Does Women’s Approval of Intimate Partner Violence Mediate the Relationship Between Sexism and Violence in Heterosexual Relationships? A Cross-Cultural Comparison Between Sri Lanka and New Zealand.
The Revised Gender Symmetry Theory (Archer, 2018) proposes that western countries with higher levels of gender empowerment of women will experience an equal rate of physical intimate partner violence (IPV) between men and women that is bi-directional and low in intensity. In contrast, non-western countries with lower levels of gender empowerment are proposed to experience high rates of male to female aggression; bi-directional violence or male victimisation from women in such countries will be unlikely. The aim of this study was twofold. First, it aimed to test the validity of the Revised Gender Symmetry Theory using self- reports of IPV perpetration and victimisation from women residing in two countries above (New Zealand) and below (Sri Lanka) the mean global gender empowerment score. Second, considering the strong relationship between positive attitudes towards IPV with both sexism and IPV perpetration, the mediational properties of positive attitudes in explaining the relationship between sexism and IPV perpetration and victimisation in the two countries was examined. Female undergraduate university students from New Zealand (N=199) and Sri Lanka (N=198) completed the Conflict Tactic Scale-2, the Beliefs about Relationship Aggression Scale and the Ambivalent Sexism Inventory. Inconsistent with the Revised Gender Symmetry model, independent t-test analysis found that women in New Zealand and Sri Lanka reported similar rates of IPV perpetration and victimisation, for both minor and severe forms of IPV. In keeping with Sri Lanka having lower levels of gender empowerment of women, Sri Lankan women were more likely to approve of IPV and endorsed higher levels of sexism (benevolent and hostile sexism) when compared to New Zealand women. Lastly, the moderated mediation models found that attitudes condoning female IPV mediated the relationship between benevolent sexism and IPV perpetration by women in Sri Lanka and New Zealand. The need for interventions to challenge women’s attitudes which condone female IPV and reduce societal sexism is discussed along with other implications for clinical practice.