Domestic Violence Tears at Heart of Families, Cities

Nation's Cities Weekly, March 2, 1992 | Go to article overview

Domestic Violence Tears at Heart of Families, Cities


The following are excerpts from "Family Violence: An Overview" published by the Office of Human Development Services of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, reprinted with permission. Copies of the full report are available at no cost from the Clearinghouse on Child Abuse and Neglect and Family Violence Information, P.O. Box 1182, Washington, D.C. 20013.

Family violence is a widespread problem in American society. Most experts agree that incidents of family violence are substantially underreported. Hundreds of thousands of Americans are harmed each year by family members. This victimization takes many forms: spouse abuse/domestic violence, elder abuse and neglect, parent abuse, and sibling abuse. These forms of violence do not always occur independently of each other. Families who engage in one form of family violence are likely to engage in others.

Government Roles in

Domestic Violence Issues

The ramifications of family violence have almost no boundaries. In addition to the obvious physical injuries and deaths that result, family violence is often cited in research and clinical case studies as contributing to numerous other individual, family, and societal problems. For example, numerous studies show that growing up in a violent home compromises the child's physical, intellectual, emotional, and social development. A variety of data suggest that abused children, especially boys, have a much greater chance of becoming involved in juvenile crime than children from nonabusive homes.

From the perspective of social institutions and society, family violence and its effects drain resources and add to other societal problems. Various public and private organizations use considerable staff and money to identify violent families. Once identified, these families and each family member (whether victim, abuser, or witness) usually need a host of remedial services. The "costs" of law enforcement, medical, social, mental health, educational, and legal intervention associated with family violent are extremely high.

Front-line caseworkers, as well as numerous other community service providers, need more training and support to deal with the physical and emotional demands of serving this population. Early identification of families experiencing violence increases the likelihood of successful intervention. Increased public education efforts and awareness of the problem will make such early identification possible.

Spouse Abuse/Domestic Violence

Severe spouse abuse is the single major cause of injury for which women seek medical attention; it is more common than auto accidents, mugging, and rape combined. When less severe types of abuse are considered, estimates of the number of victims per year increase significantly. Spouse abuse also is considered a major contributing factor to other problems, including child abuse and neglect, female alcoholism, drug abuse, homelessness, mental illness, and attempted suicide.

Domestic violence can be learned behavior. In one study, seventy percent of the abusive men participating in a treatment program had come from homes in which one or more of the children were victims of physical or sexual abuse, or where the mother had been abused by the father.

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