Sex Roles, Vol. 53, Nos. 11/12, December 2005 (
The Inﬂuence of Gender Role Stereotypes, the Woman’s
Race, and Level of Provocation and Resistance on
Domestic Violence Culpability Attributions
Cynthia Willis Esqueda
and Lisa A. Harrison
The inﬂuence of traditional or egalitarian gender role stereotypes on perceptions of domestic
violence was investigated when the woman’s race and her provocation of and resistance to
domestic violence were varied. Two hundred eighty-eight European American participants
who varied in their gender role stereotype beliefs provided culpability ratings. A factor anal-
ysis reduced culpability items to six concepts. Biases against the African American woman
occurred, but not to the European American woman, particularly when she provoked the
man. The woman’s behavior before and after violence inﬂuenced participants’ culpability no-
tions, and beliefs in gender role stereotypes inﬂuenced perceptions of truthfulness based on
race. Implications for the scope of educational programs to enhance support and eliminate
biases are discussed.
KEY WORDS: domestic violence; African American women; gender role beliefs.
In the United States domestic violence has
been acknowledged as a social issue since the early
1600s (Pleck, 1987). Colonial European Americans
restricted domestic violence, because the sanctity of
the family was part of their religious dogma. Thus,
the Puritans developed the ﬁrst domestic violence
laws in what was to become the United States (Pleck,
1987). However, men could control their wives with
violence in order to maintain familial authority
(Hutchings, 1988). Public interference emerged
only if behavior threatened the community. Later,
English common law formed the United States’ legal
notions of appropriate domestic behavior, including
the “rule of thumb,” whereby social standards
Portions of the results were presented at the 2003 International
Psychology and Law Conference, Edinburgh, Scotland.
Department of Psychology and the Institute for Ethnic Studies,
University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Lincoln, Nebraska.
Present address: Department of Psychology, California State
University, Sacramento, California.
To whom correspondence should be addressed at Department of
Psychology, 336 Burnett Hall, University of Nebraska-Lincoln,
Lincoln, Nebraska 68588-0308; e-mail: email@example.com.
allowed wife beating with a stick no wider than
the man’s thumb (Crites, 1987). Signiﬁcant legal
attempts to restrict domestic violence did not occur
until the 1970s with the women’s movement and an
increased interest in women’s rights and well-being
(Koss et al., 1994; Kurz, 1987; Muehlenhard &
Domestic violence remains a serious concern
(Rennison & Welchans, 2000). In a national survey
22% of women reported that they had experienced
physical assault by a male intimate at some point
in their lifetime (Tjaden & Thoennes, 2000a). Fur-
thermore, 20% of emergency room visits by women
are estimated to be the result of domestic violence
(Kansas State Employees Heath Care Commission,
1989; Stark et al., 1981), and 52% of women who
go to the emergency room will report physical abuse
sometime in their life (American Bar Association,
Domestic violence is an important research fo-
cus and an area of theoretical interest (Browne, 1993;
Goodman, Koss, Fitzgerald, Russo, & Keita, 1993).
Research has focused on precursors of violence
2005 Springer Science+Business Media, Inc.