Violence between Partners Is a Serious Health Problem

The Register Guard (Eugene, OR), September 28, 2011 | Go to article overview

Violence between Partners Is a Serious Health Problem


Byline: Deborah Capaldi

The use of physical violence during disagreements between romantic partners, often referred to as intimate partner violence, is a significant public health problem.

Each year in the United States, it is estimated by the Centers for Disease Control that women experience about 4.8 million intimate partner-related physical assaults and rapes, and that men are the victims of about 2.9 million intimate partner-related physical assaults.

The majority of survey studies of both dating and young marital couples indicate similar, or even slightly higher, rates of any physical violence (from pushing and shoving to severe violence) by women against men than men against women. That applies to both married and dating couples.

Rates of intimate partner violence in gay and lesbian couples are similar to those observed in heterosexual couples.

Intimate partner violence resulted in 2,340 deaths in 2007. Of these, 70 percent were female and 30 percent were males. The consequences of intimate partner violence also include physical and mental health such as injury and depression, involvement with the legal system, loss of income and work productivity, and financial costs incurred from medical and psychological treatment and recovery.

In addition to the victims themselves, the perpetrators experience consequences such as incarceration and loss of family contact, and children experience numerous consequences. Those committing physical violence have a higher likelihood of engaging in more of it, as well as in more severe acts of psychological aggression (e.g., verbal abuse) than those showing only psychological (but no physical) aggression.

As such, psychological aggression has a higher prevalence than violence and has also been shown to have severe negative impacts on the partners and children in the family in many cases.

Current intervention practices focused predominantly on men's violence toward women have been found to be largely ineffective in reducing violence that takes places in couples' relationships, making it a research priority to increase the development of evidence-based approaches to prevent and treat couples' intimate partner violence.

Intimate partner violence levels peak at relatively young ages, even perhaps as early as late adolescence, and declines with age. Arrests for intimate partner violence also tend to occur at younger ages. Thus, a focus on prevention among adolescents seems appropriate.

Recent findings indicate that intimate partner violence is not limited to violence perpetrated on women by men. It is increasingly known that women's violence toward men is also significant and that it has negative outcomes that have implications for prevention and intervention programs.

A critical issue is that much physical violence toward a partner is mutual (or bidirectional) and is related to poor relationship skills, estimated at from around 50 percent to as high as 71 percent of couples engaging in violent behavior. …

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