Gender differences in intended escalatory tendencies among marital partners

Zeev Winstok, Murray A. Straus

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study addresses the intended escalatory tendency in eight hypothetical situations in which the provocator's identity (partner or stranger, male or female) and the provocation form (verbal or physical aggression) were manipulated. The research question is "how does the identity of the provocator and the form of his or her provocation affect the participant's intended escalation level, and does the gender of the participant affect differences in intended escalation level?" The research sample consisted of 208 Israeli couples. The main finding is that women's intended response to their male partner is more escalatory than men's intended response to their female partner. Results also show that women's escalation is the most severe to partner provocation and the least severe to male strangers' provocation. Men's escalation is the most severe to provocation by male strangers and the least severe to their partner's provocation. Findings indicate that men's intention to escalate decreases as their partner's provocation becomes more severe. The severity of provocation has little effect on women's inten-tion to escalate. Such results are consistent with social role theory and sexual selection theory that maintain that status enhancement is more important for men than for women, and is more important for men than risk reduction is, whereas the opposite is true for women.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3599-3617
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Interpersonal Violence
Issue number18
StatePublished - Dec 2011

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the Israeli Science Foundation [ISF grant number 993/2].


  • escalating conflict
  • gender differences
  • gender symmetry
  • partner violence
  • risk reduction
  • status enhancement

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Applied Psychology


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