Construct validity of the conflict tactics scales: A mixed-method investigation of women's intimate partner violence

Amy Lehrner, Nicole E Allen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: The Conflict Tactics Scales 2 (CTS; Straus, Hamby, Boney-McCoy, &Sugarman, 1996) is the most widely used measure of intimate partner violence (IPV), and it consistently indicates high rates of IPV by young women in dating relationships. However, the CTS has been criticized for not assessing the context of the acts it measures. This study undertook a mixed-method investigation of women's IPV, incorporating both the CTS and in-depth interviews, to contextualize women's CTS reports of their use of violence against dating partners. Method: Four hundred seventy-six female undergraduates who had been in a heterosexual dating relationship in the past year completed the CTS. Women were then purposively recruited for follow-up interviews in a balanced design across 4 groups defined by self-reports of IPV perpetration on the CTS, ranging from none to severe and/or frequent violence. Thirty-four women completed interviews. Results: Although women's CTS reports were consistent with rates reported in the literature, there were discrepancies with the interview data. Findings indicate that women report endorsing acts of playful wrestling/fighting (i.e., "roughhousing") and mock violence on the CTS, and that such behavior is common among undergraduate women. The directionality of IPV identified by the CTS was also inconsistent with interview data. Conclusions: The CTS may potentially miscategorize acts and individuals and inflate estimates of the frequency and severity of women's IPV in young, dating, nonclinical samples. Research and clinical implications include the need for clearer definitions of the construct of IPV and the development of alternative or complementary assessment measures.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)477-490
Number of pages14
JournalPsychology of Violence
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jan 1 2014


  • Assessment
  • Conflict Tactics Scales
  • Intimate partner violence
  • Mixed-methods
  • Play
  • Women

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Health(social science)
  • Applied Psychology


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