Author

John Peters

Date of Award

2003

Level of Access

Open-Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Interdisciplinary Program

Advisor

Elizabeth DePoy

Second Committee Member

James Acheson

Third Committee Member

Sandra Butler

Abstract

Since 1980, researchers and practitioners have had access to valid and reliable measures of myths about rape (Burt, 1980) and child sexual abuse (Collings, 1997). Despite the utility of such measures in research and program evaluation, no such measure of domestic violence myths currently exists. The present study was undertaken to fill this gap. In this study, domestic violence myths were defined as stereotypical attitudes and beliefs that are generally false but are widely and persistently held, and which serve to minimize, deny, or justify physical aggression against intimate partners. Based on defensive attribution and radical feminist theories, these myths were conceptualized as serving both an individual function of defending individuals from psychological threat and a wider social function of supporting patriarchy. The psychometric properties of an initial pool of 80 items was tested with a systematic random sample (N = 351) of university students and employees. Based on item contributions to scale reliability and validity, 18 of the 80 items were selected to form the Domestic Violence Myth Acceptance Scale (DVMAS). The scale had an internal consistency reliability (alpha) of 81, and good construct validity as evidenced by confirmatory factor analysis which perfectly fit the theory of four factors relating to character and behavioral victim blame, exoneration of the perpetrator, and minimization. A second study of the reliability and validity of the DVMAS was conducted with a similar sample (N = 284). The instrument exhibited excellent reliability (a = .88), good convergent validity (r = .37 to .65 with measures of rape myths, attitudes toward women, sex role stereotypes, and attitudes toward wife abuse), and good construct validity (the data fit the theoretical four factor solution). However the DVMAS correlated significantly with a measure of social desirability (r = -0.19) and a measure of attitudes toward use of force by governments (r = .34) and thus lacked divergent validity. Males scored significantly higher on the DVMAS than did females as did younger compared to older women; known groups validity was thus also supported. Limitations of the research, implications for policy and practice, as well as extensive future research suggestions are discussed.

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