Sex role identity and relationship factors as correlates of abusive behavior in lesbian *relationships

Grace A Telesco, Fordham University


The present study makes use of a cross-sectional sample of 105 lesbians from a non-clinical setting to investigate to what extent they exhibited abusive behavior toward an intimate female partner and whether the abuse was physical, psychological, or both. This study examined whether an association exists between a lesbian's sex role identity, particularly the dimension of femininity, and her abusive behavior. Finally, this study's focus tested the hypotheses that dependency, jealousy, and power imbalance in the relationship would be positively associated with reported incidences of abusive behavior. The results show that when abuse is broadly defined that a sizable minority report high incidences of overall abuse and psychological abuse at some time during their current relationship. The most salient finding of this study was the strong evidence of a relationship between jealousy and abusive behavior. The implications of these findings underscore the need for continued and enhanced delivery of services to battered lesbians, expanded intervention programs for lesbian batterers, and innovative prevention initiatives designed to adequately address the issue of partner abuse in lesbian relationships. Further, the results of this study suggests that jealousy may predict both physical as well as psychological abuse, although such abuse seems to be less serious in nature than abuse that would result in serious physical injury. It is unclear from this study the temporal order of jealousy and abuse. The need for future research to examine this question is indicated. Other implications of this study point toward the need for consciousness-raising to the larger community about institutionalized and individual homophobia and heterosexism in research. As researchers we become limited in our assumptions and conclusions about the lesbian population. Drawing inferences from the findings of this study and making generalizations to the larger lesbian population is not possible. These are the limitations of the research and are rooted in heterosexism and homophobia. This study highlights the need for action towards change in social welfare policies that can only enhance and augment future research of the lesbian population, particularly the issue of lesbian partner abuse.

Subject Area

Social work|Behavioral psychology|Social psychology|Womens studies|Criminology|LGBTQ studies

Recommended Citation

Telesco, Grace A, "Sex role identity and relationship factors as correlates of abusive behavior in lesbian *relationships" (2001). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3016007.