Date of Award

5-3-2007

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Psychology

First Advisor

Lisa Armistead, PhD - Chair

Second Advisor

Marci Culley

Third Advisor

Gregory Jurkovic

Fourth Advisor

Sarah Cook

Abstract

Background: Black South Africans were forced to live under the oppressive regime of apartheid for more than four decades. This system of government not only restricted the economic and educational opportunities for Blacks, but it also marginalized women by encouraging the preservation of a violent, patriarchal society. As a result of a long history of nationalized oppression, Black women in South Africa continue to be an economically and socially vulnerable group. Their vulnerability is translated into limited intimate relationship power, which confers a host of health and safety risks. Thus, the current study explored whether negative life events and/or HIV infection related directly to women’s intimate relationship power or was moderated by community-level variables (knowledge, helpfulness, and use of resources). Method: Participants were 104 women living with HIV and 152 non-infected women, who were recruited in and around Pretoria, South Africa. Two aspects of intimate relationship power were considered: relationship control (e.g. Partner controls what I wear) and decision making dominance (e.g. Who usually decides when you have sex?). Decision-making dominance was divided into three subscales (male dominant, female dominant and mutual). Results: For relationship control, fewer undesirable life changes were associated with more control. For decision-making dominance, several main and interaction effects were observed. Negative serostatus and women’s knowledge of community resources were directly associated with more mutual decision-making. However, more frequent family use of community resources was related to less female dominated decisions. For helpfulness of resources, a significant interaction revealed that women living with HIV/AIDS perceived their male partners as less dominant when they perceived their community resources to be more helpful. Conclusions: Power in intimate relationships may enhance the quality and length of life for Black South African women; thus, it is important to identify factors that promote or compromise power. The results of this study suggest that undesirable life changes, HIV infection, and great reliance on community resources (i.e. frequent use) are negatively associated with perceived relationship power. Alternatively, the current study identified the perceived helpfulness of community resources as one possible factor that promotes relationship power.

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