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Domestic Violence

Causes Of Domestic Violence

Not only is it challenging to determine the impact of violence on children, but determining the cause of domestic violence is also complex. Nevertheless, three general approaches attempt to examine possible reasons for violent behavior between individuals who are or have been intimately involved.

Individual Characteristics

One approach focuses on the characteristics of the individuals in the relationship. This approach studies psychological characteristics associated with the violent individual and the victim. Although one attribute by itself will not necessarily explain the characteristics of an abuser or a victim, it is thought that the examination of all attributes combined will help to predict which individuals may be predisposed to be violent or to become a victim of violence.

According to the first theoretical approach, characteristics associated with individuals who abuse their partners include low self-esteem, isolation from social support, a manipulative nature, and a desire for power and control (Kakar 1998). These individuals are likely to be unable to cope with stress, be unwilling to take responsibility for their own actions, have extreme feelings of jealousy and possessiveness, be overly dependent on the victim, and/or have certain mental or psychological disorders. Additionally, some studies have indicated that violent individuals are more likely to abuse drugs or alcohol. The use of controlled substances, however, has not been shown to necessarily cause violence.

The characteristics that have been associated with the victims of violence are used to explain why individuals would become involved with and/or remain in a relationship with an abusive person. Attributes associated with the victim include low self-esteem; isolation from social support; feelings of shame, guilt, and self-blame; and mental illness such as depression. Some researchers suggest that victims experience feelings of helplessness that prevent them from leaving the relationship. After repeated failures of escape, victims believe that they cannot escape the relationship and resign themselves to remain in the violent atmosphere.

Another theory used to explain why victims remain in abusive relationships proposes that violence occurs in a cycle. This theory, first introduced by Lenore Walker in 1979, contains three main phases: (1) tension-building, (2) acute battering incident, and (3) calm, loving respite. The first phase includes minor incidents of abuse such as verbal attacks. During this stage the victim submits to the wishes of the violent individual in order to appease the attacker. The second phase contains more severe abuse and is followed by the third phase or the "honeymoon period." In the last phase, the abuser becomes loving and attentive and apologizes profusely for the attack. The victim Women and children living together in a shelter for victims of domestic violence. Many cases of domestic violence and abuse go unreported for fear of retaliation by the victimizer. (Hulton-Deutsch Collection/Corbis) believes that the violent behavior will stop and remains in the relationship. The tension-building occurs again, however, and the cycle repeats itself, leaving the victim to feel trapped and helpless.

Additional topics

Social Issues ReferenceChild Development Reference - Vol 3Domestic Violence - Types Of Violence, Incidence, Impact On Victims And Children, Causes Of Domestic Violence, Legislation And Support Services