Stay With or Leave the Abuser? The Effects of Domestic Violence Victim’s Decision on Attributions Made by Young Adults
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While negative attributions are often made toward female victims of domestic violence, studies have not explored whether attributions shift contingent upon whether women stay with or leave abusive husbands. Further, no studies investigated whether negative attributions decrease if the participants receive information about the prevalence of domestic violence or the risks inherent in leaving an abuser. Therefore, two studies were designed that investigated attributions made by young adults when women either stay with or leave an abusive husband and whether educating the participants about prevalence of domestic violence and risks of leaving mitigate negative judgments. In both studies, young adults responded to surveys assessing attributions toward a female heterosexual victim of domestic violence. Results indicated that participants made more positive attributions about her personality characteristics and parenting ability if a woman left the relationship. Informing students beforehand about potential risks of leaving and personal experience with domestic violence did not erase this effect, but interactions mitigated some of the effects. Results suggest that educating young adults about risks of violence while useful, is not sufficient to change blaming attitudes. Educators may instead need to challenge the attribution process. Further research involving attributions toward gay and lesbian victims of domestic violence is suggested.
KeywordsDomestic violence Attribution Spousal abuse Intimate partner violence Attitudes
This research was supported in part by a grant from Lasell College’s Research Across the Curriculum (RAC) program made possible through the Davis Educational Foundation. The authors would like to thank members of our research team who helped to conceptualize and implement this study: Jade Witter, B.S., Kate Lyons, B.S., Nisha Cirino, B.S., Brittany Gallant and Kelly Pigott. We would also like to thank Dr. Joann Montepare, Dr. Robin Miller and Dr. Felice Gordis for their assistance. Authors contributed equally to the research.
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