Mindfulness is Associated with Lower Perpetrator Levels of Physical and Sexual Dating Violence
By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.
“perceived partner infidelity and dating violence perpetration were positively related for women with low and mean dispositional mindfulness, but not for women with high dispositional mindfulness.” – Megan Brem
Dating should be a time for young people to get together, get to know one another and have fun. But all too often, dating involves violence or aggression. Nearly 1.5 million high school students in the U.S. experience physical abuse from a dating partner each year, 33% are victims of physical, sexual, emotional or verbal abuse from a dating partner, and 10% have been purposefully hit, slapped or physically hurt. Dating violence doesn’t just occur in High School as 43% of college women experience violent or abusive dating behaviors. Sadly, only about a third of the victims ever tell anyone about the abuse. Hence it is important to find ways to prevent dating violence. Mindfulness has potential to reduce dating violence.
In today’s Research News article “Understanding the Role of Alcohol, Anxiety, and Trait Mindfulness in the Perpetration of Physical and Sexual Dating Violence in Emerging Adults.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6579748/), Ngo and colleagues recruited emerging adults (aged 18-25) who were seeking treatment at an emergency department for any reason. They completed measures of alcohol use, mindfulness, anxiety, and perpetration of dating violence including sexual dating violence and physical dating violence.
They found that in both males and females alcohol consumption and high levels of anxiety were related to higher perpetrator levels of both physical and sexual dating violence. On the other hand, they report that high levels of mindfulness, particularly the acting with awareness and non-judgement facets, was related to lower perpetrator levels of both physical and sexual dating violence.
It needs to be kept in mind that this study is correlational and as such no definitive conclusions regarding causation can be reached. But the results suggest that dating violence, both the physical and sexual forms, are lower when mindfulness is present and when anxiety and alcohol are absent. These may be useful leads for potential interventions to reduce dating violence perpetration in emerging adults by training in mindfulness, dealing with anxiety, and reducing alcohol consumption.
Dating is very important to emerging adults. But dating violence is a serious problem. Discovering means to reduce the likelihood of engaging in dating violence would be highly desirable. The present results suggest that mindfulness training may be an important tool to reduce these troubling occurrences.
Hence, mindfulness is associated with lower perpetrator levels of physical and sexual dating violence.
“mindfulness interventions have led to improvements across a range of mental health problems, including domains known to be associated with dating violence.” – Ryan Shorey
CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies
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Ngo, Q. M., Ramirez, J. I., Stein, S. F., Cunningham, R. M., Chermack, S. T., Singh, V., & Walton, M. A. (2018). Understanding the Role of Alcohol, Anxiety, and Trait Mindfulness in the Perpetration of Physical and Sexual Dating Violence in Emerging Adults. Violence against women, 24(10), 1166–1186. doi:10.1177/1077801218781886
This study examines alcohol consumption, anxiety, trait mindfulness, and physical and sexual dating violence aggression (PDV and SDV) among 735 emerging adults (18–25 years) in an urban emergency department. Of the total sample, 27.2% perpetrated PDV and 16.5% perpetrated SDV. Alcohol was positively associated with PDV/SDV. Anxiety was positively associated with PDV. Mindfulness was negatively associated with PDV/SDV. Interaction analyses revealed women had lower PDV with higher nonjudgment facet of mindfulness. Higher act aware was associated with lower PDV regardless of high versus low alcohol. Findings indicate different contributing factors among perpetrators of PDV/SDV; some factors may be attenuated by mindfulness.