Domestic disputes, domestic violence, family violence, or intimate partner violence are terms often used interchangeably and usually are related to conflicts between or among family members (Buzawa et al. 2008). Whatever it is labeled, these issues occur in every country, across all religious lines, and evidence of abusive relationships and both abusive and victim-type personalities can be seen in a variety of social situations (Versola-Russo & Russo 2009; Williams et al. 2008; Gomez & Speizer 2009; Khan 2006; Alkhateeb et al. 2001). These types of abusive relationships not only transcend national, cultural, and religious boundaries, but can also be found in relationships amongst people of all ages and a complete diversity of sexual orientations and identifications (Lundy & Grossman 2005; Bimbi et al. 2008).
McNeely et al. (2001) assert that domestic violence is also not merely a gender issue, but is truly a human issue, and to perceive the problem of domestic violence and partner abuse as one in which men are consistently and solely the abusers and women always the victims of male abuse is simply untrue and a dangerous assumption to make. Furthermore, the issue of domestic violence is more complex than other instances of violence in most societies and cannot be handled at all in the same manner if effective relief is the goal of intervention. This is because, "in nondomestic offenses the life-courses of victims and offenders are generally completely separate, only intersecting briefly at one point of time when the criminal offense is committed but with domestic violence, the life-courses of victims and offenders are inextricably interwoven." (Buzawa & Herschel 2008, pp. 392).
In most societies, incidence of domestic violence is positively correlated with concentrations of impoverished populations (Horton, 2008). That is, communities with greater degrees of poverty are more likely to have higher rates of domestic violence and a greater proportion of these populations will be exposed to abusive relationships, thus perpetuating the cycle of abuse in these communities indefinitely (Horton 2008; McKinney et al. 2006). Other factors that have been found to have positive correlations with increased rates of domestic violence and partner abuse include younger ages of motherhood -- especially pregnancy and delivery prior to the age of majority in a given society -- as well as racial and ethnic segregation, whether by explicit and official imposition or by unofficial happenstance and the perpetuation of racially divided communities (Horton 2008).
These factors, however, are less strongly associated with domestic violence than is a concentration of poverty, and these factors are themselves positively correlated with communities of concentrated impoverishment in countries around the world (Horton 2008; Evans 2005). Farmer et al. (1997) found that existing and new analysis support the hypothesis that improved economic opportunities for women decrease the level of violence in abusive re1ationships. Though the reasons for the correlation between poverty and domestic violence, and especially for the decrease of domestic violence toward women in communities where women gain increased financial power have not been fully identified, but it is likely that the increased freedom and greater ability to escape abusive relationships that this economic equality provides is a substantial factor in this noted trend (Farmer et al. 1997).
There are other factors that have also been positively correlated with domestic violence that are also positively correlated with increases in poverty levels. Namely, drug and alcohol abuse are often cited as factors in specific cases and instances of domestic violence and partner abuse and though drug and alcohol abuse are found at every socioeconomic level of society they are prevalent in impoverished communities (Maiden 1997; Horton 2008 & Bimbi et al. 2008). Studies have shown that treating abusers for alcohol and drug abuse can greatly reduce the likelihood of continued patterns of abuse, and a greater prevalence and availability of drug and alcohol abuse treatment programs can assist in bringing down community-wide rates of partner abuse, but this intervention far from fixes the problem entirely (Maiden 1997).
In addition to the larger demographic factors that have been linked to higher rates of domestic violence and partner abuse, there are certain behaviors and attitudes exhibited by individuals that suggest a likely emergence of physically abusive tendencies. Outlaw (2009) found, "strong evidence that some types of non-physical abuse serve as clear risk factors for physical abuse and may increase risk of more frequent violence among those already being abused." Versola-Russo and Russo (2009) suggest that the avoidance of anti-violence training, policies, and programs offered in the workplace or through law enforcement agencies is one sign of a potential abuser; "stalking" and other signs of an obsessive preoccupation with a specific individual is also strongly linked with the development of a full-blown abusive relationship (Melton 2005). Certain screening questions can be used by employers and by law enforcement officials alike to determine any predisposition that may exist towards domestic or workplace violence as well as the likelihood that a given individual will become an abuser at some point in the near future (Falk et al. 2001).
Abusers and victims are rarely if ever the only people of concern in domestic violence situations. Whenever children are a part of the relationship and/or domestic unit in which the violence is occurring, they cannot help but become victims themselves, even if this victimization occurs only through their role as a witness to the violence of an adult relationship -- exposure to this violence is damaging to emotional and psychological development in and of itself (McKinney et al. 2006). This can lead to serious emotional issues as adults if left untreated.
Exposure to domestic violence begins to manifest in identifiable traits, behavioral problems, and developmental issues from a very early age, and can lead to violent, aggressive, and generally disruptive behaviors in children of any age and through adolescence (Carter et al. 2003). With proper identification of abusive situations and a communication of effective means for avoiding/escaping such situations and coping with them in a conscious and proactive manner greatly reduces the appearance of these behavioral and developmental issues, however (Carter et al. 2003). Domestic violence is often part of a larger pattern of neglect and abuse within the domestic unit and early intervention in such situations is key to mitigating the damages caused to children that experience such situations; a lack of such intervention not only leads to larger and more prevalent behavioral issues during childhood, but has also been positively correlated with greater rates of criminality in adulthood, and especially of engagement in violent offences (Carter et al. 2003; Buzawa & Hirschel 2008).
The Unites States' National Domestic Violence Hotline website (2010) defines domestic violence as, "a pattern of behavior in any relationship that is used to gain or maintain power and control over an intimate partner," which can take the form of "physical, sexual, emotional, economic or psychological actions or threats of actions that influence another person…[including] any behaviors that frighten, intimidate, terrorize, manipulate, hurt, humiliate, blame, injure or wound someone." Though there are distinct differences that exist in the progression and effects emotionally sexually, and physically abusive relationships, their commonalities are much greater.
In all forms of domestic abuse, control and the desire or need to obtain it is a major factor. It is the desire or psychological need for one individual in a relationship to dominate and control another that ultimately leads to domestic violence and/or partner abuse (Goldsmith 2010). Most often, this desire or need for control is the result of dangerously low self-esteem on the part of the abuser, which can give rise to extreme and unfounded jealousies; when coupled with an emotional immaturity that limits the potential abusers' ability to control his or her anger, violence and an abusive relationship is the almost certain result (Goldsmith 2010). When children witness violent attempts to gain control as the predominant means of conducting adult relationships and resolving conflicts they might potentially grow into adults with similar attitudes and no other knowledge of more effective ways by which conflicts can be resolved (Goldsmith 2010; McKinney et al. 2006).
It is this pattern of abuse and the lack of adequate conflict resolution learning coupled with a lack of appropriate role models that is the single most accurate predictive factor for cases of domestic violence and the development of abusive individuals (All About Life's Challenges 2010). In families and communities where violence is tolerated and seen as normal children cannot help but develop these same attitudes toward violence. Again, because violence already has a greater prevalence in impoverished communities, children are more likely to be exposed to such attitudes in conjunction with other risk factors such as drug use, early sexual behaviors, and a lack of general productivity (All About Life's Challenges 2010).
All of these issues and trends identified in domestic violence and the patterns of partner abuse that most often exist in communities and families where violence is prevalent have a direct…