Men who engaged in domestic violence consistently overestimated how common such behavior is, and the more they overestimated it the more they engaged in abusing their partner in the previous 90 days, according to new research conducted at the University of Washington.
Those men overestimated by two to three times the actual rates of seven behaviors ranging from throwing something at a partner to rape,, according Clayton Neighbors, lead author of a paper to be published in a spring issue of the journal Violence Against Women.
"We don't know why men make these overestimations, but there are a couple of likely reasons. Men who engage in violent behavior justify it in their mind by thinking it is more common and saying, 'Most guys slap their women around so it is OK to engage in it.' Or it could be that misperceptions about violence cause the behavior," said Neighbors, now a UW affiliate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences and a professor of psychology at the University of Houston.
"Another way of looking at this would be wearing a red shirt. If you think everyone is wearing a red shirt then it is okay for you to wear one too. Or if you wear a red shirt you might overestimate the number of other people who are wearing red shirts," he said.
The work is the first to document overestimation of intimate partner violence by batterers and is consistent with findings about a variety of other harmful behaviors such as substance use, gambling and eating disorders. This line of research looks at social norms, or what is considered to be appropriate and inappropriate behavior in society.
"Social norms theory suggests that people act in a way that they believe is consistent with what the average person does," added co-author Denise Walker, a UW research professor of social work and co-director of the Innovative Programs Research Group.
The research looked at 124 men who were enrolled in a larger treatment intervention study f
|Contact: Joel Schwarz|
University of Washington