Intimate Partner Aggression During the Transition to Parenthood: The Role of Division of Labor Dissatisfaction

Restricted (Penn State Only)
Wong, Jennifer Denise
Graduate Program:
Master of Science
Document Type:
Master Thesis
Date of Defense:
March 29, 2018
Committee Members:
  • Amy Dyanna Marshall, Thesis Advisor
  • Alicia Ann Grandey, Committee Member
  • James Marshall Lebreton, Committee Member
  • Intimate Partner Aggression
  • Couples
  • Gender
  • Division of Labor Dissatisfaction
  • Division of Childcare Dissatisfaction
Rates of intimate partner aggression (IPA) increase for new parent couples. This increase may be due to changes in couples’ division of household labor and childcare, which may especially impact women, who typically report more division of labor (DoL) dissatisfaction than men. This study is the first to directly examine: the association between DoL dissatisfaction and perpetration of IPA, gender differences in this association, and whether this association differs according to conflict topic (i.e., whether aggressive conflicts were about DoL or non-DoL topics). Traditional IPA measures have precluded assessment of what conflict topics precipitate IPA incidents, and how the predictors of IPA may differ depending on conflict topic. At 4 time points over 1 year, 203 partners from 111 couples with a first-born child aged 2-3 years were interviewed. Participants described the conflict topic and number of aggressive acts in each incident of IPA over the prior 13 weeks. Conflict topics were qualitatively coded. The number of IPA acts perpetrated during DoL conflicts were aggregated to yield a total DoL IPA score; acts of IPA during the remaining conflicts were aggregated to yield a total IPA score for conflicts about topics other than DoL. Multilevel models indicated that higher DoL dissatisfaction was associated with use of more acts of IPA (B = 0.24, t = 2.00, p = .050). Multivariate multilevel models indicated that the association between DoL dissatisfaction and IPA was specific to women’s IPA in conflicts about topics other than DoL (B = 0.27, t = 2.88, p = .005). Results generalized to the examination of division of childcare dissatisfaction and conflicts about childcare vs. other topics (B = 0.74, t = 4.13, p < .001). The discovery that DoL dissatisfaction and IPA are not directly linked through similar conflict context may contradict common assumptions of researchers and practitioners. Dissatisfied women may engage in better communication skills during DoL conflicts compared to less anticipated conflicts. Couples therapists may benefit from targeting women’s global DoL and childcare dissatisfaction to prevent IPA, rather than focusing on specific conflict content.