An increasing interest is being devoted to intimate partner violence (IPV), due to the severe physical, psychological, and social consequences associated, as well as the growing prevalence through the world [1
]. This specific kind of violence that includes physical, verbal, and sexual violence has become a serious and prevalent problem, not only in adulthood but also in adolescence and into emerging adulthood [5
]. For instance, The WHO Multi-country Study on Women’s Health and Domestic Violence against women revealed that women between 15 and 49 years old had suffer some kind of partner violence in percentages that ranged from 13 to 61 percent [8
]. These rates are worrying, especially taking into account that some of the mental and behavioural problems, as well as violence manifestations that develops during adolescence, tend to perpetuate to adulthood [9
]. This type of violence, involving an actual or former partner, is at this time the more prevalent way of violence affecting women, being a major public health problem. This situation is affecting women, and has become a major cause of social disengagement, economy burden, and mental health problems, including depression, substance abuse, or trauma [12
]. Thus, nowadays, it is possible to talk of a global epidemic of violence against women, with a total life prevalence in the world of one third of women that have experience some type of violence related to a romantic relationship [16
Worth noting, although most of the victims addressing IPV are females [6
], it is known that males are also victims of females perpetrators, with a total of up to in between 20 to 30 percent of men recognizing being victims of this kind of behaviours in heterosexual relationships [20
]. Moreover, this problem is also affecting to same-sex relationships [20
]. In the case of adolescents, recent data suggest that IPV is affecting more than half of those that have engaged or that have experienced a relationship either as a victim or as perpetrator [2
]. This is even more alarming considering that teenagers with maltreatment history have a greater risk of being involve in a relationship with IPV both as a victim and as a perpetrator [22
Taking into account the before mentioned, it seems relevant to devote resources aimed to understand the inner mechanisms that is behind IPV. Thus, understanding the attitudes towards IPV that adolescents show could be relevant. Different previous studies have focused on the violence behaviours, but not on the attitudes, nor in the relationship between these attitudes and IPV. Among the different instruments devoted to assess these problematics, we can find the Attitude Scale towards Intimate Violence (Escala de Actitudes hacia la Violencia Intima
, EAV) [24
]. The EAV encompass ten items addressing the degree to which the individual considers appropriate the use of violence towards the partner in different situations. There is, thus, a general question asking: In what circumstances do you consider the use of intimate partner violence justifie?
And then, ten different options such as: when a member of the couple is unfaithful
(ítem 1) or when a member of the couple disqualifies the other in front of his/her family
Nonetheless, the psychometric properties of this recent version have not been, yet, reported. Therefore, a question needs still to be solve. Is it possible to use the EAV in its Spanish version as an instrument with adequate evidences of reliability of the scores and validity? Moreover, recent research reveals that different variables, including education, attitudes, and ideas about gender roles and expectations of a relationship are connected to IPV [17
]. With this regard, and considering that the ideas and attitudes of adolescents towards IPV could be related to emotional symptoms [13
], new attention is being devoted to the quality of romantic relationships and to this, in order to promote healthy relationships [25
Considering the previous background, and the fact that the EAV whose psychometric properties has not been yet validated in Spanish population, outside South America, the main goal of the present study was, therefore, to analyze the psychometric properties of the EAV in a large sample of Spanish adolescents. We, thus, gather evidences about the structure of the questionnaire, study the measurement invariance (MI) by gender and age, and analyze evidences of validity with external variables. We hypothesized that a one-dimensional model would reveal adequate goodness-of-fit indices and that this factorial structure would be invariant across gender and age. In addition, we hypothesized that measures of EAV would be related to violence in the context of intimate relationships and depressive symptoms.
To date, violence against women and violence manifestations within the context of romantic relationships is becoming a world global issue [3
]. Specially worrying is the fact the IPV is starting earlier, with a larger number of adolescents involved in this kind of violence [5
]. Adolescence intimate partner violence rates are increasing affecting now to more than half of all dating youth [1
]. Nonetheless, to date, little is known about attitudes towards intimate partner violence across the world and, specifically, in Spain. Moreover, there is a lack of adequate and sound instruments measuring this.
The present study aimed, thus, to examine the prevalence, factorial structure, measurement invariance across gender, and reliability of the EAV scores, as well as its associations with intimate partner violence and depression symptoms, in a large sample of non-clinical adolescents. The study of evidences of an instrument such as the EAV allows generating and assess profiles of possible adolescents and youth that are more likely to engage in IPV. With this regard, present study reveals that the EAV is a short instrument with adequate evidences of validity and internal consistency of the scores for its use in educational settings like school or university, as well as clinical settings. This is particularly relevant, as it seems reasonable to think that early detection and promotion of positive attitudes towards intimate relationships may prevent IPV.
The results indicated that the EAV is an easy, simple, and brief tool in order to screen for violence attitudes. The study revealed adequate psychometric properties in Spanish adolescents. The internal consistency of the scores estimated by means of ordinal alpha was good. In addition, the results the EAV should be considered as a unidimensional factor structure. Furthermore, this structure was equivalent by gender, after the study of the Measurement Invariance. To date, no previous studies have analyzed, to the best of our knowledge, the factorial structure of the EAV scores in a non-clinical sample of adolescents, being the first study analyzing and the psychometric goodness of the EAV in a Spanish sample. Therefore, future studies should further analyze the extent to which this result are similar in other samples, in order to validate the results found in the present study. A previous study analyzing abuse in non-married couples used the EAV, assuming a unidimensional structure [39
], but this assumption had still to be confirmed. Nowadays, there is still, not surprisingly, a lack of studies about the psychometric data on self-report measures, being in their nascent stage [40
]. Thus, new empirical studies need to replicate the findings established here.
The results revealed that attitudes toward violence were moderate associated with intimate partner violence and with depression symptoms. Specifically, higher rates of attitudes toward violence were associated to psychological aggression as a victim and to both medium and severe physical aggression both as a victim and as a perpetrator. Also, a positive relationship was found between the EAV and Anhedonia and Negative subscales of the RADS. This is somehow consistent with the idea that IPV is related to different issues like trauma and mental health problems, including depression [13
]. Worth noting, the correlations found between the RADS and the EAV were low. One possible explanation is that the EAV measures attitudes towards violence instead of IPV per se.
Future studies should analyze the exact relation between these two constructs. Nonetheless, this study is one of the first posing the association between attitudes towards violence and these mental health issues. In addition, previous studies have established the relation between attitudes toward violence and explicit IPV [43
]. With regards to the mediation analysis, the results of the SEM revealed that depression mediated the relationship between attitudes towards violence and scores on the M-CTS. Moreover, the scores on the M-CTS had a statistically significant effect on attitudes towards violence. This is consistent with the idea that those adolescents who justify violence are more likely to engage in IPV, being depression a variable that may affect the outcome. More studies could further analyze this association.
The results of the present study should be interpreted in the light of the following limitations. First, measurement of violence attitudes, as well as depressive symptoms and violence manifestations were based solely on self-report and there are well-known inherent problematics like the effect of stigmatization, the possibility of misunderstanding of some items or the lack of introspection of some participants. Therefore, future studies should consider the use of external informants, interviews or even bio-behavioral and/or biological markers. Second, adolescence is a developmental period in which personality is still consolidating. Thus, the present results must be further evaluated in order to understand their natural developmental course. Third, no information was gathered regarding the participants’ psychiatric morbidity or the use or abuse of substances, aspects that may partially influence the results. Finally, our data was cross-sectional in nature.
Despite the noted limitations, the present study allows confirming the adequate psychometric properties of the EAV, an instrument devoted to assess attitudes towards violence in intimate relationships in a large sample of Spanish adolescents. In addition, these attitudes seem to be related with depressive symptoms and violence manifestations during adolescence. The results have clear implications for the construct validity of the EAV and for its use in school populations in order to study intimate violence attitudes in adolescent populations. In addition, this study contributes relevant information to further understand the structure of and relations of attitudes towards violence, allowing the implementation of future preventive treatments. More research is needed in order to advance in the study of attitudes towards violence in intimate relationships settings and the role that they play in adolescents. Also, the study of measurement invariance of the EAV across other relevant variables like race or culture could also be relevant. In addition, the role of the attitudes toward violence in the prediction and transition to actual violence in intimate relationships during adolescence should continue to be explored in greater depth through independent longitudinal studies.