The Domestic Assault of Women: Psychological and Criminal Justice Perspectives

By Donald G. Dutton | Go to book overview

10
The Future

When we profess to believe in deterrence and to value justice, but refuse to spend the energy and money required to produce either, we are sending a clear signal that we think safe streets, unlike all other public goods, can be had on the cheap. We thereby trifle with the wicked, make sport of the innocent, and encourage the calculators. Justice suffers, and so do we all.

- J.Q. Wilson, Thinking About Crime

How will the current generation's children deal with conflict in their marriages when they reach adulthood? Will they be more violent than contemporary adults? Will incidence rates for wife assault increase during the next decade? Two lines of analysis converge on these questions. One line examines the demographic structure of society and predicts how violence rates may increase or decrease as a result of baby booms and other demographic factors that affect the structure of contemporary and future society. A second line of analysis examines the effects of current family dysfunction on the probability of dysfunction in the next generation. We know, for example, that approximately 40% of today's children will witness their parents divorce by age sixteen (Bumpass 1984), and that Levinger's (1966) analysis of court records for divorce applicants found that 36.8% of the wives cited physical aggression by their husbands. Even amongst non-divorced families, we know from the surveys reported in Chapter 1 that 8.7% to 12.6% of families report acts of severe abuse. How would the witnessing of abuse affect a child? What prognostications can we make about the adult conflict-resolution behavior of these child witnesses ?


Effects on the Child Witness of Observing Violence

In the 1975 US national survey, Straus, Gelles, and Steinmetz (1980)

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