Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Douglas L. Epperson


In an examination of reactions to violence in relationships, 596 undergraduate students read one of 27 scenarios depicting a violent incident between a man and and a woman. The 27 scenarios combined 3 levels of severity of assault (low, medium, and high), and 3 levels of frequency of assault (1, 3, and 6 times), and 3 types of relationships (casually dating, seriously dating, and married). After reading one of the scenarios, subjects then indicated their willingness to label the incident battering, their attributions of responsibility for the incident, their willingness to remain involved with the victim, and their willingness to recommend a variety of resources of courses of action to the victim. The sex-role attitudes of subjects were also assessed;In general, as the severity of the assaults increased, subjects were more likely to label the incident as battering, attribute responsibility for the incident to the man, and be willing to talk to the victim. Taking decisive action and terminating the relationship also were more strongly endorsed as severity increased;When violence was described in the scenarios as repeated rather than as a first occurrence, subjects were more likely to label the incident as battering and to endorse taking decisive action and terminating the relationship;Seriously dating and married couples were more strongly encouraged to take "decisive action" than were casually dating couples. Male offenders were held less responsible in the married condition; married victims were more strongly encouraged to work on the relationship and least strongly encouraged to get out of the relationship;Traditional sex-role attitudes were associated with decreased willingness to talk or be involved with victims of battering, to label the situation as battering, and to hold the male responsible, along with increased endorsement for the victim to stay in the relationship;Results were interpreted as providing some encouraging perspectives on college students' responses to incidents of relationship violence. However, several areas of concern and needs for public education were identified. Limitations of this study and further research directions were also addressed.



Digital Repository @ Iowa State University,

Copyright Owner

Christine A. Paisley



Proquest ID


File Format


File Size

129 pages