New Zealand domestic violence experts are dismissing claims men are more likely to be the victims of violence among young couples as irresponsible and damaging.
The University of New Hampshire study shows women carry out more unreciprocated physical attacks on men while dating, than than men do on women.
But domestic violence experts in New Zealand are rubbishing the study.
The research is based on more than 13,000 university students in 32 countries, including New Zealand.
It found a third of students physically attacked a partner during the 12 month study, with assaults ranging from throwing things and shoving to kicking and punching.
While most of the violence involved both partners assaulting each other, the second-largest group was of women alone carrying out the attacks.
The study’s author says the findings call into question the belief that partner violence is predominantly a male crime.
But Women’s Refuge in New Zealand says that sends the wrong message. National Collective of Independent Women’s Refuge head Heather Henare says statistics show men in New Zealand are the main perpetrators of serious violence.
The National Network of Stopping Violence Services also describes the study as an anomaly. Manager Brian Gardner says there is no getting away from the fact that women suffer more harm at the hands of men, than the other way around.
He says such research allows violent men to justify their behaviour when they should be facing up to it.
Waikato University psychologist Neville Robertson, who specialises in domestic violence, says it would be more telling if fear had been measured in the study.
Auckland University associate professor of psychology Nicola Gavey says it is simply wrong to claim men are the victims of violence between couples.
She says the research draws attention away from the most important issue in the debate, which is the impact of family violence on women and children.
Alison Towns, a clinical psychologist specialising in domestic violence, says that three quarters of violence carried out by women against men is in self-defence.