Attributions of Negative Intent and Responsibility and Anger Arousal of Abusive and Nonabusive Males to Perceived Negative Dating Partner Behavior
Moore, Todd M. Jr.
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Attributions of Negative Intent and Responsibility and Anger Arousal of Abusive and Nonabusive Males to Perceived Negative Dating Partner Behavior by Todd M. Moore Abstract Research on marital abuse indicates that abusive husbands attribute greater negative intent and responsibility to their partner's behavior and report greater anger arousal during conflictual situations with their partner than do nonabusive husbands (Dutton & Browning, 1988; Holtzworth-Munroe & Hutchinson, 1993). Research also shows that measures of anger arousal (e.g., blood pressure and heart rate) are significantly greater during situations of provocation or threat than neutral or nonprovocative situations (Smith & Allred, 1989). However, research has not attempted to measure abusive and nonabusive males' anger arousal and cognitive attributions to provocative and nonprovocative partner behavior in conflictual situations. Two studies examined attributional responses and one study examined anger arousal in high and low abusive dating males to highly provocative (e.g., girlfriend is flirting with another man) or minimally provocative (e.g., girlfriend wants to talk) partner behavior. A major hypothesis was that abusive males would attribute greater negative intent and responsibility as well as evidence greater blood pressure and heart rate reactivity to their partner's behavior in provocative but not in nonprovocative situations than would nonabusive males. In Study 1, six hypothetical vignettes (4 provocative and 2 nonprovocative) of dating situations were developed or modified from existing research (Holtzworth-Munroe & Hutchinson, 1993). Provocativeness of the situations was determined through pilot testing which showed that "provocative partner behavior" yielded significantly greater attributions of negative intent and responsibility than did nonprovocative partner behavior. Undergraduate males (N = 106) were assessed for their levels of abusive relationship behaviors with the Conflict Tactics Scale (CTS; Straus 1979), for their tendencies to abuse with the Propensity for Abuse Scale (PAS; Dutton, 1995b), and for their expression of anger with the State-Trait Anger Expression Inventory (STAXI; Spielberger, Johnson, Russell, Crane, Jacobs, & Worden, 1985). Participants then listened to audio-taped situations and completed negative intent and responsibility attribution questionnaires. Results indicated that high CTS, PAS, and STAXI males attributed greater responsibility and blame to partner behavior in provocative scenes, but not in nonprovocative scenes than did low CTS, PAS, and STAXI males (p < .05). Additionally, high CTS, PAS, and STAXI males attributed greater negative intent to partner behavior in both provocative and nonprovocative scenes than did low CTS, PAS, and STAXI males (p < .05). There were no interaction effects for attributions of negative intent and responsibility based on dispositional measures and scene provocativeness. In Study 2, undergraduate males (N = 107) were screened for abusive relationship behaviors with the CTS. Screening identified 37 males as High-Abusives (n=18) and Low-Abusives (n = 19). Participants selected in the screening phase were called back and fitted with a blood-pressure cuff which recorded blood pressure and heart rate before and after each of four scenes (2 provocative and 2 nonprovocative). Following presentation of the scenes, participants completed negative intent and responsibility attribution questionnaires. Results indicated that both High- and Low-Abusives evidenced significantly greater systolic blood pressure arousal during provocative as compared to nonprovocative scenes (p<.05). Similar to Study 1, results showed that High-Abusives attributed greater negative intent and responsibility to partner behavior than did Low-Abusives (p <.05). However, blood-pressure and heart rate reactivity of High- and Low-Abusives were not significantly discrepant. The results of Studies 1 and 2 demonstrated that High-Abusives attributed greater negative intent and responsibility to partner behavior than did Low-Abusives. Study 2 also showed that provocative partner behavior produced greater increases in systolic blood pressure than nonprovocative partner behavior for both High- and Low-Abusives. Overall, these studies provided partial empirical support for the relationship between negative attributions and anger arousal to provocative partner behavior among abusive and nonabusive males. Limitations and future research directions will be discussed.
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