Date of Degree
Tyrel J. Starks
Intimate Partner Violence, Sexual Minority Men, Male Relationships
The emerging body of research illustrates that sexual minority cis men (SMM) in a relationship experience intimate partner violence (IPV) at rates comparable to those reported by cis women in a heterosexual relationship. Although research on IPV in male relationships has increased, it is a phenomenon that remains considerably understudied compared to research examining IPV in a heterosexual relationship. Despite comparable rates of IPV victimization, SMM are less likely to disclose and use informal and formal support services compared to heterosexual women. To conceptualize and understand challenges to disclosure and help-seeking as well as identify facets to develop relevant and tailored treatments, utilizing an integrated theoretical framework to examine the barriers and facilitators to disclosure and help-seeking would be most fruitful.
The occurrence of IPV, as well as subsequent disclosure and help-seeking among partnered SMM, has been predominately explained through Minority Stress Theory. Researchers have applied alternative theoretical frameworks to explain IPV within this population, including disempowerment and social learning theories. While data support the application of these theoretical frameworks to explain IPV in male relationships, they are often examined in isolation. There is no research examining IPV among partnered SMM through an integrated theoretical lens.
The current dissertation was designed to build on existing research regarding factors associated with IPV victimization as well as barriers to and facilitators of IPV disclosure and help-seeking among partnered SMM. The current dissertation utilized an explanatory sequential mixed-methods approach consisting of two phases to understand IPV victimization, disclosure, and help-seeking through an integrated theoretical framework. Phase 1 was a quantitative study involving a sample of 1,055 partnered SMM recruited in the U.S. through geo-location-based dating applications and direct recruitment through email. Path analysis tested an integrated theoretical model to examine social-, individual-, and dyadic-related factors associated with recent (past 12 months) IPV victimization. Additional analyses were conducted to examine if the associations between theoretical constructs change based on sexual identities and racial and ethnic identities. Phase 2 was a qualitative study that drew upon quantitative information obtained in Phase 1. A total of 41 participants who reported IPV victimization in the past year on the online survey in Phase 1 were purposively sampled to ensure equal representation of non-Hispanic White-identified, racial and ethnic minority-identified participants (i.e., Black or African American, Hispanic or Latino, and Asian) as well as gay-identified and bisexual and other sexual minority-identified participants (i.e., queer, pansexual, and demisexual). Participants completed semi-structured interviews that explored how social-, individual-, and dyadic-related factors influence perceptions of IPV and the decision-making process for IPV disclosure and help-seeking. Furthermore, participants provided recommendations to increase awareness and quality of services.
For Phase 1, data collection occurred between October 2021 and August 2022. The final analytic sample included data from 1,055 respondents. A majority identified as gay (84.1%, n = 887), non-Hispanic White (67.3%, n = 710), and from the South (34.8%, n = 367). Age ranged from 18 to 81, with an average age of 44.0 years (SD = 12.5), and relationship length ranged from 3 months to 46 years, with an average length of 8.5 years (SD = 8.7). Participants reported their demographics and completed measures to assess IPV victimization (IPV-GBM scale), relationship power (a dyadic-related factor; Relationship Control subscale of the Sexual Relationship Power Scale), depression (an individual-related factor; CESD-10), anxiety (an individual-related factor; GAD-7), sexual identity-based discrimination (a social-related factor; Everyday Discrimination Scale for sexual identity), racial and ethnic identity-based discrimination (a social-related factor; Everyday Discrimination Scale for race and ethnicity), couple-level discrimination (a social-related factor; Couple-Level Discrimination subscale of the Couple-Level Minority Stress Scale), and family exposure to violence (a family-of-origin related factor; Adverse Childhood Experiences scale).
AIM 1 involved testing an integrated theoretical model to examine direct and indirect associations between family exposure to violence and recent IPV victimization in a current relationship. Results provided support for an integrated theoretical model. Family exposure to violence was indirectly associated with recent IPV victimization through social- (minority stress: sexual identity-based, racial and ethnic identity-based, and couple-level discrimination), individual- (mental health: depression), and dyadic-related factors (relationship power).
AIM 2 tested two separate moderated mediation models to examine whether indirect paths from family exposure to violence to recent IPV victimization through social-, individual-, and dyadic-related factors were moderated by (1) sexual identity or (2) racial and ethnic identities. Results showed that the indirect effect of family exposure to violence to recent IPV victimization through sexual identity-based discrimination (a social-related factor) and relationship power (a dyadic-related factor) was stronger for bisexual and other sexual minority-identified participants compared to gay-identified participants. In contrast, no evidence supported the hypothesized associations in the racial and ethnic identity moderated model.
Findings supported the broad hypothesis that an integrated theoretical model provides a valuable framework for explaining and conceptualizing IPV victimization in male relationships. While the current study did not explicitly assess social-related factors specific to bisexual and other sexual minority-identified persons, the findings provide foundational support for the utility of an integrated theoretical framework to examine IPV victimization among bisexual and other sexual minority-identified cis men.
Phase 2 analyzed qualitative data from semi-structured interviews completed by a subsample of participants recruited from Phase 1. The qualitative interview protocol also attended to social-, individual-, and dyadic-related factors that shape experiences and perceptions of IPV as well as the decision-making process for IPV disclosure and help-seeking. The sample for Phase 2 was comprised of 41 respondents. A majority of the sample identified as bisexual or another sexual minority identity (53.7%), as a racial or ethnic minority (51.2%), and reported living in the Northeast (29.4%). The age ranged from 20 to 60, with an average age of 37.7 years (SD = 11.1). Relationship length ranged from 6 months to 17 years; the average relationship length was 4.7 years (SD = 4.0). Thematic analysis of the transcripts highlighted the relevance of an integrated theoretical approach to understand how a range of social-, individual-, and dyadic-related factors can shape experiences and perceptions of IPV perpetration and victimization as well as the decision-making processes around disclosure and help-seeking in response to experiences of IPV. Participants reported that recognition of IPV events contributed to cognitive processes regarding subjective evaluations of acceptability and justification of IPV experiences. In other instances, accounts illustrated how experiences of intersectional stigma and structural oppression shaped perceptions of IPV-related behaviors as well as inhibited motivation for disclosure and help-seeking. In addition to intersectional stigma, several participants exclaimed that socialized gender norms and discrepancy stress influenced experiences and perceptions of IPV events as well as decisions around disclosure and help-seeking. Lastly, participants offered recommendations to increase the utilization of formal services as well as improve the overall quality of service provision. Their recommendations attended to structural barriers to formal disclosure, to which participants stated that increased availability, awareness, and accessibility of services, making services more affordable, and increasing the diversity of service providers to be more representative of the sexual minority community would provide a great benefit for those who wish to seek support in response to IPV. Similar to findings from Phase 1, the qualitative data aligned supported the application of an integrated theoretical framework as a way to further conceptualizations of IPV in male relationships as well as to examine the decision-making processes for disclosure and help-seeking in a sample of partnered SMM.
Bosco, Stephen, "An Examination of Factors Associated with IPV Victimization, IPV Disclosure, and Help-Seeking Among Partnered Sexual Minority Men: An Integrated Theoretical Approach" (2024). CUNY Academic Works.