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Explaining college partner violence in the digital age: An instrumental design mixed methods study

Lisa A Melander, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


Intimate partner violence is prevalent in contemporary society and certain groups of individuals such as college students are particularly at high risk for becoming involved in aggressive relationships. Despite the detailed body of literature that examines the risk factors for in-person partner violence, researchers have been criticized for their lack of attention to other behaviors that may be considered abusive. One new area of research is cyber aggression, which refers to the use of newer forms of technology (e.g., cell phones and computers) to facilitate repeated harassing behavior with the intention of harming others. Few scholars, however, examine these behaviors among young adult samples or note the relationship between the perpetrator and victim. ^ Because of the dearth of literature on cyber aggression among current and former intimate partners, a mixed methods research design was used to explore this topic using the routine activities theoretical perspective among male and female undergraduate students at a mid-sized Midwestern university. The purpose of this study was to use focus group data to explore participant views on cyber aggression among college intimates in order to develop a survey instrument. Additionally, quantitative analyses were used to examine the correlates of partner cyber aggression. Five themes emerged from the qualitative data, and the data revealed specific aggressive cyber behaviors, potential rationale for using electronic devices to convey harassing messages, and how newer forms of technology may change the manner in which these communications are sent and received. The quantitative results revealed that 71 percent of respondents perpetrated and 75 percent were victimized by at least one aggressive cyber behavior during the past 12 months. Correlates of partner cyber aggression perpetration included athletic participation, increased time online, more text messages received, experiencing sexual abuse, lower self-esteem, being drunk more often, and more online guardianship; receiving more texts, experiencing more physical abuse, and more online guardianship were associated with cyber aggression victimization. The theoretical and policy implications of these findings were also discussed.^

Subject Area

Sociology, Theory and Methods|Sociology, Criminology and Penology

Recommended Citation

Melander, Lisa A, "Explaining college partner violence in the digital age: An instrumental design mixed methods study" (2010). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3398109.