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Violence in Intimate Relationships: A Conceptual and Empirical Examination of Sexual and Physical Aggression

NCJ Number
Children and Youth Services Review Volume: 30 Issue: 3 Dated: 2008 Pages: 338-351
Date Published
14 pages

In examining whether persons who commit both sexual and physical violence in an intimate relationship have a distinctive profile, this article reports on a literature review of research on the correlates of sexual and physical aggression in intimate relationships, as well as the authors' empirical study of the similarities and differences between men who commit only physical aggression, only sexual aggression, and both forms of aggression.


The empirical study found that except for their motive for sex, the men who committed only sexual aggression (SA) and only physical aggression (PA) were similar in their profiles. The histories of both types of aggressors are marked by experiencing and witnessing violence in their families in childhood and negative parent-child interactions. These factors provide a foundation for the formation of negative attitudes toward women, attitudes that promote violence, inadequate self-control, and association with delinquent peer groups. In addition, the literature review and empirical study suggest that there are some variables that contribute distinctively to the risk for engaging in both PA and SA in intimate relationships. These include personal variables, environmental or contextual variables, and role-related factors. In the discussion of study limitations, the authors note that the current findings are speculative, in that the data used were not collected for the purpose of comparing men who commit different types of intimate partner violence. Had different variables or different assessment tools been used, the pattern of results could be different. The data for the empirical study are from the first wave of a longitudinal study that examined the extent to which men who commit only SA or only PA are different from those men who commit both. The data come form 833 men who were age 18-19 and entering college when they completed the first of five surveys administered over a 4-year span. 1 figure, 1 table, and 89 references

Date Published: January 1, 2008