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What Are the Risk Factors for Gay Partner Violence?

Intimate partner violence (IPV) occurs at such a high rate in the U.S. that the CDC has labeled it a serious health problem. Affecting 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men, IPV typically refers to physical, sexual, or psychological aggression from a current or former partner.

IPV among heterosexuals has been studied extensively. Factors like witnessing domestic violence at a young age, or health problems such as depression, PTSD, and substance use can lead to IPV. But for gay or bisexual men, the factors surrounding IPV aren’t as clear. 

In a new article published in the Journal for Interpersonal Violence, Professor Christopher Stults (Baruch College) led a team in a longitudinal study investigating IPV among young men who sleep with other men (YMSM).

Stults and his team invited participants who were 18 or 19 years old at the start of the study, were sleeping with a man or had within the past six months, and were HIV-negative to take part. Every six months, they completed a self-interview that measured for IPV in addition to other factors like mental health, relationship status, and more.

The researchers found a high incidence of IPV in emerging adulthood. In keeping with other IPV studies, they found that experiencing violence at an early age predicted the occurrence of IPV as participants got older. Other factors, such as depression and gay-related stigma, were also associated with IPV.

Interestingly, with YMSM, the perpetrator and the victim could often fluctuate with one partner occupying both roles at different times. The researchers also found racial disparities: Black men were less likely to report victimization, while white men were less likely to report their actions as perpetrators.

“I hope that people walk away from reading this study with a greater appreciation for the strong influence of early experiences of relationship violence on later experiences of IPV,” Stults told SUM. “This means that we need to intervene early, in order to interrupt patterns of violence that persist from adolescence into young adulthood for many of these young gay and bisexual men. Also, given the high prevalence of IPV among these young men, I hope that people understand that this a problem that affects everyone, and that resources need to be inclusive of sexual minority men and other populations that are often overlooked (e.g., transgender people) when IPV programs are developed. “

The study concluded: “The prevalence of IPV among YMSM across the period of emerging adulthood is troubling and warrants additional attention from researchers, practitioners, health organizations, and policy makers.”

Stults previously studied the emotional health of consensual nonmonogamous relationships (CRMs) among gay and bisexual men. 

Beyond SUM

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Christopher Stults (Assistant Professor, Psychology) | Profile 1

Colleges and Schools

Baruch College