directions for future research. The data suggest that cognitive-behavioral treatments currently being used in interdisciplinary prevention and intervention programs could be revised to better address these facets of dating violence amongst dating couples.

Conference Name

Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies Annual Convention

Conference Location

San Francisco, CA

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