Background: Dating violence (DV) is a serious problem with devastating consequences. Often, research on DV has focused on two distinct groups: victims and perpetrators. However, there is growing evidence for a victim-perpetrator overlap model, which posits that those involved in DV are more likely to take on both roles, rather than either role on its own.
Purpose: We investigated the patterns of involvement in DV among those who identified themselves as victims or perpetrators in previous studies.
Method: This was a systematic review and meta-analysis. A total of 371 variables related to participants’ previous and concurrent experiences of DV victimization or perpetration (202 variables related to victimization and 169 related to perpetration) were identified in 25 studies, which were found by systematically searching three databases: PubMed, Web of Science, and SCOPUS.
Results: The majority of previous studies categorized study participants as either DV victims or perpetrators; however, those who identified themselves as either DV victims or DV perpetrators were more likely to assume the opposite role as well. Specifically, current DV perpetrators had a strong association with previous or concurrent victimization experiences, and current DV victims were similarly likely to have assumed the roles of both victim and perpetrator in their histories.
Conclusion: Further efforts should be put into avoiding categorization of those involved in violence; rather, they should be regarded as a single group. Additionally, evidence-based interventions should be developed for this population to help break the cycle of violence.