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Student, Professor Research Published in Journal of Family Violence

February 6, 2014

This month, the national Journal of Family Violence published a research paper by three Lasell alumni and current Lasell psychology professor Marsha Mirkin on attitudes toward victims of domestic abuse and violence.

Mirkin researched and wrote "Stay With or Leave the Abuser? The Effects of Domestic Violence Victim's Decision on Attributions Made by Young Adults" along with alumni Megan McPhearson Halket'12, Katelyn Gormley'12 and Nicole Mello'12 while they were students and after they graduated.

The article began to take form while the alums were students of Mirkin's. Over the course of four years, three of which they were students, the team designed, produced, and wrote the study which focuses on "how students view women who stay in an abusive relationship versus how the students view women who leave that relationship."

The study was designed to observe how young adults judge a woman who either stays or leaves an abusive partner and whether educating the participants about how common domestic violence is, and the risks of leaving, would change their views.

Survey repondents answered questions that assessed judgments made about a straight woman who was a victim of domestic violence. The results indicated that those who took the survey had a more positive view of a woman's personality and parenting ability if she left a violent relationship. When the respondents were informed about the potential risks the woman faced by leaving, the results did not change, but the information did soften some of their views. The overall results showed that educating young adults about the risks of violence is useful, but not sufficient to change those attitudes.

The student survey continues this school year with a new group of Mirkin's students who now are interested in how survey respondents will respond to women in a lesbian relationship versus women in a heterosexual relationship who stay or leave an abusive relationship. These current students will present their results at the Eastern Psychological Association conference in March. This study is based on the original research.

"Each group of students helps teach the next group, and then the next group thinks about what they want to do for [additional] research," Mirkin said.

-Caitlin Fitzgerald


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