Introduction

Article excerpt

In 1993, the Journal of Comparative Family Studies released a special issue on family violence with Richard J. Gelles as Guest Editor. The eight articles in the special issue were well received. Indeed, it has been an important issue for our work, and it is on the shelf of many colleagues.

We were happy to have been invited to edit a special volume of the Journal of Comparative Family Studies on violence against women in the family as a follow up to the Gelles' 1993 issue. Almost a decade after Gelles' provocative special issue, violence against women, especially partner violence, remains an important social problem in today's society. Indeed, although innovative policies have been developed, such as zero tolerance, they have not been effective in achieving the goal of ending violence against women in the family. We believe this to be the case because we still do not have a solid understanding of the causes of this phenomenon. Therefore, we felt it important to contribute toward this understanding by agreeing to be Guest Editors of this special issue.

Unfortunately, the constraints on family violence research that Gelles (1993) identified in his special issue remain in effect. Violence against women, and family violence in general, continues to be a private matter largely occurring behind closed doors. Methodological limitations in the field remain and definitional issues continue to plague family violence research. In the latter regard, Brownridge and Halli (1999) have even identified confusion in the literature based on inconsistent use of the terms prevalence and incidence. Despite our more recent discovery of the admirable solution of Straus (1990), to use the appropriate term of chronicity to refer to the extent to which violence re-occurs within a given time period, the persistent use of the term incidence and its confusion with prevalence leads us to be unrepentant in our identification of "gold standard" definitions of these terms for family violence literature. It remains our hope to see some sort of standardization to facilitate the conduct and d issemination of family violence research.

Despite these continued constraints, the past decade has seen some major advances in research on violence against women. Taken together, the articles in this special issue of the Journal of Comparative Family Studies provide a good sampling of the advances taking place in the field. It is possible to see this in a number of respects, including the themes covered in the articles, and both the highlights and implications of the papers in broad perspective.

THEMES, HIGHLIGHTIS AND IMPLICATIONS

There are several themes that can be identified in the articles in this special issue. It is fruitful to organize an introduction to the papers around two themes; primary and secondary prevention of violence against women.

Primary Prevention

The articles in the special issue by Rosenbaum and Leisring, Street et al., Verma and Collumbien, and Ulman and Straus have understanding violence against women with a view to primary prevention as a major theme.

Rosenbaum and Leisring point to the need to understand the influence of early childhood experiences in the later development of woman battering. Specifically, these researchers investigate the influence of parental violence and parent-child bonding on the development of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) on the frequency and severity of battering perpetration. Presumably, if we can understand how childhood experiences impact the development of later battering behavior, we will be better equipped to intervene with at-risk children and ultimately prevent them from becoming batterers. Rosenbaum and Leisring demonstrate that childhood history does have an impact on becoming a batterer. In so doing, Rosenbaum and Leisring move beyond the most commonly cited factor of witnessing violence to include factors linked to batterer's childhood relationships with their parents. …