Abused and Non-Abused College Females' Causal Attributions to Verbally Abusive Partner Behavior
Rhatigan, Deborah Lynn
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Battered women who choose to remain with their abusive partners tend to blame themselves for the violence that occurs within their relationships. However, no empirical studies have systematically investigated the specific perceptions of battered women who stay in abusive relationships. Since self-blame may influence battered women's decision to stay or leave, a battered woman's assessment of her own behavior within conflict situations may be critical to understanding this process. The present study examined the differences between abused and non-abused women's cognitive attributions of their own behavior as well as their verbally abusive boyfriends' behavior in the context of hypothetical dating scenes. College age women (n=100) were presented with descriptions of dating situations involving conflict between a male and female. Half the women received scenes wherein the female's statement toward her boyfriend provoked anger (i.e., provocative condition). The other half of the women received scenes wherein the female's statement toward her boyfriend did not provoke anger (i.e., non-provocative). Other personality variables which have been shown to be related to the experience of abuse (i.e., self-esteem and feminine gender role beliefs) were additionally assessed in relation to attributional response. Results suggested that abused women who were exposed to non-provocative female statements were more inclined to blame themselves than were non-abused women who were exposed to non-provocative female statements. Few differences were found between abused and non-abused women who were exposed to provocative female statements. Low self-esteem was shown to be moderately related to attributions of self-blame. Implications of these findings were discussed with regard to abuse prevention and therapeutic intervention.
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