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UNH Family Research Lab

College Students Around the World Are Violent to Dating Partners, UNH Expert Says

By Erika L. Mantz
UNH News Bureau

June 12, 2003

DURHAM, N.H. - In most of the 31 universities in 16 countries surveyed, a large percentage of students are physically and sexually abusive to dating partners, according to Murray A. Straus, founder and co-director of the Family Research Laboratory at the University of New Hampshire. Twenty-nine percent of the 6,788 students surveyed had physically assaulted a dating partner in the previous 12 months.

"These findings document internationally what has been known for a long time," says Straus, "that physical and sexual assaults against partners in dating and marital relationships are by far the most prevalent type of violent crime. Moreover, the fact that the 31 universities in this study are located in every major world region indicates that this generalization holds in diverse social settings."

Straus says that while most of the assaults on dating partners by students are relatively minor, such as slapping and shoving a partner in anger, the rate of more dangerous assaults, such as punching, choking and attacks with weapons, although much lower, is still alarmingly high at 10 percent. Women assaulted their partners at about the same rate as male students did, Straus also found.

Straus will present these results June 13 at the International Seminar on Family Violence at the University of Montreal in Montreal, Canada. His research is part of the International Dating Violence (IDV) Study, which is a multinational study of violence against dating partners by university students. Students at universities in 16 countries - five in Asia and the Middle East, two in Australia-New Zealand, five in Europe, two in Latin American and two in North America - were interviewed. Eventually, 30 nations will be included.

The study also looks at the relation of the social context to crime, finding that a large percentage of students approved of slapping a partner's face in some circumstances. An average of 42 percent approved of a husband slapping his partner, while 76 percent said it was all right for a wife to slap her partner.

"These rates can be compared with the rates by women in underdeveloped countries," Straus says. "When asked if it was acceptable for a husband to hit his wife for any of the following circumstances - burns food, argues with him, goes out without telling him, neglects children, and refuses to have sex with him - 40 percent of the women agreed with at least one of them."

Straus also noted that the study's results for male students in respect to sexual coercion indicate a worldwide problem. A third of the male students accepted the legitimacy of forcing sex, and a quarter agreed with the myth that women who are raped "asked for it."

Straus is the author or co-author of more than 200 publications, including "Beating the Devil Out Of Them: Corporal Punishment By American Parents and Its Effects on Children." For copies of Straus's papers or more bio information, go to

Murray Straus can be reached by fax at the L'Esterel Resort Hotel in Canada June 12-14. The fax number there is 450 228-4977.

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