Although intimate partner violence (IPV) primarily occurs in the home, the workplace, as a major domain of social interaction, can be a location for environmental prevention. The overall goal of this study was to determine how workplace culture, job stressors, drinking patterns, and individual/couple factors interact to influence normative beliefs around IPV, and thereafter its occurrence. The specific aims of this study were to 1) assess the prevalence of IPV and problem drinking among construction workers and their partners; 2) examine if alcohol factors (e.g., heavy drinking, frequency of intoxication) predict IPV and moderate the association between IPV normative beliefs and IPV; 3) examine if IPV normative beliefs mediate the association between individual/couple characteristics and IPV; 4) examine if work stressors (e.g., job strain, overwork, unfair treatment) predict IPV and moderate the association between IPV normative beliefs and IPV; and 5) ethnographically, explicate elements of workplace culture (e.g., employee response to IPV, IPV peer modeling, relevant policy, EAP and education programs) that reinforce or challenge positive normative beliefs about IPV, and thereafter, influence its occurrence. The research project was a mixed method (survey and ethnography) cross-sectional study conducted with the cooperation of a union representing approximately 35,000 construction industry workers in Northern California. The final survey sample consisted of 927 married or cohabiting couples (including 30 same-sex couples and 49 couples composed of female construction workers and male spouses/partners), and 161 workers who lacked collateral reports from spouses/partners. We conducted 40 semi-structured face to face ethnographic interviews with workers drawn from survey participants. Although we surveyed both workers and their spouses, only workers were included in the qualitative component of the research. . In addition, we completed 10 key informant interviews with individuals who by nature of their job had insights into issues of concern.
Findings/Conclusions: Our survey findings showed a significant and direct association between male partners' IPV norms and Male to Female Partner Violence (MFPV) and between female partner's IPV norms and MFPV and FMPV, even after controlling for all other variables. Our hypothesis that IPV norms would mediate the association between individual/couple background characteristics and IPV was confirmed only for Latinos and other non-whites. Although our hypothesis that frequency of intoxication would moderate the association between normative beliefs and IPV was not supported by the survey data, the male partner's frequency of intoxication was directly associated with MFPV. Additionally, survey results showed a direct association between the male partner's level of job stress and MFPV, but not FMPV. The female partner's work stressors were not associated with either MFPV or FMPV, however. There was a direct association between both female and male partner's level of impulsivity and both FMPV and MFPV, and job stress and frequency of intoxication mediated the association between the male partner's level of impulsivity and MFPV. The male partner's job stress mediated the association between adverse childhood events and MFPV. For the female partner, there was a direct association between adverse childhood events and MFPV, and between adverse childhood events and frequency of intoxication, job stress, and workplace interpersonal conflict. The link between impulsivity and IPV and between adverse childhood events and IPV are consistent with other studies.
Our findings from the ethnography showed that the primary source of job stress was tied to job insecurity. The temporary nature of employment made it difficult for participants to develop work-based friendships. Moreover, workers beginning a new assignment felt tremendous pressure to compete against one another in order to prove themselves to their new supervisors, and thereby be among the last to be laid off on project completion. Workers frequently reported that their spouse did not appreciate the physical and emotional demands of their work. Women workers faced stressors both at home and on the job, and many reported experiencing unfair treatment from supervisors and male co-workers. It was not uncommon for their male spouses to be jealous about their working in a male-dominated environment. These uniquely stressful occupational factors—in concert with normative beliefs regarding partner violence and heavy alcohol use—had the potential to result in couple conflict and thereafter IPV.
Implications for Prevention: The goal of this study was to uncover the dyadic, psychosocial, and structural processes through which couple conflict may escalate into partner violence, and the role of work and alcohol use within these processes. Our research is among the very few studies of IPV wherein dataset includes information from both members of the romantic dyad. Few studies have integrated survey with ethnographic methods in order to ascertain the underlying contexts and structural conditions influencing key variables. This study, therefore, has multiple implications for prevention.
1) Employee Assistance programs and union representatives can draw from these findings to develop programs and interventions that address issues of job stress, work-family balance, and occupational norms regarding excessive alcohol use.
2) The study's emphasis on data collection from both members of the romantic dyad, and our findings regarding the influence of impulsivity on IPV, will provide information to psychologists, clinical social workers, and marriage/family therapists for developing therapeutic approaches to complex processes of couple conflict and violence.
3) The findings on alcohol- and gender-based factors associated with IPV will be useful to alcohol treatment providers, case managers, and managers of battered women's shelters for developing initiatives that address the deleterious role of excessive drinking on family life, and that protect lives of victims of violence.
4) Our findings underscore the importance of promoting healthy families and early intervention to prevent adverse experiences in childhood, which have been shown to increase the likelihood of substance use and marital aggression.