The Development of Attitudes Toward Intimate Partner Violence: An Examination of Key Correlates Among a Sample of Young Adults

J Interpers Violence. 2019 Apr;34(7):1357-1387. doi: 10.1177/0886260516651311. Epub 2016 May 25.


Social learning theory remains one of the leading explanations of intimate partner violence (IPV). Research on attitudes toward IPV represents a logical extension of the social learning tradition, as it is intuitive to expect that individuals exposed to violence in the family of origin may internalize behavioral scripts for violence and adopt attitudes accepting of IPV. Yet despite this assumed link between family violence and attitudes toward IPV, few studies have empirically examined factors associated with the development of such attitudes. Using data from the Toledo Adolescent Relationship Study (TARS), we examine the role of family violence on the adoption of attitudes accepting of IPV among a sample of young adults ( n = 928). The current investigation contributes to existing literature on attitudes toward IPV by (a) providing an empirical examination of factors associated with attitudes toward IPV in predictive models; (b) relying on a multifaceted index, describing specific conditions under which IPV may be deemed justifiable; (c) examining extra-familial factors, in addition to family violence exposure, to provide a more comprehensive account of factors associated with attitudes toward IPV; and (d) focusing particular attention on the role of gender, including whether the factors associated with attitudinal acceptance of IPV are similar for men and women. Findings indicated considerable variation in overall endorsement of attitudes regarding the use of violence across conditions, with greater endorsement among women. Consistent with social learning approaches to IPV, exposure to violence in the family of origin was associated with attitudes toward IPV. Yet findings also signaled the salience of factors beyond the family, including a range of sociodemographic, relationship, and adult status characteristics. We discuss the relevance of our findings for future theorizing and research in the area of attitudes toward IPV.

Keywords: anything related to domestic violence; children exposed to domestic violence; domestic violence; perceptions of domestic violence.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Attitude to Health*
  • Domestic Violence / prevention & control
  • Domestic Violence / psychology
  • Female
  • Heterosexuality / psychology
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Intimate Partner Violence / prevention & control*
  • Intimate Partner Violence / psychology*
  • Male
  • Sexual Partners / psychology*
  • Social Norms*
  • Spouse Abuse / prevention & control
  • Young Adult