Electronic aggression is a phenomenon that is often described in the terms of relational aggression and psychological aggression exerted through the use of electronic media. From the roots of the derivation of the term, relational aggression is known as hurting or harming someone through the means of character assassination, ostracism, or manipulation of the relationship (Bancroft, 2003). Psychological aggression on the contrary focuses on the acts that inflict emotional harm and can elicit situations that induce greater harm through fear, threats, and constant monitoring about the whereabouts (Good, 2019). The common connotation of all forms of aggression is harm. However, the assessment of the level of distress and victimization imposed by the incidents may remain subjective. This paper will critically evaluate the research by Bennett et al. (2011), titled, “college students’ electronic victimization in friendships and dating relationships: anticipated distress and associations with risky behaviors”. The critical evaluation of the paper will be presented in terms of themes in correlation with forms of victimization and violence observed through domestic violence dynamics, violence and aggression perpetrators, and implications of this study domestic violence research. Recommendation and suggestions to enhance this study with a further scope will also be discussed in this paper.
The study by Bennett et al. (2011) is formulated on the basis of an existing research gap in the analysis between the gender-based electronic victimization and distress in college students. This has been studied also in light of the kind of relationship between the two individuals that is between dating relationships and friendships. Based on the existing literature and study, the authors formulate three hypotheses to be tested in this paper. First, a higher level of distress is experienced by females in dating aggression. Second, there exists a negative relationship between the extent of personal victimization and anticipated distress in individuals. Third, electronic victimization is associated with risky behaviors. To conduct this study, 437 undergraduates were included with 299 females and 138 males. The individuals were examined in this study using a 22-item checklist over a period of one year to reveal about electronic victimization through four categories, which are, humiliation, hostility, exclusion, and intrusiveness. The results from the study revealed that both the genders, males and females expressed increased distress from the electronic victimization in dating relationships than friendships. Furthermore, actual experience with victimization was related to lower anticipated stress. The authors validated this finding through cognitive dissonance. The third crucial finding was that electronic victimization resulted in increased alcohol use in females even control over other victimization experiences. In summary, it was revealed that about 92% of the total participants had experienced electronic aggression and victimization. The authors also identified the limitations of the study that could have been mitigated to enhance the overall quality of the research. The study failed to include questions about the perpetration of electronic aggression. Further, the study collected the results longitudinally for over a year that resulted in the availability of less detailed and specified information. The participants were involved in this study through self-reporting and thus no parameter for the validity of information could be applied. The authors also indicate the need for further research to understand the intricate details of electronic victimization and its impact on behavior and risks. Authors also indicate that further analysis in this research will be beneficial in the development of suitable interventions and health promotion strategies for well-being of the individuals.
The impact of victimization and stress is felt significantly on individuals in the in-person relationships. However, they can also remain to be carried from exiting trauma and past experiences that may make an individual prone to victimization and distress (Moore & Singh, 2015). The themes of domestic violence have been evaluated from this research as it impacts the gender-based connotations in a relationship as also revealed in the study by Bennett et al. (2011).
Dynamics of domestic aggression and violence
The incidences of domestic violence and expression of relational and psychological aggression are associated with the power dominance in relationships and are constantly associated with the victimization of one gender, females and results in major distress and trauma (Bancroft, 2003). The cause of increased vulnerability of females and distress due to trauma remain one of the most researched aspects (Dragiewicz, 2011). The study by Bennett et al. (2011) explores the dimensions associated with aggression and violence to reveal that relational violence. The study formulates an analysis based on traditional victimization that asserts its impact on distress and risks of individuals. Physical aggression, psychological aggression, and coerced intimacy are all forms of domestic violence that are associated with traditional victimization and also acknowledged by Bennett et al. (2011). Since the study was based on college students its implication on adult relationships and domestic violence can be analyzed through indirect applications. Dragiewicz (2011) writes that lasting trauma from past relationships can impact the behavior of an individual and change the dynamics of a relationship. The study by Bennett et al. (2011) reveals that males are more likely to suffer from electronic victimization in the college years. However, the distress of victimization is more prominent in females. This may thus therefore correlate with the finding of Moore and Singh (2015) to assert how power dominance may emerge in males who resort to domestic violence due to past experiences of victimization in young years. This is also correlated with increased vulnerability of the females due to increased distress from incidences of victimization in the early years (Stark & Buzawa, 2009). This increased distress has also been associated with increased risk of alcohol consumption in females in the study by Bennett et al. (2011) and has been orchestrated as the primary marker of stress in studied by Good (2019). Therefore, it can be said that experiences from the early relationships and dynamics of relational and psychological aggression impact the overall dynamics of domestic aggression.
Domestic violence perpetrators
The perpetration of aggression is one of the key fundamental aspects of the psychological and behavioral research in individuals. The power dynamic and the patriarchal assertions in the society play directly into the favor of aggression perpetration. It becomes of prime importance to analyze if electronic victimization, risk behaviors, and the associated distress can play part in the aggression perpetration in the relationships. The study by Bennett et al. (2011) fails to derive any conclusive evidence for the perpetration of anger in electronic victimization and does not produce evidence associated with the same. However, writings by Stark and Buzawa (2009) indicates that perpetration of aggression is associated with gender roles, vulnerability, victimization, as well as the history of trauma and past experiences. It has been studied that early incidences of distress and trauma may result in perpetration of anger in an individual and translate into power exhibition in form of masking. An individual with a history of electronic, relational, or psychological victimization is more likely to perpetration anger than the other (Robert & Dufresne, 2016). Also, relationship experiences play a critical role. Therefore, it can be deduced that aggression perpetration is not only directly associated with victimization but also promotes it. In the case of domestic violence, humiliation and mindset associated with patriarchy also play a role (Stark & Buzawa, 2009). A study by Bennett et al. (2011) reveals that males are more affected through humiliation in their friendly relationships than in dating type relationships. Hence, the assertion of power becomes a humiliation-mitigating step that helps in the restoration of self-esteem and instills a false belief of superiority (Nansi, 2017). Combat against this causes expression and perpetration of aggression that is eventually unveiled as domestic violence in relationships (Robert & Dufresne, 2016).
Application of this study in domestic violence research
The components of this study are directly applicable to domestic violence study. The study by Bennett et al. (2011) indicates that females experience increased distress than males largely in form of physical aggression. This perception and acknowledgement of distress are associated with the potential of injury posed by the physical strength and built of the male counterparts (DeKreseredy, & Schwartz, 1998 ). Therefore, in the case of domestic violence, this directly poses an increased risk of vulnerability to the females. The study by Bennett et al. (2011) is also of great importance in its application in research focused on domestic violence as it helps in revealing the gender-based analysis of distress as well as victimization in a set of age group. The study reveals how electronic victimization is common and how mitigation steps are required to prevent its translation into aggression and perpetration that may translate into violence. The study also provides crucial insights through a literature-based comparison with the impact of victimization in childhood and adults. The nature of vulnerability to victimization and distress in kind of relationship has been assessed in the study by Bennett et al. (2011) to decipher how dating based relationships are more subjected to victimization. This indicates how behavioural patterns, aggression, and expression alters in the relationship dynamics and therefore, domestic violence in a particular kind of relationship is likely to have increased incidence than other forms of relationship (Nanasi, 2017). The study also highlights how factors like humiliation, trauma, and distress may impact the relationship dynamics and affect the overall power play in the case of domestic violence.
The study by Bennett et al. (2011) is highly succinct, however, the paper fails to take a proportional number of participants in the study and includes 299 females against only 1378 males. This might have created biasness in the results obtained as the congruent sample size was taken for the analysis (Stake, 2010). It would have been better if an equal proportion of gender representation was maintained by the authors. The age of participants in the study was only between 18-20 years with an average age of 20 years. This is a small group of individuals and does not represent the complete generalized age of students in the college years making this study highly specific and not generalized for application. Therefore, a broader age group would have been a suitable choice for this analysis (Good, 2019). Moreover, six participants did not disclose the age. This parameter is incomplete and the inclusion and exclusion of these participants were not mentioned. Hence, it can be recommended that the process of data collection in the study could have been more descriptive to enhance the quality of the study (Gray, 2013). A contemporary analysis of the factors that impact victimization in the different age groups can be done for further analysis in this research. This will help in understanding the dynamics and assist in the formulation of suitable interventions that can limit the distress, trauma, and impact of victimization on individuals in a highly specific manner (Stake, 2010). It is recommended that application of this study is done in a more specified manner with implications distinguished in homosexual and heterosexual relationships along with gender-specific notions to identify the factors associated with victimization and aggression to facilitate research and promote intervention development (Stark & Buzawa, 2009).
This paper provides a succinct critical evaluation of paper “college students’ electronic victimization in friendships and dating relationships: anticipated distress and associations with risky behaviors”. A summary of the paper has been provided and a critical evaluation that is based on the implications of this study on domestic violence has been conducted. Three themes have been explored in this paper that includes domestic violence dynamics, violence and aggression perpetrators, and implications of this study domestic violence research. Recommendation and suggestions to enhance this study with further scope have also been discussed in this paper. Through this evaluation, it can be concluded that the paper is of high significance in domestic violence research and can be applied to develop interventions that can limit the distress, trauma, and impact of victimization on individuals in a highly specific manner.
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DeKreseredy, W. & Schwartz, M. (1998). Measuring the Extent of Woman Abuse in Intimate Heterosexual Relationships: A Critique of the “Conflict Tactics Scales”. Retrieved from: https://vawnet.org/material/measuring-extent-woman-abuse-intimate-heterosexual-relationships-critique-conflict-tactics
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