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Family Abuse and Crime

Situational And Environmental Factors

Stress. Unemployment, financial problems, being a single parent, being a teenage mother, and sexual difficulties (such as sexual dysfunction or impotence) are all factors that are related to violence, as are a host of other stressor events.

Social isolation and social support.

Researchers often find that people who are socially isolated from neighbors and relatives are more likely to be violent in the home. Social support appears to be an important protective factor. One major source of social support is the availability of friends and family for help, aid, and assistance. The more a family is integrated into the community and the more groups and associations they belong to, the less likely they are to be violent.

The intergenerational transmission of violence. The notion that abused children grow up to be abusive parents and violent adults has been widely expressed in the literature on child abuse and family violence. Psychologists Joan Kaufman and Edward Zigler conclude that the best estimate of the rate of intergenerational transmission appears to be 30 percent (plus or minus 5 percent). Although a rate of 30 percent is substantially less than the majority of abused children, the rate is considerably more than the between 2 and 4 percent rate of abuse found in the general population. Byron Egeland and colleagues conducted a longitudinal study of high-risk mothers and their children. They found that mothers who had been abused as children were less likely to abuse their own children if they had emotionally supportive parents, partners, or friends. In addition, the abused mothers who did not abuse their children were described as "middle class" and "upwardly mobile," suggesting that they were able to draw on economic resources that may not have been available to abused mothers who abused their children.

Evidence from studies of parental and marital violence indicate that while experiencing violence in one's family of origin is often correlated with later violent behavior, such experience is not the sole determining factor. When the intergenerational transmission of violence occurs, it is likely the result of a complex set of social and psychological processes. Although experiencing and witnessing violence is believed to be an important risk factor, the actual mechanism by which violence is transmitted from generation to generation is not well understood.

Gender inequality. One of the important risk factors for violence against women is gender inequality. The greater the degree of gender inequality in a relationship, community, and society, the higher are the rates of violence toward women.

Presence of other violence. A final general risk factor is that the presence of violence in one family relationship increases the risk that there will be violence in other relationships. Thus children in homes where there is domestic violence are more likely to experience violence than are children who grow up in homes where there is no violence between their parents. Moreover, children who witness and experience violence are more likely to use violence toward their parents and siblings than are children who do not experience or see violence in their homes.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationCrime and Criminal LawFamily Abuse and Crime - Risk And Protective Factors, Social And Demographic Risk Factors, Situational And Environmental Factors, Research On Victims