Date of Award

12-2015

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

Psychology

Major Professor

Gregory L. Stuart

Committee Members

Derek R. Hopko, Todd M. Moore, Elizabeth Strand

Abstract

Intimate partner violence (IPV) occurs at devastatingly high rates in the United States. The current interventions for perpetrators of IPV are limited in their effectiveness. Research regarding characteristics of perpetrators of IPV may provide needed insights about their aggression in order to inform more effective treatments. This cross-sectional study employed the newly developed Interactions with Animals Scale, an original measure of a form of aggression that lacks comprehensive examination despite its demonstrated association with IPV, adulthood animal abuse (AAA). The prevalence, frequency, initiation, motivation, type of animal victimized, and recency of AAA was obtained from a sample of men (N= 157) and women (N= 41) arrested for domestic violence. This study also examined whether AAA accounts for unique variance in IPV perpetration beyond antisocial characteristics, and whether those IPV perpetrators who engaged in AAA differed from those who did not on other characteristics common to perpetrators of IPV. Comparisons by sex were made where appropriate.

AAA perpetration was endorsed at significantly higher rates than in nationwide community samples. Men endorsed significantly more AAA overall, as well as physical and threatening acts of AAA than women. It was more common for both sexes to initiate animal abuse perpetration after age 15 than before age 15, beyond the age at which animal abuse is typically considered a sign of future psychopathology.

AAA was not uniquely associated with IPV perpetration beyond antisocial personality characteristics. Compared to those individuals who denied AAA perpetration, men who reported AAA perpetration endorsed higher rates of antisocial personality characteristics and difficulties with emotional clarity, while women who reported AAA perpetration were not significantly different from their counterparts.

The methods of this study addressed several of the limitations present in existing research on AAA (i.e. assessing both male and female IPV perpetrators, using a more comprehensive measure of AAA, and controlling for other known correlates of IPV to determine the relative importance of AAA perpetration to IPV perpetration). Applications of IPV theories, implications for better understanding IPV perpetrators, for intervention programs, interagency reporting of animal abuse, and domestic violence shelters, as well as directions for future research, are discussed.

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