Conflict Tactics – European Result (2011)

The Conflict Tactics Scale (CTS) was first devised by Professors Murray Straus and Richard Gelles in the USA in the 1970’s (Straus and Gelles, 1974) as a means of measuring what aggressive acts occurred between intimate partners. It asked about verbal, symbolic and physical acts of aggression either as committed by an individual against their partner or as victimisation experienced by an individual from a partner. It has been extensively used in over 30 years of research in either form, although more so as victimisation than perpetration, as this is seen as more reliable, particularly for the more serious acts of physical aggression.

There are now very many papers in the academic literature which have used this scale; either the original or later modified and updated version (CTS2), and these have been applied to dating, cohabiting or married populations. However, the vast majority of these studies are reported for North American samples, many of which are student dating samples. Far fewer studies have been conducted using the CTS in countries outside of North America, although there are good examples (eg. UK, Carrado et al, 1996).

Looking at Table 1 above, it is apparent, when the percentages of males and females committing acts of aggression as either ‘severe’ or ‘minor’ acts are expressed as a percentage female-to-male of one another, that in four countries for minor aggressive acts (Greece, Switzerland, Hungary and Sweden) and five countries for severe acts (Greece, Netherlands, Switzerland, Hungary and Portugal), the percentage of male assaults on female partners is a higher figure than female assaults on male partners, and hence the percentage female-to-male is below 100%. In the remaining seven countries for minor assaults and six countries for severe assaults, the percentage of female
assaults on male partners is higher, such that the female-to-male ratio is above 100% in each case, reaching over 200% for Great Britain (222%) and Lithuania (233%) in the case of severe assaults.

The extent to which assaults between intimate partners have been an object of public and governmental concern varies widely across countries and this is true even within Europe. Hence, it would be expected that initial attempts to undertake normative population surveys, even amongst university students as in this study, will find widely
differing results. However, by focusing upon university students who are usually in their late teens to early twenties, the study is, of course, on the one hand sampling from the age range in which acts of aggression are generally high, but also from a population in which dating relationships, rather than necessarily co-habiting or married relationships, predominate.

So it is not at all certain how these results would translate to an older sample and a sample with high levels of co-habitation or marriage. What can be said, however, is that generally rates of assaultative behaviour are less in older groups than in the young as in this sample, and there is some evidence that men in particular are less assaultative in committed relationships, possibly recognising that such behaviour will have destabilising effects on the relationship (Carrado et al, 1996).

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