Journal of Family Violence

, Volume 7, Issue 4, pp 309–319 | Cite as

Prevalence and distribution of premarital aggression among couples applying for a marriage license

  • Iris G. McLaughlin
  • Kenneth E. Leonard
  • Marilyn Senchak


This study used a modified version of the Conflict Tactics Scale to examine the prevalence of premarital aggression in a community sample of husbands and wives. The sample consisted of 625 couples participating in a longitudinal study of marital functioning and alcohol use. Consistent with past studies, the overall prevalence rate of husband-to-wife premarital aggression was 35%. Sociodemographic variables were associated with premarital aggression, with differences emerging primarily with regard to moderate aggression rather than mild aggression. Further, factors such as race, education, social class, cohabitation, and presence of children were independently associated with premarital aggression. This study is one of the first to examine premarital aggression in a large, heterogeneous sample of young husbands and wives at the same stage of relationship development. Future analyses will examine the prevalence, frequency, and continuity of husband and wife aggression over the first year of marriage.

Key words

marital aggression newlyweds prevalence spouse abuse 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Arias, I., Samios, M., and O'Leary, K. D. (1987). Prevalence and correlates of physical aggression during courtship.J. Interper. Viol. 2: 82–90.Google Scholar
  2. Booth, A., and Johnson, D. (1988). Premarital cohabitation and marital success.J. Fain. Issues 9: 255–272.Google Scholar
  3. Cazenave, N. A., and Straus, M. A. (1990). Race, class network embeddedness, and family violence: A search for potent support systems. In Straus, M. A., and Gelles, R. J. (eds.),Physical Violence in American Families: Risk Factors and Adaptations to Violence in 8,145 Families, Transaction Publishers, New Brunswick, NJ, pp. 321–339.Google Scholar
  4. Hollingshead, A. (1975). Four Factor Index of Social Position, New Haven, CT: Author.Google Scholar
  5. Lane, K. E., and Gwartney-Gibbs, P. A. (1985). Violence in the context of dating and sex.J. Fam. Issues 6: 45–59.Google Scholar
  6. Laner, M. R. (1983). Courtship abuse and aggression: Contextual aspects.Sociological Spectr. 3: 69–83.Google Scholar
  7. Makepeace, J. M. (1981). Courtship violence among college students.Fam. Relat. 30: 97–102.Google Scholar
  8. Makepeace, J. M. (1987). Social factors and victim offender differences in courtship violence.Fam. Relat. 36: 87–91.Google Scholar
  9. Matthews, W. J. (1984). Violence in college couples.College Stud. J. 18: 150–158.Google Scholar
  10. O'Keefe, N., Brockopp, K., and Chew, E. (1986). Teen dating violence.Social Work 31: 465–468.Google Scholar
  11. O'Leary, K. D., and Arias, I. (1987). Prevalence, correlates and development of spouse abuse. In deV. Peters, R., and McMahon, R. J. (eds.),Marriage and Family: Behavioral Treatments and Processes, Brunner/Mazel, New York.Google Scholar
  12. O'Leary, K. D., Barling, J., Arias, I., and Rosenbaum, A. (1989). Prevalence and stability of physical aggression between spouses: A longitudinal analysis.J. Consult. Clin. Psychol. 57: 263–268.Google Scholar
  13. Plass, M. S., and Gessner, J. C. (1983). Violence in courtship relations: A Southern example.Free Inq. Creat. Sociol. 11: 198–202.Google Scholar
  14. Roscoe, B., and Callahan, J. E. (1985). Adolescents' self-report of violence in families and dating relations.Adolescence 20: 545–553.Google Scholar
  15. Stets, J. E., and Straus, M. A. (1989). The marriage license as a hitting license: A comparison of assaults in dating, cohabiting, and married couples.J. Fam. Viol. 41: 161–180.Google Scholar
  16. Straus, M. A. (1979). Measuring intra family conflict and violence: The Conflict Tactics (CT) Scales.J. Marr. Fam. 41: 75–88.Google Scholar
  17. Straus, M. A., and Gelles, R. J. (1986). Societal changes in family violence from 1975 to 1985 as revealed by two national surveys.J. Marr. Fam. 48: 465–479.Google Scholar
  18. Straus, M. A., Gelles, R. J., and Steinmetz, S. K. (1980).Behind Closed Doors: Violence in the American Family, Anchor/Doubleday, Garden City, NY.Google Scholar
  19. Teachman, J. D., Polonko, K. A., and Scanzoni, J. (1987). Demography of the family. In Sussman, M. B., and Steinmetz, S. K. (eds.),Handbook of Marriage and the Family, Plenum Press, New York.Google Scholar
  20. Yllo, K., and Straus, M. A. (1981). Interpersonal violence among married and cohabiting couples.Fam. Relat. 30: 339–347.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1992

Authors and Affiliations

  • Iris G. McLaughlin
    • 1
  • Kenneth E. Leonard
    • 1
  • Marilyn Senchak
    • 1
  1. 1.Research Institute on AlcoholismBuffalo

Personalised recommendations