Sociology, Department of


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A DISSERTATION Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy, Major: Sociology, Under the Supervision of Professor Kimberly A. Tyler. Lincoln, Nebraska: May, 2010
Copyright (c) 2010 HarmoniJoie Noel


Using a sample of 1,269 dating, cohabitating, and married young adult couples, my dissertation explores the extent of disagreement about violence between heterosexual romantic partners, how the prevalence and common predictors of intimate partner violence (IPV) change because of disagreement, and how errors in the cognitive response process can explain disagreement. Disagreement occurs when one partner reports physical violence in their relationship but the other partner does not. Male and female-perpetrated violence are analyzed separately because disagreement may operate differently for these two types of violence. As a result of disagreement among partners, estimates of violence based on individual assessments may be unreliable and potentially could produce biased results. Having accurate estimates of the prevalence of partner violence is important, for example, because many social policy and funding decisions are based on the magnitude of the problem. For instance, greater or fewer resources could be devoted to services that help victims of partner violence depending on the perceived need. Results from my study show that disagreement about relationship violence is substantial and does have an effect on the prevalence of reported violence and conclusions about some common predictors of IPV. This means that previous findings using proxy data (i.e. one-partner data) may not adequately represent the couple and may be different from those studies that use couple data. In addition, some patterns of overreporting and underreporting IPV are a result of breakdowns in the cognitive response process. By identifying and understanding the causes of disagreement the goal of my dissertation is to help survey methodologists and partner violence researchers work towards reducing or accounting for disagreement in order to improve the accuracy and reliability of estimates for intimate partner violence.

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