Date of Award


Publication Type

Doctoral Thesis

Degree Name





dating couples, dating violence, gender, social cognition


Patti Fritz




The current study investigated how social information processing (SIP) deficits are related to intimate partner violence (IPV) and coercive control among heterosexual dating couples. I assessed four steps of Crick and Dodge’s (1994) six-step SIP model, namely: attitudes and attributions, goal setting, coping response generation, and coping response selection. I used Dutton and Goodman’s (2006) theorized model of coercive control, which included assessing demands, surveillance, threats, and victims’ responses to demands. I hypothesized that (a) SIP deficits would be interrelated; (b) participants responding in timed conditions would show more SIP deficits, given theory and research (e.g., Eckhardt et al., 2012) suggesting that implicit attitudes are more predictive of aggression than explicit attitudes; (c) and individuals with more SIP deficits would report perpetrating and experiencing more IPV and coercive control. Furthermore, exploratory questions investigated gender effects, partner effects, and Actor X Partner effects. Couples (N = 109) participated in a lab study during which they completed online measures of demographics, SIP deficits, IPV perpetration and victimization, coercive control victimization and perpetration, and social desirability. Hierarchical regressions were used to test hypothesis 1, which found that most SIP deficits were predictive of each other, such that negative attributions were found to positively predict aggressive goals; negative attributions and aggressive goals each positively predicted response generation competency; and negative attributions and generation competency each positively predicted response selection competency. To test hypothesis 2, I conducted multilevel models and found that there were no differences in SIP deficits between those responding with unlimited time and those who responded with a time pressure. Finally, I conducted several structural equation model analyses that used Kenny, Kashy, and Cook’s (2006) actor-partner interdependence model to test hypothesis 3 and the research questions. Though no significant gender differences, partner effects, or Actor X Partner effects were found, SIP deficits were significant predictors of IPV perpetration and coercive control perpetration and victimization. Specifically, participants with more SIP deficits perpetrated violence and control at higher rates and were more likely to be victims of coercive control. Results of this study have implications for researchers and clinicians interested in preventing or providing intervention to address intimate partner violence and coercive control.