Jessica Nicholson Dissertation Final Defense

The College of Education

Announces the Final Examination of

Jessica Diane Nicholson

for the degree of

Doctor of Philosophy

September 17, 2015 at 10:00 am

103A Ball Hall, University of Memphis

Memphis, TN

Biographical Sketch

Bachelor of Arts, Psychology, New York University

Master of Education, Mental Health Counseling, Teachers College, Columbia University

Advisory Committee

Elin Ovrebo, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Counseling, Educational Psychology and Research, Committee Chair

Suzanne H. Lease, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Counseling, Educational Psychology and Research

Catherine A. Simmons, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Social Work

Douglas C. Strohmer, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Counseling, Educational Psychology and Research

Major Field of Study

Counseling Psychology

Period of Preparation: 2012-2016

Comprehensive Examination Passed: August, 2014

Mental Health Trainees’ Perceptions of Intimate Partner Violence within Diverse Same-Sex Couples


Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) in the United States is a widely prevalent issue that impacts both men and women, individuals of diverse racial/ethnic backgrounds, and individuals in heterosexual and same-sex couples. Previous research has demonstrated that African American individuals and individuals in same-sex couples, respectively, may be at an increased risk of experiencing IPV compared to the overall U.S. population. In addition, mental health trainees and clinicians have been found to exhibit biased perceptions of African American victims of IPV and gay and lesbian victims of IPV, respectively. There is a lack of research on how mental health trainees and providers perceive and respond to victims of IPV who are diverse in race/ethnicity and have same-sex partners. The present investigation addressed this research gap and examined whether mental health trainees’ perceptions of an IPV scenario varied based on how the race and sexual orientation of the couple was described. The 150 mental health graduate student participants were randomly assigned a vignette depicting an IPV situation where the partners were described as two African American males, two White males, two African American females, and two White females.   Participants were asked to rank their most preferred treatment recommendations for the victim, and participants’ levels of ethnocultural empathy and gender role stereotypes were investigated as potential predictors of IPV perceptions.   No significant differences were found in IPV perceptions or treatment recommendations based on how the race and sexual orientation of the couple was described. Ethnocultural empathy and gender role stereotypes were both found to be significantly correlated with perceptions of the IPV scenario, but only gender role stereotypes was found to account for a significant amount of unique variance in IPV perceptions when controlling for ethnocultural empathy. Several demographic variables were found to be significantly related to ethnocultural empathy, gender role stereotypes, and domestic violence beliefs. The findings and implications for mental health graduate training are discussed.

Comments are closed.