Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Student Affairs in Higher Education

First Advisor

John A. Mueller, Ed.D.

Second Advisor

Holley A. Belch, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

John Wesley Lowery, Ph.D.


Intimate partner violence (IPV), a pattern of physical, sexual, and/or emotional violence by an intimate partner in the context of coercive control, has become a considerable problem for young adults in college. In fact, an estimated one in three students encounters the physical or psychological side effects of IPV. Although IPV is prevalent in college, research on psychological violence is limited, as it is more difficult to measure than the other forms of IPV. However, previous research and theories have raised questions about the connection between psychological maltreatment and feminist identity development. Female college students are a subpopulation of concern in incidents of psychological maltreatment between intimate partners. Women strongly identify with their relationships more so than their male counterparts. Other scholars have theorized that contemporary women must recognize, struggle with, and work through their feelings about sexual discrimination in order to achieve positive feminist identities. In other words, research and theory suggest that female identity is, in part, a product of a woman’s interaction with men. For heterosexual female targets of IPV, their feminist identity development is then likely related to the psychological maltreatment they experience in their relationships with men. Therefore, the following research question was posed: Does a correlation exist between feminist identity development and psychological maltreatment in intimate relationships among college students? A correlational study utilized the Feminist Identity Development Scale (FIDS), the Psychological Maltreatment of Women Inventory (PMWI), and a researcher-designed background demographic form (BDF) to determine if a correlation exists between feminist identity development and psychological maltreatment. The data for this study was collected from a sample of 171 heterosexual female college students between the ages of 18 and 24 at a mid-sized, public institution in the mid-Atlantic region. The resulting data analysis showed that several significant relationships exist between the two constructs of interest. Implications for theory, future research, and practice are discussed.