Understanding domestic violence in gay male relationships: Personality, internalized homophobia, and intention to stay or leave

Kathy Cosgrove Behrend, Fordham University


Using an online survey of 125 gay men, this study looked at whether a relationship exists between personality, internalized homophobia, and the intention of a gay man to get into and stay or leave an abusive relationship. Gay male domestic violence is abusive behaviors that occur within an intimate relationship, which can take a physical, sexual, or emotional form. Statistics have determined that one-quarter to one-third of gay men are victims of domestic violence during some point in their dating history. However, results of this study indicated a higher rate of domestic violence than these statistics with 86% of the participants identifying abusive behaviors within an intimate relationship. Interestingly, 84% of the gay men who endorsed abusive behavioral patterns in their relationships did not self-identify as victims of domestic violence. Running six separate two-way ANOVA, this study found that personality has an effect on the relationships of gay men in intimate relationships. More specifically, the personality factors Agreeableness and Openness to Experience had an effect on the intention to stay or leave for gay men in healthy relationships with a smaller effect for gay men in unhealthy relationships. The personality factors Neuroticism, Extraversion and Conscientiousness did not have such an effect, but it is likely that in part these results can be explained by instrumentation issues and sampling biases. The results of this study also indicated that internalized homophobia had an effect on whether gay men got into an abusive relationship, as well as on the intention of gay men to leave an intimate relationship in general. The findings of this study demonstrate the prevalence of domestic violence among gay men in intimate relationships, and the importance of education and advocacy geared towards this population. They should be shared with psychological, social, legal, and medical services so that more resources can be directed towards the victims of gay male domestic violence.

Subject Area

Social psychology|Personality|Families & family life|Personal relationships|Sociology|Gender

Recommended Citation

Behrend, Kathy Cosgrove, "Understanding domestic violence in gay male relationships: Personality, internalized homophobia, and intention to stay or leave" (2007). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3262832.