Criminal history and assault of dating partners: The role of type of prior crime, age of onset, and gender

Murray A. Straus, I. Luis Ramirez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


Some studies of assaults on intimate partners have found that most of the perpetrators are not violent outside the family, which suggests a specialized type of crime. However, other studies found domestic violence offenders tend to have extensive criminal histories. To further investigate the extent to which partner assaults are part of a more general pattern of criminal behavior or a specialized type of crime, we studied the dating relationships of 653 university students. Thirty-one percent reported assaulting a partner in the previous 12 months. The rate of assault on partners by females did not differ significantly for males (29%) and females (32%). We also found high rates of other self-reported crime, and much higher rates by males. For example, over one half of the male students and almost one third of the female students reported having stolen money. The male students reported an average of 3.4 crimes committed, and the female students an average of 1.4 crimes. These high crime rates and gender differences are consistent with many previous studies. Logistic regression analysis revealed that a history of prior criminal acts is associated with an increased probability of assaulting a partner. The relationship was greater when there was prior violent crime compared to property crime, when there was early onset of criminal behavior, and when the offender was female. The implications of the findings for understanding partner assaults, criminal careers, and gender differences in the etiology of violence against intimate partners are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)413-434
Number of pages22
JournalViolence and Victims
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2004


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