A FAIRYTALE ENDING? Violence in Young Adult Dating Relationships in New Zealand:Testing the utility of Johnson’s typology
A more sophisticated conceptual framework is required that captures the heterogeneous and complex nature of violence in dating and other interpersonal relationships (Lewis & Fremouw, 2001). This has led a number of researchers to develop empirically-based theories and models that attempt to reconcile different findings across studies. One of these is a typology of violence developed by Michael Johnson (2008) as a way to reconcile the differences between studies.This thesis applies Johnson’s typology to the context of young adult dating relationships in New Zealand with the aim of understanding more about the role of gender within intimate partner relationships. I utilised a mixed methods approach that included an extensive literature review, key informant interviews, an online survey, and in-depth qualitative interviews.
This research identified two overarching findings. First, there was overwhelming evidence that a large majority of young adults experience some form of violence in a dating relationship, from more minor experiences to dating relationships characterised by severe and terrifying violence. The data demonstrate how dating violence is linked to the social norms of a youth culture characterised by high alcohol use and expectations around ‘hooking-up’, with contemporary technology adding to the complexities facing young adults as they navigate this terrain.The second main finding from this study was that there was positive support for Johnson’s (2008) typology in that there are different types of violence in intimate relationships, in this case in dating relationships. The interview data suggest that the complexity of dating violence is better captured through such a typological framework that does not view all dating violence as a unitary phenomenon. My application of Johnson’s typology provides a narrative that accounts for both dominant traditional gendered violence and also for violent relationships characterised by mutual expressions of conflict and violence. There are, however, some risks associated with the use of such typologies that I also identify and address.
This study holds particular significance as one of the few New Zealand-based analyses of violence occurring in the context of contemporary New Zealand dating relationships. The findings provide strong support for the need to focus on a range of interventions and programmes delivered to young adults who are experiencing different types of violence. They also underscore the importance of critically analysing media messages, challenging traditional gender norms, and confronting attitudes and beliefs that support and validate the use of violence in dating relationships.