Media Reports, But Doesn’t Question It
The College of Criminal Justiceat Sam Houston State University has just published a report titled Differences in Education / Employment Status and Intimate Partner Victimization (Franklin & Menaker, 2012). Forbes writer Meghan Casserly simply parrots it. Although she appears reluctant to accept its findings, she probably doesn’t know enough about social science research methodology to report on it.
In the report, Franklin & Menaker find that women who work are more likely to be victims of abuse from their male partners than women who don’t work. Casserly quoted the findings from a press release:
“When both male and females were employed, the odds of victimization were more than two times higher than when the male was the only breadwinner in the partnership, lending support to the idea that female employment may challenge male authority and power in a relationship,” said Franklin and Menaker
The idea that men wish to dominate women and will become abusive when their dominance or authority is challenged is an old one. But several recent studies (including Whittaker, 2007 from the CDC) have found that women are more likely to be the abusers in relationships where only one partner is abusive and that in about half of all abuse cases, both partners are abusive. While Casserly repeated some of the methodology (she described the sample), she didn’t criticize it. Perhaps she didn’t know what she was looking at.
Franklin & Menaker used a sample of 303 women who were interviewed by telephone taken from the Fourth Annual Texas Crime Victimization Survey conducted in 2007. Only responses from women were used by Franklin & Menaker. This is indicative of the first problem in this study. Although there were men interviewed for the Fourth Annual Texas Crime Victimization Survey, Franklin & Menaker excluded all data obtained from them, thus failing to establish a baseline for comparison of violence committed against men by their intimate partners. Studies using this type of sampling strategy typically ignore violence against men in order to push an agenda highlighting violence against women. They pretend that violence against men is non-existant. The exclusion of male victims in this study allows these researchers to conclude that the increased violence in there relationships is the result of women challenging male authority.
The second major problem with this study is contained in the questions asked. Respondents were asked only about their own victimization. They were not asked whether or not they had committed any of the acts. Some of the questions included were whether or not their partner had committed any of the following:
- Threw something at you
- Pushed, grabbed, or shoved you
- Slapped, hit, kicked, or bit you
- Hit or tried to hit you with something
- Beat you up
- Choked you
- Threatened you with a gun or knife
If a woman reported experiencing any of the forms of victimization, she was classified as victimized. If she responded negatively to all forms of victimization, she was classified as not having been victimized. Approximately 67 percent of the women reported having experienced some form of physical or psychological victimization perpetrated by an intimate partner in the previous 24 months.
This means that a woman reporting any of the above would be considered a victim even if she had initiated the violence and even if her partner only committed the act in self-defence. This flies in the face of most of the current research suggesting that about half of IPV is reciprocal (both partners are violent) and may include female perpetrators by counting them as victims.
Another problem is that Franklin & Menaker found that about two thirds of women report being a victim of “physical or psychological” victimization in the past 24 months. They provide no sample questions or description of what counted as “psychological,” leaving that to the imagination of the reader. The lumping together of acts typically considered criminal (physical) with those that are not (psychological) only serves the purpose of misleading the reader since most people associate IPV with physical violence. This allows the researchers to maximize the problem in the minds of the readers.
They state they found no significant difference in the amount of IPV between the patriarchal and non-patriarchal groups. This non-significant finding calls into question the interpretation of the results. If the increase in IPV in relationships where the woman works is due to a challenge to male authority, then one should expect a significant finding with more IPV in patriarchal relationships than in non-patriarchal. But this was not the case.
The definition of “patriarchal family ideology” may also be problematic. Did the questions adequately measure the construct? There is no mention of testing the validity or reliability of the test questions concerning this factor. In fact, there is no discussion anywhere in the report concerning the validity or reliability of any part of the study. Peer-reviewed journals typically require that the authors present a discussion of sample selection, the methodology, the instruments used, the statistical analysis, and the limitations of the study. With the exception of sample selection, much of this information was missing or skimmed over. The study was published in a university report, not published in a peer-reviewed journal. This means that the checks and balances that help to ensure scientific merit and rigor were not applied.
Meghan Casserly described the findings as “surprising.” I would disagree. The results are quite typical of this type of shoddy research, especially when conducted by researchers whose political ideology may be clouding their scientific practice. According to the report:
“Cortney A. Franklin is an assistant professor of Criminal Justice at Sam Houston State University whose work focuses on victimology and violence against women… Tasha A. Menaker holds a master’s degree in clinical psychology, is finishing a Ph.D. in Criminal Justice at Sam Houston State University that focuses on commercially sexually exploited female youth.”
Both women have staked their career on violence against women. It’s a good bet that both are highly motivated to ensure that the “women as victims, men as perpetrators” paradigm which is prevalent in the domestic violence industry continues to be the dominant theme and that this motivation has influenced their scientific judgement.
While one might expect that researchers who make their living promoting a particular paradigm for domestic violence might show a bias in their research, one might also expect that Forbes would hire reporters that know enough about a topic to actually report on it instead of accepting a press release at face value.