Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Distal and Proximal Factors in Domestics Violence: A Test of an Integrated Model

Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Distal and Proximal Factors in Domestics Violence: A Test of an Integrated Model

Article excerpt

We employed 4,095 couples from both waves of the National Survey of Families and Households (NSFH) to test a model of couple violence drawn from several theoretical perspectives. The outcome distinguishes among nonviolent couples and those experiencing either physical aggression or intense male violence. According to the model, background characteristics of couples are related to relationship stressors, which affect the risk of violence via their tendency to promote verbal conflict. Considerable support for the model was found. Couples were at higher risk for one or both forms of violence if they were younger at union inception, had been together for less time, were both in their first union, had only one partner who was employed, had a nontraditional woman paired with a traditional man, had at least one partner who abused substances, had more children, had more frequent disagreements, exhibited a more hostile disagreement style, or lived in an economically disadvantaged neighborhood. Moreover, the effects of stressors such as the number of children and couples' employment status disparities appear to be mediated by disagreement frequency and disagreement style.

Key Words: conflict management, domestic violence, physical aggression, relationship stressors.

Research on domestic violence suggests that aggression between intimate partners has its etiology in a diversity of forces operating at different levels of social life. Spousal violence has thus been attributed to a variety of factors, including societal prescriptions regarding male entitlements in marriage (Johnson, 1995); the degree to which neighborhood social organization facilitates or hinders neighborhood cohesion (Miles-Doan, 1998); modeling influences from partners' families of orientation (Kalmuss, 1984); the tension in relationships caused by disparities in male and female education or socioeconomic potential (Macmillan & Gartner, 1999); the stress induced by problems with alcohol or drug abuse (Heyman, Jouriles, & O'Leary, 1995); or the communicative strategies couples use in the process of attempting to resolve conflicts (Babcock, Waltz, Jacobson, & Gottman, 1993). Nevertheless, these influences are often examined in isolation from one another, rather than in concert. However, it is the confluence of these factors, rather than any one individually, that is most likely responsible for intimate aggression.

Recent conceptualizations of dyadic aggression have also become increasingly sensitive to the possibility that such violence is not a unitary phenomenon. Johnson (1995), for example, distinguishes two major subtypes. Patriarchal terrorism (later renamed "intimate terrorism" by Johnson and Ferraro, 2000) represents a severe form of violence by men against female partners, which is motivated by the desire for total control over the partner. It is characterized by frequent and severe beatings that tend to escalate in severity over time. Common couple violence represents physical confrontations that occasionally erupt in the context of interpersonal conflict, are engaged in at roughly equal rates by both men and women, and show little tendency to escalate in severity over time. Johnson suggests that these violence profiles are sufficiently different as to have two substantially different etiologies. Even more recently Johnson and Ferraro and Macmillan and Gartner (1999) have each identified as many as four different violence subtypes. Macmillan and Gartner further provide evidence that different causal forces operate to produce different forms of violence. Despite these advances, many studies still assume a monolithic approach to dyadic aggression. For example, some studies only focus on male violence (Heyman et al, 1995; Leonard & Senchak, 1996), with an implicit assumption that all male violence has the same etiology.

A related limitation in much prior work is the failure to take into account the reciprocal nature of dyadic violence in models of intimate aggression. …

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