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Marital Power, Conflict, And Violence In A Nationally Representative Sample Of American Couples

Diane H. Coleman, Murray A. Straus

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Data on a nationally representative sample of 2,143 couples are used to study the relationship to marital violence of the power structure of marriage, power norm consensus, and the lével of marital conflict. The couples were classified as equalitarian, male-dominant, female-dominant, or divided power. Equalitarian couples had the lowest rates of conflict and violence and male-dominant and female-dominant couples had the highest rates. Although consensus about the legitimacy of a male-dominant and female-dominant power structure reduced conflict and violence in such families, when conflict did occur in such families, it was associated with a much higher risk of violence than a similar level of conflict in equalitarian families. Since equality in marriage is associated with low rates of intra-family conflict and violence, laws, administrative decisions, and services that empower women and encourage men to value an equal partner are likely to be important steps to reducing violence and strengthen the family.