Appealing to Masculinity or Empathy?: Educating Men to Recognize Warning Signs of Dating Violence

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Dating violence continues to be a social concern for young adults (Barrick, Krebs, & Lindquist, 2013). Dating violence occurs often on college campuses, with between 16% and 50% of college women reporting experiences of dating violence prior to graduation (Knowledge Networks, 2011; Murray & Kardatzke, 2007). However, over half of college students reported that it is difficult to identify warning signs of dating violence (Knowledge Networks, 2011). Moreover, one study determined that undergraduate, heterosexual men have more difficulty recognizing warning signs of dating violence than undergraduate heterosexual women (Kearney & O’Brien, 2016). Thus, the purpose of this study was to assess multiple strategies to increase recognition of warning signs of dating violence and engagement in an online dating violence intervention with a sample of heterosexual college men. Participants were assigned randomly to one of four conditions: (1) the appeal to masculinity condition, (2) the appeal to empathy condition, (3) the combined appeal to masculinity and empathy condition, or (4) the control condition. Participants were instructed to watch the first component of STOP Dating Violence (O’Brien et al., 2016), a short online video intervention developed to educate college students about dating violence. Participants in the control condition received the standard intervention, while participants in the experimental conditions viewed a brief (one minute) introduction before beginning the intervention. Results indicated that all participants demonstrated an increase in ability to recognize warning signs of dating violence after participating in the intervention. Moreover, there was an interaction of time and condition for three dimensions of dating violence warning signs. However, condition did not have an effect on engagement with the intervention material. The results and future directions for research are discussed.