Male and female reports of intimate couple aggression : the influence of method and social desirability
MetadataShow full item record
Much of the research on intimate aggression has found women to self report higher amounts of physical aggression than men, and that finding has generated considerable debate. However, these findings are commonly based on frequencies of self-reports and reports of partner’ physical and verbal aggression. Many other types of aggression exist that men and women use differentially. Examples include proactive, reactive, and indirect aggression. In addition, much of this research has not assessed how reports of aggression might be affected by the level of anonymity and social desirability associated with a particular method of data collection (i.e., face-to-face interview, self-administered questionnaires, Internet survey). This study was the first to assess proactive, reactive, indirect aggression, in adult dating relationships. In addition, this research examined how self-reports of aggression related to the clinical variables of psychopathy and borderline/dysphoria and how self-reports of aggression varied across interviews, questionnaires and Internet surveys. A total of 564 undergraduates at the University of Texas at Austin participated in this research. As predicted, before correcting for method and social desirability, female participants compared to male participants, self-reported higher rates of engaging in physical and verbal aggression and lower rates of their partner’s physical and verbal aggression. In addition, the novel findings included female participants reporting higher rates of reactive aggression and borderline/dysphoria, and lower rates of proactive aggression and psychopathy. However, when method and social desirability was controlled for, the only effects that remained significant concerned proactive aggression and psychopathy. In sum, after correcting for method and social desirability, females ceased to report lower rates of partner’s aggression, and higher rates of proactive aggression and borderline/dysphoria. However, after correcting for method and social desirability, male participants remained significantly higher than female participants in self reports of proactive aggression and psychopathy. The interpretation of these results is that social desirability functioned differently for the male and female participants. Thus, it might be expected that failure to control for social desirability in reports of aggression and variables that have been demonstrated to show sex differences, might lead to inaccurate results. Future recommendations for more comprehensive research designs are discussed.