Date of Award

Spring 2012

Degree Name

Bachelor of Science



First Advisor

Laura Holt


Previous research has examined college students’ opinions about the severity of physical abuse in heterosexual, lesbian, and gay couples, but not their opinions regarding the severity of psychological and sexual abuse in the context of these relationships. The main aims of this study were to examine whether participant gender and relationship composition (i.e., heterosexual, lesbian, and gay couples) affected college students’ opinions about the severity of physical, psychological, and sexual intimate partner violence (IPV), if abuse in opposite-sex relationships was perceived as more severe than abuse in same-sex relationships, and if prior exposure to IPV was associated with lower IPV severity ratings. Seventy-two undergraduates enrolled in psychology courses at a small, private college in the Northeastern United States were recruited in order to examine these research questions. They read three short vignettes that varied the gender of the victims and perpetrators and then rated the severity of the violence and assigned a blame rating to the victim and perpetrator. Results were consistent with previous research, in that participants rated psychological abuse as the least severe form of abuse. Contrary to previous research, however, male participants in this study did not assign less blame to male perpetrators, nor did the participants view the violence in opposite-sex relationships as more severe than the violence in same-sex couples. Also prior exposure to IPV did not seem to have a large effect on participants’ perceptions of IPV severity.


A thesis submitted for the Bachelor of Science Degree in Psychology at Trinity College.

Included in

Psychology Commons