Girls not victims: exploring the promise of empowerment-oriented partner abuse prevention education in Australia

Murphy, K 2012, Girls not victims: exploring the promise of empowerment-oriented partner abuse prevention education in Australia, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Health Sciences, RMIT University.

Document type: Thesis
Collection: Theses

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Title Girls not victims: exploring the promise of empowerment-oriented partner abuse prevention education in Australia
Author(s) Murphy, K
Year 2012
Abstract Partner abuse in this thesis is defined as any pattern of interaction in a romantic or intimate relationship with the potential to result in social, emotional, or physical harm to one or both partners. This thesis focuses on youth-targeted partner abuse prevention education (PAPE) as one strategy to prevent and minimise the harms associated with partner abuse.

To date, few rigorous evaluations of PAPE programs have been reported on, and none of these are Australian. Despite this, a common assumption in Australia is that an explicit focus on gender inequality is required in order for PAPE to be effective. A major objective of this research was to test the efficacy of an approach to PAPE that eschews the customary focus on gender stereotypes and, instead, attempts to capitalise on girls’ potential for positive self-agency. A pilot program aimed at empowering adolescent girls with skills for resisting the development of high-risk relationship dynamics was evaluated. This program was based on a working model that conceptualised partner abuse as a two-person ‘slippery-slope’ process resulting in harm, rather than as gender-determined behaviours perpetrated by one partner against the other.

In order to evaluate the impact of the pilot program, a number of measures were developed, including the Tendency to Resist or End Abusive Dynamics (TREAD) scale. Principal components analysis revealed that the TREAD measure comprised three inter-related TREAD sub-constructs: Dominance-Possessiveness TREAD, Denigration TREAD, and Conflict-Retaliation TREAD. For the adolescent girls in the scale development study, low TREAD was found to be associated with greater exposure to warning-sign partner behaviours. The program was piloted in ten secondary schools across Victoria with self-nominating adolescent girls. Girls who participated in the program demonstrated increased TREAD and reported decreased exposure to warning-sign behaviour. Importantly, participants were also less likely to endorse victim-blaming explanations for maltreatment by a partner.

The findings reported in this thesis challenge approaches to PAPE that presume that girls lack power to influence the course of their relationships. Given their gender-inclusiveness, the TREAD construct and the skills-based empowerment approach piloted in this project could be tested for their potential utility in mixed-gender education contexts. Further research is warranted to examine the efficacy and social validity (i.e., likely uptake in schools) of empowerment-oriented skills-focused PAPE relative to challenge-oriented gender-focused programming.
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Institution RMIT University
School, Department or Centre Health Sciences
Keyword(s) Empowerment
Partner Abuse
Relationship Education
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Created: Fri, 21 Sep 2012, 10:44:36 EST by Brett Fenton
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