Rena Zito, assistant professor of sociology, examined how gendered employment dynamics influence coercion and physical violence in intimate relationships.
Assistant Professor of Sociology Rena Zito’s research on intimate partner coercion and physical victimization was recently published in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence.
The landscape of family structure in the U.S. has changed rapidly over previous decades, yet prior research on intimate partner coercion and violence has typically ignored this fact as well as the possibility that the dynamics that predict intimate partner victimization differ across couple contexts. Zito’s paper, “Relative Employment, Gender Beliefs, and Intimate Partner Coercion and Violence against New Mothers across Marital and Residential Contexts,” sought to fill this gap.
The results of this quantitative research using nationally representative data on “fragile families” with infants indicated that the factors associated with men’s use of coercion vary depending upon whether couples are married, cohabiting or romantically involved but living separately.
One of the most important findings of the study was that that employed women in cohabiting relationships with unemployed men are at a heightened risk of coercion, as are married women whose husbands hold traditional gender beliefs.
Moreover, the risk of physical violence is greatest among couples in which the man is unemployed and the woman is working for pay, but only if the man expresses a high level of gender distrust, or the belief that women are untrustworthy as women. The study highlights how dynamics in intimate relationships are shaped by gendered selves and are sensitive to the gendered meaning of work, power and violence.