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THE DEVELOPMENT OF FAMILY VIOLENCE RESEARCH: A RETROSPECTIVE
A THESIS PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE MASTER OF SCIENCE
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
2007 Rachel Birmingham
To following your passion in life and to never settling, and to Doug Diekow, whose
inspiration taught me this.
I would like to thank various individuals for their support over these past years.
First I thank my parents, who have kept me centered in love above all else. I thank them
for sacrificing time and energy to ensure I had the best possible opportunities, and for
teaching the value of education. My mother gave me the primary example of what it
means to be a perseverant woman in times of struggle. My stepfather taught me the
importance of never wavering from my authentic self and instilled in me a strong social
The Fieler family adopted me and taught me more about myself than I could have
ever anticipated. Jean Fieler taught me about life, love and self-acceptance, Lessons I will
carry with me throughout my life. Also, special thanks go to Shiloh Birmingham, Aaron
Birmingham, Jennifer Hogsette, Edith Clark, Angel Marino and many others for their
continued encouragement and support throughout this process.
This work would not have been possible without the guidance of my committee. I
thank Dr. Constance Shehan for her continuous support throughout this process, and for
encouraging my scientific curiosities and allowing me explore them. Dr. Rose Barnett,
has been a strong ally throughout these years, and her wisdom has given me the strength
and courage to overcome and succeed. The lessons I learned from her throughout my
graduate experience are very powerful and far-reaching.
Finally, I would like to acknowledge Dr. Suzanna Smith, my advisor and mentor. I
am incredibly thankful for her patience, motivation and compassion throughout this
process. This would not have been possible without her wonderful guidance and
encouragement. She has been an inspiration for those who seek to make a difference in
the lives of children and families throughout our communities.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
A C K N O W L E D G M E N T S ........................................................................ .....................4
LIST OF FIGURES .................................... .. .. ...................... .. viii
ABSTRACT .............. ......................................... ix
1 IN TR OD U CTION ............................................... .. ......................... ..
Purpose of Study ...................................... ............................... ......... 2
D definitions of Term s ................................ .......... ....... ...... ........ ........ 3
Domestic Violence/ Intimate Partner Violence.................................. ...............3
Sibling V violence and A buse ............................................ ........... ............... 3
B behavior Classifications ....................................... ......... .. ...... .. ........ ..
P hy sical A bu se ....................................................... 3
E m optional A bu se ................. ............ .................... .................. ............ .4
Sexu al A bu se ................................................................... ............ 4
Financial A buse .................................................................. .......... 4
N neglect ............................................... 4
D rug A buse/Chem ical R estraint ..........................................................................5
Theoretical Introduction ............................................................ 5
L im itatio n s ................................................................................. 6
Significance of Study ..................................... .............. .......................
2 LITERATURE REVIEW ................................. ........................... ...........
C h ild M altreatm ent ................................................................................ 9
C hild Physical A buse ....................................................... 9
Child Emotional/Psychological Abuse ...............................................................10
Child Sexual Abuse ........................................................ .......... .......11
C h ild N e g le ct ................................................................................................. 12
Sum m ary ........................................................................ .......... 12
Domestic Violence/Intimate Partner Violence .................................................... 13
IPV and Physical A buse ......................................................................... ........ 14
IPV and Psychological/Emotional Abuse ........................................... 15
IPV and Sexual A buse......................................... ............... ............... 16
IPV and F financial A buse........................................................................ ........ 17
Other Forms of Domestic Violence.................................... ..................... 17
Domestic Violence in LGBT couples....................................... ............... 17
Abuse During Pregnancy ........... ...... ........... ........................ 18
Sum m ary ..................................................................................... 19
E ld er A b u se ...............................................................19
Elder Physical Abuse ......... ......... ....... ............ ............. ..... .. 20
Elder Psychological/Emotional Abuse............ ..................... ..........20
E lder Financial A buse ....................... .................. .. ......... ........... 21
Elder N eglect ........... ......... ......... ............... ... ................... ........... 22
Elder Drug Abuse/Chemical Restraint ...................................................... 22
Summary .............. ...... .............. ........ ........................... 23
Sibling A bu se ..................................................... ......... ..... 23
Sibling Physical A buse......... ................. ................................... ............... 24
Sibling Emotional/Psychological Abuse.................................... ........ .......... 25
Sibling Sexual A buse .................................. ................. ..... ....... 25
Outcomes .......... .. ............. ....................26
S u m m a ry ............. .. ............... ................. ..............................................2 6
P o licy O v erv iew .........................................................................................................2 7
Significant Policies in Relation to Family Violence...................... ............... 28
Decade in Review from the Journal of Marriage and Family ..................... ...30
The Decade of the 1960s ............................................30
The D ecade of the 1970s ................. ............................ ..... ..............32
The Decade of the 1980s ............................................ 33
The Decade of the 1990s ............................................ 33
Theory Overview ............... ......... ........ .......... 34
Research Questions and Hypotheses .............................. ............... 41
C o n c lu sio n s........................................................................................................... 4 1
3 M E T H O D O L O G Y ............................................................................................... 43
R e se arch D e sig n ................................................................................................... 4 3
D ata C o lle ctio n ..................................................................................................... 4 4
S am p le S ele ctio n ........................................................................................... 4 4
Procedure .......... .. ............. ....................45
C content A naly sis ....................... ........ ........... ..... ................46
Instrument for Family Violence Content in the Literature ............... ...............47
D ata A nalysis................................................... 48
L im itatio n s ......................................................................................4 9
4 R E S U L T S .............................................................................5 0
Journals Sampled .................................... ......................... ... ......... 50
General Publication Trends by Decade .......................................... 51
Trends in Family Violence Abuse Category .................................... ....52
Behaviors Identified in the Literature ................................................................ 54
General Trends in Family Violence Concerning Issues ..........................................55
H y p oth eses T estin g ............................................................................................... 5 6
5 DISCU SSION AND CON CLU SION S ........................................... .....................60
R research Q uestions........... .................................................................. ........ .. ... 60
H ypotheses ................................................. 61
Overall Trends in Family Violence Publication............... ....................................62
Trends in Category of Family Violence Research..........................................64
Trends in Behavior Associated With Family Violence Research ...........................65
Decade Reviews from The Journal of Marriage and Family............... ...............66
P o licy E x p lo ratio n ............................................................................ ................ .. 6 7
Theory ............... .................................................70
L im station s ........................................................................................ ..................... 73
Future Research Recom m endations ........................................ ....................... 75
Im plications for Practice.............. .................................................... ............... 78
Im plication s for P policy .............................. .... ...................... .. ........ .... ............79
C o n clu sio n s..................................................... ................ 8 0
A CONTENT ANALYSIS CODEBOOK...... ................. ...............82
B C ITA TIO N IN D E X TA B L E ............................................................... .....................84
REFERENCES ................... ......... .. ...... ... ..................85
B IO G R A PH IC A L SK E TCH ..................................................................... ..................92
LIST OF FIGURES
1 Changes in Frequency of Publications about Family Violence Over Time............. 51
2 Trends in Family Violence Category-Related Publication Over Time....................53
3 Trends in Publication by Abuse Behavior Over Time ..........................................54
Abstract of Thesis Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Master of Science
THE DEVELOPMENT OF FAMILY VIOLENCE RESEARCH: A RETROSPECTIVE
Chair: Suzanna Smith
Major: Family, Youth and Community Sciences
Our study examined the trends in family violence research literature over the past 5
decades in relation to significant public policies. Although social science research
pertaining to family violence has grown tremendously in the latter portion of the 20th
century, few studies have focused on the process of research growth and development.
Our study used a retrospective longitudinal design to identify changes in family
violence research literature over the past 5 decades, using 5 year intervals for the
collection of data. A content analysis was utilized, based on information gathered from
the titles and abstracts of 505 articles. These articles were taken from the four most
frequently cited social science research journals in the field of family studies, in the
social science citation index: The Journal ofMarriage and Family, Child Abuse and
Neglect, The Journal of Interpersonal Violence, and The Journal of Family Psychology.
Category of family violence was measured in terms of type of abuse (i.e., intimate
partner violence, child abuse, elder abuse, sibling abuse, and abuse in lesbian, gay,
bisexual and transgender relationships). Behavior in association with abuse (i.e., physical
abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, neglect, abandonment and fatality) was also
measured. Each received a numeric code for purposes of data collection. The data were
analyzed using chi-square tests to determine differences in relative representation of
family violence article classifications. Significant chi-square analyses were followed with
tests of standardized adjusted residuals to determine the nature of article representation
(i.e. over-representation or under-representation of certain areas) in greater detail.
Trends identified in this study reflected an overall increase in research publication
across all points in time after 1980, followed by a slight decline within the past 5 years.
No articles were identified in the sample before 1980. The greatest influx in research
publication from this sample occurred in the 1990s.
Across all decades, the majority of articles in this sample were on the topic of
child abuse. Only two articles were on sibling violence and abuse, and no publications
were identified on elder abuse. Regarding behaviors, sexual abuse received most
attention, with physical abuse moderately represented. Little existed on neglect,
emotional abuse, and fatality; and no articles were identified on abandonment.
Based on these findings, recommendations were made to increase research
attention to underrepresented areas. This is essential to increase the knowledge base
concerning these areas of family violence. This can enable both researchers and
practitioners to better serve vulnerable families.
Family violence is a significant social issue in the United States. Scholars report
that one in three female trauma victims, one in six pregnant women, and one in ten
primary care clinic visitors come from an abusive relationship (Fisher & Shelton, 2006).
The damage inflicted on children is pervasive as well. According to the U.S. Department
of Health and Human Services Children's Bureau (2004), a total of 851, 000 cases of
child abuse occurred in 2004. Furthermore, 1,490 children died from abuse or neglect in
the same year (elevated from 1,460 in 2003). Significant as these numbers are, the actual
occurrence of family violence may be much higher because many abusive behaviors go
undetected (Neufeld, 1996).
Contrary to popular belief, family violence is not just a problem concerning
women and children. In fact, estimates indicate that at least 200,000 men are victimized
each year (Harley, 2006). Also, the elderly are maltreated at a rate of 550,000 annually
(Thompson & Priest, 2005). The estimated annual cost in medical care to the victims of
family violence is 5 billion dollars (Harley, 2006).
The process of social science research pertaining to family violence has grown
tremendously in the latter portion of the 20th century. What began with an inquiry by a
physician and his colleagues into the physical symptoms of child abuse (Kempe,
Silverman, Steele, Droegemueller & Silver, 1962) has expanded into a field of study
dedicated to multiple forms of family violence (Gelles & Maynard, 1987). This research
has not only been descriptive, identifying forms of violence; but also explanatory,
attempting to explain the reasons behind violent and abusive behavior within families and
In addition to increased research interest, a great deal of political and social
attention has been directed to the problem of family violence. Legislation has been
developed to protect adult and child victims, and to punish perpetrators. Importantly,
political attention has resulted in the regulation and standardization of criteria that aid in
abuse identification and reporting; and in the allocation of funds for the development of
prevention and intervention programs.
Although scholarly interest in family violence has grown, there's been little
reflection or systematic analysis on how it has developed and changed. It appears from
examining the literature that the field is attending to different concerns compared to 20
years ago. However, little careful documentation confirms this, nor do we recognize gaps
in the literature that need to be addressed. This information would help us better
understand our thinking about family violence and its sub-areas. Research could further
explore our understanding of a specific aspect of family violence or of this phenomenon
Purpose of Study
The purpose of this study was to examine the growth and development of family
violence research literature in the past 5 decades. This includes trends in research
publications, including the level of overall research interest in areas of family violence
over time. In addition, this study situated family violence research into a larger social
context by examining family violence policy development.
Definitions of Terms
Family violence is an umbrella term encompassing intimate partner
violence/domestic violence, child maltreatment, elder abuse, and sibling violence. Each
form of abuse will be discussed more specifically, followed by a brief description of
common behaviors associated with these forms of family violence.
Domestic Violence/ Intimate Partner Violence
Domestic violence refers to violence and abuse between intimate partners. This
category includes married and non-married, as well as heterosexual and homosexual
Child maltreatment includes abusive or neglectful behavior toward a child by an
adult. This can include physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, and/or neglect.
Sibling Violence and Abuse
Sibling violence and abuse includes behaviors such as physical, emotional and
sexual abuse that occur between siblings.
Physical abuse is described here as any behavior that involves unwanted or
coercive physical contact within the family. This can include behaviors such as punching,
kicking, slapping, choking, pushing, or using an object or weapon against a family
member (Wiehe, 1997).
Emotional abuse refers to behaviors that involve harsh, derogatory and/ or
negative language or actions toward an intimate partner or family member. This behavior
is usually characterized by threatening, harassing and intimidating and causes
psychological distress to the victim. It is important to note that this behavior often occurs
in conjunction with other forms of abuse such as physical violence (Wiehe, 1997), which
makes detection difficult.
Sexual abuse involves unwanted physical or verbal contact in a sexual manner.
Examples include: touching, fondling, unwanted exposure, and/or coercion into behaviors
such as intercourse or sodomy. Also included here is inappropriate verbal contact, or use
of sexual imagery, such as exposure to pornography. On a final note, sexual abuse also
applies in situations where the victim is ether too young or disabled and unable to consent
sexual to behavior (Wiehe, 1997).
Financial abuse will be used here in reference to behaviors such as stealing or
exploiting someone's financial assets. This usually occurs in situations where the victim
is dependent on the perpetrator, and/or is unable to manage his or her own expenses (Fern
& Younger-Lewis, 1997; Paretti & Majecen, 1991).
Neglect can be considered any behavior that fails to provide basic needs such as
food, water, adequate clothing, shelter, nutrition, hygiene, medical care, or educational
needs. Also, lack of adequate supervision or failure to prevent harm is considered
neglectful behavior (Sneedon, 2003). Victims of neglect are usually individuals that rely
on their abuser for essential needs, such as help with activities of daily living. Thus, this
population is usually composed of children, elderly, and the disabled (Shugarman, Fries,
Wolf & Morris, 2003).
Drug Abuse/Chemical Restraint
An additional category is drug abuse, or chemical restraint; that is, using
substances to control an individual against his or her will. This tends to occur in
situations where victims are dependent on their abusers for help with activities of daily
living (Shugarman, Fries, Wolf & Morris, 2003).
Because the primary goal of this study was to examine the development of family
violence research literature over time, a theory would need to be one that provided a
framework for understanding the development of knowledge. Ultimately, the basic
components of Giddens' structuration theory were applied in relation to the development
of knowledge and social policy in the area of family violence. A central construct of this
theory is structuration, or the intricate and interdependent relationship between structure,
defined as informal institutions existing across time and space; and agency (also referred
to as action) consisting of individuals, groups, and masses that act within structure to
sustain and perpetuate it (Cuff, Sharrock & Francis, 1998; Giddens, 1984; Phipps, 2001).
The relationship between the two is one of high complexity, because they are dependent
on each other for the creation and perpetuation of societal norms, values, institutions, and
This relationship was applied to the process of knowledge development in the area
of family violence research and policy (as a reflection of social change). In other words,
structuration theory will be applied to examine the relationship between the growth of
family violence knowledge and the process of policy development pertaining to family
violence research, to determine if the process of structuration is present (i.e., there is a
mutually interdependent relationship between family violence research and policy).
Although no other studies have been found that apply structuration theory to
family violence literature development and social and policy change, its usefulness in
application to general processes and change has been cited (Gynnild, 2002). In addition,
research that employs the use of secondary data (such as a historical review of
publications in family violence research literature), is considered an excellent application
of structuration theory (Phipps, 2001). This theory will be discussed further in chapter 2.
One limitation to this study was its use of archival data. That is, it depended on
various publications from different points in time, taken out of historical context for
purposes of data collection. Content of dated material has the potential to be
misinterpreted, thereby losing the author's intended meaning. One scholar notes that,
"Content analysts whose work concerns historical documents often make the mistake of
ignoring the fact that linguistic conventions are unstable over long periods of time, that
past readings could dramatically differ from contemporary ones, and that the institutions
that accounted for the documents' creation are not comparable to the ones with which the
analyst is familiar" (Krippendorf, 2004, p. 187). Thus, validity could be threatened, as
content analysis decreases confidence in the accurate description or evaluation of any
category. However, a safeguard has been built through the careful construction of a
codebook with strict criteria for the classification of data. Furthermore, contextual
differences did not threaten this study to a large degree, as the criterion used in coding
has been determined through an extensive review of the research literature. This
instrument not only decreased the likelihood of coding misinterpretation and error, but
also enabled replication of this study in the future.
Significance of Study
Researching trends within family violence literature is an important contribution to
this field of research. Not only can such an analysis provide an overview of where the
literature has gone (i.e., the various forms of family violence that have been recognized),
but can also provide information regarding areas that have been neglected. This
knowledge can help family scholars assess where the field is at this point in time, to
determine directions that will help us to better understand family violence, and to suggest
appropriate directions for interventions and policies. In addition, this study is significant
in that it used a theory that had been previously unapplied to family violence research,
thereby further testing an emerging theoretical perspective. This process supports one of
the central purposes of research, the building and testing of theory (DeVaus, 2001).
Family violence is a pervasive and significant social problem affecting millions of
family members of the course of their lives, often with severe and long lasting impacts
(Carter & McGoldrick, 2005; Gelles, 1997; Johnson & Ferarro, 2000). However, due to
various factors, including social norms regarding the privacy, sovereignty, and autonomy
of the family unit, family violence was a largely unrecognized issue until the latter half of
the 20th century (Straus, 1992). Many credit this change to the publication of Kempe and
colleagues' (1962) landmark work, "The Battered Child Syndrome (Gelles, 1987;
Sneedon, 2003), which provided evidence of child abuse and neglect being perpetrated by
family members. Within a decade, an influx of research was dedicated to the issue of
child maltreatment, and laws were established for reporting and protecting children
against abuse. Also during this time, an interest in other forms of abuse such as intimate
partner violence emerged; and by the mid-1970s, family violence had become recognized
as a significant social problem (Kelly, 2004). The family was no longer assumed to be the
safe haven, as previously idealized in U.S. society. Scholars began to identify and
examine many other forms of family violence, including not only child maltreatment and
domestic violence, but also elder abuse, sibling abuse, and later, violence between same-
This chapter first provides an overview of each category of family violence.
Included here are current definitions and classifications pertaining to the types of
perpetrators, victims, and interactions that encompass current notions of each type of
family violence. In addition, the pervasiveness and outcomes for individuals (and
families), impacted by this social problem are addressed.
The first category that will be discussed is child maltreatment. Behaviors associated
with this form of abuse primarily include physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse,
Child Physical Abuse
The United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has defined
physical abuse as "physical injury (ranging from minor bruises to severe fractures or
death) as a result of punching, beating, kicking, biting, shaking, throwing, stabbing,
choking, hitting (with a hand, stick, strap, or other object), burning, or otherwise harming
a child. Such injury is considered abuse regardless of whether the caretaker intended to
hurt the child" (Department of Health and Human Services [HHS], 2004).
Similarly, researchers have defined physical abuse as encompassing behaviors such
as beating, whipping, shaking, burning, or the use of weapons to inflict harm on a child
(Hamner & Turner, 2001). Others have defined physical abuse to encompass any
"deliberate injury to a child, or willful or neglectful failure to prevent physical injury or
suffering to a child" (Sneddon, 2003, p. 238). Annually, of the estimated 851,000
children who are abused, 17% are physically abused (HHS, 2004). In 2004, there were
152,250 confirmed cases of child physical abuse (HHS, 2004). Children who are
physically abused are significantly more likely to die before age five than nonabused
children (Rosenberg, 2003). Outcomes for children who are physically abused include:
poorer interpersonal relationships, problematic behavior in adolescence and young
adulthood, and increased incidence of perpetrating physical violence (Swinford, DeMaris,
Cemkovich & Giordano, 2000).
Child Emotional/Psychological Abuse
Emotional/psychological abuse has been defined by the Department of Health and
Human Services as "a pattern of behavior that impairs a child's emotional development or
sense of self-worth" (Child Welfare Information Gateway, 2). This may include
constant criticism, threats, or rejection, as well as withholding love, support, or guidance.
Similarly, researchers often describe emotional abuse as involving such behaviors
as degrading, rejecting, belittling, terrorizing, or isolating a child (Sneddon, 2003). Also,
the destruction of physical property, and the threatening or harming of a child's animals
have been discussed (Wiehe, 1997).
In 2004, there were 61,272 confirmed cases of emotional abuse reported in the
United States. In addition, emotional abuse cases represent about 6.5% of confirmed
child abuse cases (HHS, 2004). However, it is important to recognize that this statistic
may not be representative of its total occurrence, as many cases of emotional abuse occur
in conjunction with other forms of abuse.
Psychological abuse is cited as the most devastating form of child abuse (Romeo,
2000), resulting in lowered self esteem, learned helplessness, and poor social skills
(Hamner, et. al., 2001), with these impacts lasting into adulthood (Bamett, Miller-Perrin
& Perrin, 2005). Other negative outcomes resulting from emotional abuse include issues
with boundaries, trust, and general distress (Bamett, Perrin & Perrin, 2005). However,
this form of maltreatment has received little attention in the research literature. This may
be due to several factors including the only recent recognition of psychological abuse as a
problematic occurrence within families (Gondolf, Heckert, & Kimmel, 2002; Klien &
Orloff, 1999). Also, it has been asserted that co-morbidity of emotional abuse in
conjunction with other, more visible forms of abuse makes its detection difficult (Wiehe,
Child Sexual Abuse
According to The Department of Health and Human Services, "Sexual abuse
includes activities by a parent or caretaker such as fondling a child's genitals, penetration,
incest, rape, sodomy, indecent exposure, and exploitation through prostitution or the
production of pornographic materials" (HHS, 2004). In the literature, sexual abuse has
been defined as "the involvement of children and adolescents in sexual activities they do
not truly comprehend, or that they are unable to give informed consent to" (Sneddon,
2003, p.237). This can involve behaviors such as touching, fondling, petting, forced
penetration, exhibitionism (of the adult), voyeurism, or forced exposure of the child
Literature has reported that at least one in four adolescent females have been
reportedly sexually abused in some way (Zinn & Eitzen, 2005). In addition, according to
the Department of Health and Human Services, there were 84,398 confirmed cases of
child sexual abuse in 2004, which represented about 10% of confirmed child abuse cases
(HHS, 2004). Furthermore, studies show that in these cases of sexual abuse, the median
age of first occurrence is age 12 (Zinn & Eitzen, 2005). Outcomes for the victims of child
abuse include problems with self-esteem, problems with boundaries, difficulty forming
and maintaining intimate relationships, and an increased likelihood for teenage
promiscuity and adolescent pregnancy (Anda, Felitti & Marchbanks, 2001).
Child neglect has been defined in federal law by The Child Abuse Prevention and
Treatment Act (2005) as "any recent act or failure to act on the part of a parent or
caretaker, which results in death, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse, or
exploitation, or an act or failure to act which presents an imminent risk of serious harm"
(p. 1). Also, child neglect can exist in several forms failure to provide physical needs
(i.e., food, water, clean clothing, shelter); emotional needs (love, affection, boundaries);
or educational needs (i.e., failure to enroll child in school) (Sneedon, 2003). Research
shows that neglect is most likely to occur in disorganized family settings, families of
lowered socioeconomic status, and/or in families with depressed or substance-abusing
parents in the home (Orange, 2005).
In comparison to each common form of child abuse, neglect is most commonly
reported, with a rate of 544, 050 cases in 2004, representing about 60% of all confirmed
cases. Outcomes for victims of child neglect can be devastating. In fact, in 2004 one-third
of the 1,490 child fatalities were the direct result of neglect (HHS, 2004). Furthermore, it
is more likely that a child will die as a result of chronic neglect than from a single
incident of physical violence (Berry, Charison & Dawson, 2003).
Overall, child maltreatment has been cited as the second leading cause of death
among young children (Johnson, 2002). Furthermore, research shows that the outcomes
for children can often include problems with mental health, such as depression, anxiety,
and post-traumatic stress disorder; problems with bonding and social relationships; low
self-worth; and high levels of shyness (Gracia, 1995; Romeo, 2002). Also, children who
have been abused show higher rates of suicidal ideation, attempt and completion (Zinn &
Eitzen, 2005). In addition, these children are arguably at a greater risk to perpetuate these
behaviors in their adult relationships via the intergenerational transmission of violence
(Gelles & Maynard, 1987; Noland et. al., 2004; Zinn & Eitzen, 2005).
Domestic Violence/Intimate Partner Violence
Domestic violence, also called intimate partner violence (IPV), is a form of abuse
that impacts couples that are married, dating, and cohabiting. According to the 1998
Violence Against Women Act, The term, domestic violence, includes
acts or threats of violence, not including acts of self defense, committed by a
current or former spouse of the victim, by a person with whom the victim shares a
child in common, by a person who is cohabitating with or has cohabitated with the
victim, by a person who is or has been in a continuing social relationship of a
romantic or intimate nature with the victim, by a person similarly situated to a
spouse of the victim under the domestic or family violence laws of the jurisdiction,
or by any other person against a victim who is protected from that person's acts
under the domestic or family violence laws of the jurisdiction. (Violence Against
Women Act [VAWA], 1998)
Current definitions of domestic violence in the research literature encompass many
forms of violence including physical, psychological, sexual, and financial abuse (Fern &
Younger-Lewis, 1997). Furthermore, intimate partner violence (IPV) includes common
couple violence and intimate terrorism, also called patriarchal terrorism (Johnson &
Common couple violence refers to the nature of intimate relationships that share
instances of expressive violence. That is, these violent episodes are not severe, and are
the result of a dispute (Johnson & Ferraro, 2000). This violence is typically two sided,
and does not escalate over time (Gelles & Maynard, 1987; Olson, 2004). Intimate
terrorism, on the other hand, references a specific type of relationship in which one
partner uses instrumental violence and/or abuse to maintain a level of power and control
over the other partner (Gelles & Maynard, 1987). These relationships are often
characterized by levels of severe violence, isolation, fear, and helplessness on the part of
the victim. It is important to note the distinction between these diverse forms of intimate
partner violence, as they represent two completely diverse interpersonal situations, and
have different effects (Henning & Feder, 2004). Behaviors associated with intimate
partner violence include: physical abuse, psychological abuse, sexual abuse, and financial
IPV and Physical Abuse
According to the Center for Injury Prevention and Control (CDC), physical abuse is
defined as "the intentional use of physical force with the potential for causing death,
disability, injury, or harm. Physical violence includes, but is not limited to, scratching;
pushing; shoving; throwing; grabbing; biting; choking; shaking; slapping; punching;
burning; use of a weapon; and use of restraints or one's body, size, or strength against
another person" (Center for Disease Control [CDC], 2006, p.1).
Physical abuse has been defined in the literature in many diverse ways. These
diversified definitions are often associated with the methodological stance of the
researcher (Hegarty et. al, 2004). It is estimated that 9 million couples (one in six
marriages), experience some form of intimate partner violence. This form of violence
accounts for 20% of all cases of violence perpetrated against women (CDC, 2006).
Disparities in definitions of physical abuse have caused what some consider a gap
between various theoretical and epistemological orientations within the research field, as
well as in the practitioner community (Gelles, 1982). The problematic nature of having
such contrasting definitions and classifications across various academic and social
organizations has been cited again and again (Helie, Clement & Larrivee, 2003; Holden,
2003; Tham, Ford & Wilkenson, 1995). The lack of unified theory, research, and practice
has been identified as a significant culprit in relation to the current troubles that plague
family research and protection overall (Gelles, 1982; Shugarman, Fries, Wolf & Morris
IPV and Psychological/Emotional Abuse
The National Center for Injury Prevention and Control defines psychological abuse
as any behavior that involves "trauma to the victim caused by acts, threats of acts, or
coercive tactics. Psychological or emotional abuse can include, but is not limited to,
humiliating the victim, controlling what the victim can and cannot do, withholding
information from the victim, deliberately doing something to make the victim feel
diminished or embarrassed, isolating the victim from friends and family, and denying the
victim access to money or other basic resources. It is considered psychological/emotional
violence when there has been prior physical or sexual violence or prior threat of physical
or sexual violence" (CDC, 2006).
Psychological abuse among couples, like child psychological maltreatment, has
received significant attention over the past 15 to 20 years. When defining psychological
abuse, the literature often identifies behaviors such as degradation, manipulations,
withholding affection, and making verbal threats (Fern & Younger-Lewis, 1997). The
prevalence of this form of abuse in relationships is difficult to ascertain (Barnett, Miller-
Perrin & Perrin, 2005). Nevertheless, there are repeated findings that psychological abuse
does more long-term damage than other forms of abuse (Lewis, Griffing, Chu, et al.,
2006). In fact, female abuse victims reportedly would rather endure physical abuse than
be emotionally battered (Fern & Younger-Lewis, 1997), and some suggest an association
between the experience of emotional abuse and negative outcomes in future relationships
(Coning, 2005). Despite the documented severity of emotional abuse, it has only been
since the 1990's that legislation has recognized the threat caused by psychological
maltreatment (Klein & Orloff, 1999).
IPV and Sexual Abuse
According to The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (2006), "sexual
assault can be verbal, visual, or anything that forces a person to join in unwanted sexual
contact or attention. Examples of this are voyeurism (when someone watches private
sexual acts), exhibitionism (when someone exposes him/herself in public), incest (sexual
contact between family members), and sexual harassment" (HHS, 2006).
Definitions of sexual violence in the research literature usually include some form
of unwanted advances or behavior asserted upon the victim in an intimate relationship.
Most definitions include explicit behaviors such as rape, sodomy, unwanted touching,
petting, and fondling. Other authors have gone so far as to include behaviors such as
sexual language, and exposure to pornographic material (Wiehe, 1997).
Research shows that a significant amount of sexual victimization in the U.S. occurs
within the context of a romantic partnership (Tjaden & Theonnes, 1998). Furthermore,
studies show that 10%-14% of wives have been forced into sexual activity by their
partners (Strong, Devault & Cohen, 2001). According to the Center for Disease control,
victims of sexual abuse are at an increased risk of being abused more than once. Other
negative outcomes for victims include an increased risk of contracting sexually
transmitted diseases, and a greater chance for unintended pregnancy. In fact, 32,000
pregnancies result from rape each year (CDC, 2006). Psychological outcomes for victims
of sexual abuse often include depression, suicidal ideation, eating disorders, and post-
traumatic stress disorder (CDC, 2006).
Despite statistics that cite the pervasiveness of sexual abuse, it has been widely
ignored in the literature. This lack of empirical attention has been attributed to social
norms and values regarding appropriate behavior inside of and outside of relationships
that has attributed to the acceptance of violence against women (Gelles, 1997).
IPV and Financial Abuse
An additional category of domestic abuse that is prevalent in the research is
financial abuse. This type of abuse usually entails withholding funds, stealing assets or
property, or taking anyone's financial liberties (Fern & Younger-Lewis, 1997; Peretti,
1991). Research also finds that financial abuse is highly likely to occur in situations of
domestic abuse that would be considered intimate terrorism; that is, situations where one
partner uses methods of power and control to isolate and dominate the other. Often, this
involves forced financial reliance of the subordinate partner on the dominant one.
Other Forms of Domestic Violence
This final section on domestic violence encompasses other forms of family
violence covered within the literature including domestic violence in Lesbian, Gay,
Bisexual, and Transsexual (LGBT) relationships; and domestic violence involving
Domestic Violence in LGBT couples
As with heterosexual relationships, abuse in lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual
relationships includes physical, emotional, sexual and financial abuse. Although the
behaviors in this category are similar to those in general intimate partner violence, this
abuse is often undetected. One reason is that LGBT couples often do not come to the
attention of practitioners due to the ambiguous nature (lack of traditional dominant and
submissive gender roles) of power distribution within these relationships (Burke &
Owen, 2006). Issues that plague the LGBT community involve increased isolation caused
by a lack of social support over lifestyle, control under the threat of being "outed" by a
partner, and a lack of legal protection against same-sex batterers (Zinn & Eitzen, 2005).
Only within the past few decades has the incidence of abuse in LGBT couples been given
much research attention, and even so, most studies are conducted with small,
nonrepresentative samples. An estimated 32% of LGBT individuals have experienced
some form of abuse in a past relationship, and as many as one in four women in same-sex
relationships are physically abused. Also, emotional abuse is present in an estimated 83%
of LGBT relationships (Peterman & Dixon, 2003; Turell, 2000), suggesting that the
incidence of violence appears to be higher in this group than in the heterosexual
community (Burke & Owen, 2006).
Despite the apparent prevalence of abuse in LGBT relationships, little research has
been located concerning the outcomes faced by victims of abuse in LGBT relationships.
Scholars have claimed that research concerning LGBT domestic violence has a
preoccupation with gender which takes away from issues of power and control that are
central to the dynamics of these types of abusive relationships (Barnett, Miller-Perrin &
Perrin, 2005; Johnson & Ferarro, 2000; Zinn & Eitzen, 2005). That is, current theory has
devoted a great deal of attention to gender and in the process has shifted attention away
from the importance of unequal power distribution within abusive relationships.
Abuse During Pregnancy
An additional form of domestic violence involves the abuse of pregnant women.
Physical abuse has the potential to harm both mother and unborn child and in fact, is the
leading cause of birth defects and infant mortality in the U.S, (Gelles, 1997). Another
Additional risks related to abuse during pregnancy include: anxiety, stress, depression,
substance use, infections, failure to gain weight during pregnancy, and labor and delivery
complications. In addition, there is preliminary evidence that women abused during
pregnancy are more at risk for being murdered by their partner than nonpregnant abused
women (Sagrestano, 2004).
Despite variations in definition, identification, and reporting, domestic violence is
still recognized as a significant social problem. Studies have found that as many as four
women die on a daily basis at the hands of their partners (Lerner, 1997). Furthermore,
research shows that over half of the homeless population is composed of women (and
their children) who have fled a violent domestic partner (Zinn & Eitzen, 2005). More
stunning still are statistics that report that more women are treated in emergency rooms
across the United States as a result of domestic violence than are treated for muggings,
rapes, and auto accidents combined (Gelles, 1997); and that at least 1200 women are
killed by an intimate partner annually (Fisher & Shelton, 2006).
Victims of domestic violence are often severe and long-lasting negative outcomes.
Survivors of this form of abuse are reported to have higher levels of anxiety and
depression, as well as a higher incidence of chronic pain symptoms and suicide attempts
(Fisher & Shelton, 2006).
The abuse of older adults is a phenomenon that is receiving an increasing amount
of attention, possibly due to the growing elderly population (McCauley, 2006). Some
scholars anticipate that research attention will increase as the large population of Baby
Boomers continues to fill the ranks of those aged 65 and older. Also, as medical advances
over the past century have extended life expectancy, research has shifted focus to the
quality of life in the later years (Jayawardena & Liao, 2006). Existing literature often
cites instances of abuse and neglect that occur in families with lowered socioeconomic
status, and among adult child caregivers who are under an incredible amount of stress and
strain. Categories of elder abuse involve behaviors such as physical abuse, emotional
abuse, neglect, financial abuse, and drug abuse (Zinn & Eitzen, 2005).
Elder Physical Abuse
The National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA) defines physical abuse as the use of
physical force that may result in bodily injury, physical pain, or impairment. Physical
abuse may include but is not limited to such acts of violence as striking (with or without
an object), hitting, beating, pushing, shoving, shaking, slapping, kicking, pinching, and
burning. In addition, inappropriate use of drugs and physical restraints, force-feeding, and
physical punishment of any kind also are examples of physical abuse (National Center on
Elder Abuse [NCEA], 2006).
Approximately 15% of all individuals age 65 and older have experienced physical
abuse. Furthermore, they represent 12% of all murder victims and 7% of all violent crime
victims (NCEA, 2006). Finally, older adults who are physically abused are more likely to
die at an earlier age than those who are not abused.
Elder Psychological/Emotional Abuse
The National Center on Elder Abuse defines emotional or psychological abuse as
"the infliction of anguish, pain, or distress through verbal or nonverbal acts.
Emotional/psychological abuse includes but is not limited to verbal assaults, insults,
threats, intimidation, humiliation, and harassment. In addition, treating an older person
like an infant; isolating an elderly person from his/her family, friends, or regular
activities; giving an older person the 'silent treatment;' and enforced social isolation are
examples of emotional/psychological abuse" (NCEA, 2006).
It is often reported that emotional abuse of the elderly usually is perpetrated in the
form of fear and guilt, such as fear for physical safety, or of the reoccurrence of physical
abuse (Paretti & Majecen, 1991). Also, victims of elder abuse often report guilt over
feeling as if they are a burden to their own children. Approximately 7.3% of elderly
individuals are victims of emotional abuse. Outcomes for victims of emotional
maltreatment are very difficult to distinguish. The most common result seems to be
depression. However, according to the National Center on Elder Abuse, little is known
about the degree to which abuse impacts the emotional state of abused elderly individuals
Elder Financial Abuse
The NCEA (2006) defines financial or material exploitation as "the illegal or
improper use of an elder's funds, property, or assets. Examples include, but are not
limited to, cashing an elderly person's checks without authorization or permission;
forging an older person's signature; misusing or stealing an older person's money or
possessions; coercing or deceiving an older person into signing any document (e.g.,
contracts or will); and the improper use of conservatorship, guardianship, or power of
attorney" (The Basics, 6).
Loss of income, assets, and financial independence is a significant concern to older
adults today. Research often defines financial abuse through general behaviors
perpetrated against the elderly, such as stealing, withholding money, misleading,
removing financial assets, or failing to provide means of living (Barnett, Miller-Perrin &
Perrin, 2005). Reports have indicated that 12% of the elderly have been financially
exploited (NCEA, 2006). Once again, this population is highly vulnerable to such
behaviors when they rely on others for assistance with activities of daily living. Also,
discrimination based on age can prove problematic for those older adults who attempt to
fight for their rights, as they may not be taken seriously (Pedrick-Comell & Gelles,
Neglect is defined by the National Center on Elder Abuse as "the refusal or failure
to fulfill any part of a person's obligations or duties to an elder. Neglect may also include
failure of a person who has fiduciary responsibilities to provide care for an elder (e.g.,
pay for necessary home care services) or the failure on the part of an in-home service
provider to provide necessary care" (The Basics, 4).
Scholars often include behaviors such as failing to provide safe and clean living
conditions and medical care to those in need. The prevalence of elder neglect is quite
striking, with 58.5% of confirmed elder abuse cases being classified as neglect. However,
it is also reported that as many as 84% of abuse incidents are unreported and undetected
(NCEA, 2006). Also, individuals over the age of 80 are neglected at a rate two to three
times that of all other older adults. Outcomes can include malnutrition, dehydration,
bedsores, hazardous or unclean living conditions, and many negative health outcomes
Elder Drug Abuse/Chemical Restraint
A fairly new category of elder abuse that has emerged to some extent within the
literature is drug abuse, as perpetrated by a caregiver for the purpose of controlling or
abusing the elder. Specifically, this refers to behaviors such as withholding needed
medications, whether for current medical conditions or pain control, as a form of
punishment; threatening the withholding of medication; or using medication as a tool for
bribery. On the other hand, providing an excessive amount of medication also constitutes
drug abuse (i.e., using medications or medication dosages above the needed amount as a
resource to control the elderly person). Little is known regarding the pervasiveness or
outcomes associated with elder drug abuse.
Current statistics reveal that each year in the U.S. over 450,000 elderly persons are
abused or maltreated in some way (Jogerst, Brody, Dyer & Arias, 2004; Rothman &
Duntop, 2001). Although the popular image of elder abuse is usually composed of
medical practitioners and caregivers who use cruel and abusive or neglectful tactics
against the helpless nursing home patient, this is usually not the case. That is, research
consistently has shown that the majority of elder abuse takes place within the family
(McCauley, 2006). Overall, the incidence of elder abuse is significant and severe. It has
been classified as a form of family violence because research reflects that most
incidences of maltreatment occur within the home where the perpetrators are overworked,
highly stressed, usually female, and the children of the person in need. It is reported that
victims of elder abuse face higher levels of depression, increased risk of injury and
fracture, and greater incidence of malnutrition, dementia, and death (Levine, 2003). As
elder abuse is an emerging area of family violence research, much still needs to be done
in relation to research, prevention, and intervention of this social problem (Jayawardena
& Liao, 2006).
Scholars have repeatedly stated that sibling abuse the most pervasive form of
family violence (Gelles, 1997; Noland, Liller, McDermott & Coulter, 2004; Wiehe,
2002). Overall, the incidence of sibling abuse is quite high. Reports indicate that nearly
60% of individuals have reported experiencing abuse at the hands of a sibling at some
time during childhood (Noland, et al., 2004). Sibling abuse appears to occur most often in
homes that are of lower socioeconomic status and with single parents who are often
absent. Reportedly, the majority of sibling abuse occurs in the context of babysitting
(while a parent is often working). The result is often one sibling being left with
responsibilities that exceed their developmental level (Wiehe, 1997).
Behaviors that are typically classified as abusive include physical abuse, emotional
abuse, and sexual abuse. Yet, due a lack of research attention to this topic and recognition
of sibling abuse as a social problem, no legal definitions were located pertaining to forms
of sibling abuse.
Sibling Physical Abuse
Physical abuse among siblings includes actions such as punching, kicking, choking,
using weapons, or any other behavior acted out with the intent of causing physical harm.
Physical violence is typically the more visible form of abuse, and is most likely to receive
public attention. Gelles (1997) reports that between 63% and 68% of all siblings engage
in violent behaviors against each other. Another study reveals that 85% of males and 95%
of females report that they have been the victim of aggression from a sibling (Barnett,
Miller-Perrin & Perrin, 2005). Outcomes for victims of sibling physical abuse are usually
negative. Not only does this maltreatment often result in physical harm, but the lack of
recognition and intervention often results in invalidation of the victim's experiences
Sibling Emotional/Psychological Abuse
Behaviors that are emotionally abusive include excessive teasing, degrading,
threatening, exacerbating a fear, and destroying personal property. This form of sibling
abuse is considered to be the most pervasive (Wiehe, 1997). However, as is the case with
many other forms of abuse, little information exists regarding the incidence of emotional
abuse. This is due to the difficulty in detection of psychological abuse, perhaps as a result
of the normalization of this form of abuse between siblings; or as a result of its
occurrence in conjunction with other, more visible forms of abuse (Haskins, 2003;
Research shows that emotional abuse among siblings has similar impacts on
growth, development, and the maintenance of social relationships as emotional abuse
between other family members (i.e., among couples, between the elderly and caregiver,
and parent to child). However, these behaviors are often overlooked or masked as simple
teasing among siblings. Also, research shows that the co-morbidity of emotional and
physical abuse that occurs in nearly every form of family violence is present here as well.
Outcomes for victims of sibling emotional abuse suffer from lowered self-esteem and
trust issues (Wiehe, 1997).
Sibling Sexual Abuse
Sexually abusive behaviors include unwanted touching, fondling, forced or coerced
penetration of any form, exploitation, exposure, and voyeurism of a sibling (Wiehe,
1997). This form of abuse among siblings is very difficult to detect, and is rarely
reported. Therefore, little statistical information is available regarding the incidence of
this form of abuse. This lack of information has been attributed to the taboo nature of
incest and other forms of sexual exploitation within the family (Wiehe, 1997). In fact, it
is argued that because of the unmentionable nature of sexual abuse, especially among
family members, identifying victims of this behavior becomes very difficult (Haskins,
2002; Wiehe, 1997). Not only is there insufficient attention to sibling sexual abuse in the
practitioners' realm, but there is also a lack of theory in the research arena. That is, the
focus of theory (and thus, research), has been on dealing with only father-daughter
offenses (Haskins, 2003). Very little literature addresses the abuse of one child by
another child. Some believe this to be another reflection of social biases in our desire to
not label any child as a perpetrator (Wiehe, 1997).
Outcomes for the victims of sibling violence are long-lasting and severe. Studies
reflect difficulties faced by survivors of sibling abuse, including problems with conflict
resolution in future relationships, lower self-esteem, and problems with deviance and
criminal activity (Reese-Weber & Kahn, 2005; Rowe, Rodgers & Meseck-Bushey, 1992).
The emotional distress of surviving this abuse is often compounded by the lack of
attention and validation of victims' experiences by society (Wiehe, 1997). Also,
outcomes for siblings who perpetrate violence are negative. Behaviors associated with
violent sibling interaction include alcohol and drug abuse, violent criminal activity,
depression, spousal abuse, neglectful and abusive parenting styles, and increased risk of
suicide (Trenblay et al., 2004).
Awareness concerning the high incidence of sibling abuse is crucial, as research
has repeatedly shown the importance of siblings in child and adolescent development, as
well as the influence of sibling experiences on peer relationships, dating and adult
intimacy (Howe, Rinalidi, Jennings & Petrakos, 2002). However, despite this evidence,
sibling abuse is one of the least researched forms of family violence. This has been
attributed to attitudes of the normalization of abusive behavior among siblings (Wiehe,
2002). Also, scholars have attributed the lack of attention to sibling abuse to the lack of
knowledge concerning its occurrence within the family unit.
Historical evidence indicates that the types of violence reviewed above have been
part of U.S. society for centuries (Ohlin & Tonry, 1989). However, it wasn't until the
latter half of the 2lst century that family violence was not recognized as a social problem
(Gelles, 1997), and laws and policies addressing this problem did not emerge until the
1970s or later. In fact, before the 1970's family violence was seen as a private problem,
in which the government should have no involvement (Lemon, 1999). Furthermore,
because laws of the time supported the Family Privacy Doctrine, all cases of abuse
within the family, except for homicide, grievous assault and incest, were excluded from
legal intervention (Zimering, 1989). Intimate partner violence and marital rape were
ignored as well. In fact, the normative procedure in law enforcement was to discourage
arrest in situations of domestic violence if officers thought that the victim would not
leave the relationship (Lemon, 1999). However, as social perceptions began to change
with the recognition of "The Battered Child Syndrome" states began to develop child
protection laws. By the 1980's, mandatory reporting and abuse shelters were made
available to victims of domestic violence (Zimering, 1989).
More recently, the legal system has taken other, less visible, forms of family
violence into consideration. This includes interpreting forcible sex within marriage as
rape, considering parental kidnapping as a criminal offense, and recognizing
psychological damage caused to children who witness domestic abuse between parents
Nevertheless, policy continues to neglect certain areas of family violence, such as
sibling violence and violence in LGBT couples (Wiehe, 1997; Zinn & Eitzen, 2005). The
lack of protection and intervention in these areas may be due to the lack of social
awareness and understanding of these forms of family violence (Wiehe, 1997; Zinn &
Significant Policies in Relation to Family Violence
* Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA)(1974) The Child Abuse
Prevention and Treatment Act established the National Center on Child Abuse and
Neglect, as well as the National Clearinghouse on Child Abuse and Neglect
Information. Also, it provided assistance for individual states to build child abuse
and neglect identification and prevention programs and increased the role of federal
government in child abuse detection, prevention and treatment. CAPTA also
provided grant money for research, program evaluation, and the training of
professional workers in the area of outreach and prevention. CAPTA was amended
in the following years: 1978, 1984, 1988, 1992, 1996, and 2003.
* Indian Child Welfare Act (1978) The Indian Child Welfare Act awards the
control of adoption and custody of Native American children to tribal members.
This autonomy takes precedence over any state law that may conflict with the
interests of the tribe.
* CAPTA Revised (1978) The Adoption Reform Act added to CAPTA to include
issues surrounding adoptions. This included locating permanent homes for disabled
children, establishing better standards for adoptive placement, and provided for
annual summaries of research on child abuse and neglect.
* Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act (1980) The Adoption Assistance
and Child Welfare Act established the reunification families as the primary goal of
child protective services. Included here are goals of increasing and improving
services available to children and their families, and establishing permanency as
early as possible through reuniting children with their family or through adoption.
* Social Security Act Amendments (1981) Block grants are provided to states for
the funding of child protective services.
* CAPTA Revised (1984) Revisions to CAPTA provide for attention to medically
disabled infants, and for the reporting of maltreatment by caregivers out of the
home. Also, a change in the definition of child sexual abuse to include exploitation
* CAPTA Revised (1988) CAPTA became Child Abuse Prevention, Adoption and
Family Services Act, which provided assistance to states in order to improve their
child protective programs.
* CAPTA Revised (1992) CAPTA was amended and reauthorized by the Child
Abuse, Domestic Violence, Adoption, and Family Services Act. This act provides
assistance to the National Center on Child Abuse and Neglect under the
requirement that more research be conducted focusing on cultural diversity and
child abuse and neglect. Also, provides grants to state community-based prevention
* Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) (1994) The Violence Against Women
Act established a response to domestic violence and the sexual assault of women.
Also, laws establishing protective services (such as the enforcement of interstate
protective orders) were enacted. In addition, focus was given to battered
immigrants, and support for various forms of community outreach programs was
* Sex Crimes Against Children Prevention Act (1995) The Sex Crimes Against
Children Prevention Act strengthens the penalty for the pornographic exploitation
of children. This applies to those who create, advertise or traffic child pornography.
* CAPTA Revised (1996) CAPTA amended to include services for children of
families who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.
* Child Abuse Prevention and Enforcement Act (1999) The Child Abuse
Prevention and Enforcement Act was established to increase efforts to achieve
permanence for foster children. This law requires that efforts be made to locate
permanent homes for children who cannot be placed back in the home, and
provides incentives for increasing number of adoptions. This law also takes
emphasis off of the importance of family reunification, and instead focuses on
establishing permanency for the child.
* Older Americans Act Amendments (OAA) (2000) The OAA of 2000
established the National Family Caregiver Support Program. State grants were also
awarded for the development of organizations to provide services for the families
that care for older adults.
* VAWA Revisions (2000) Amendments were made to the violence against women
act, which identified stalking and dating violence to be included in crimes against
women. Also, increased attention was given to the protection of battered
immigrants and sexual assault. This bill also created a legal services program for
the victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.
* CAPTA Revised (2003) CAPTA was last amended by the Keeping Children and
Families Safe Act, which provided community-based grants for the prevention of
child abuse and neglect.
* Domestic Violence Screening and Prevention Act (2003) The Domestic
Violence Screening and Prevention Act established research centers on family
violence (which will encompass research on child, domestic, and elder abuse).
Also, this bill provides funding for the training of healthcare professionals on how
to identify and treat forms of family violence. In addition, this bill establishes that
all Medicaid recipients and all federal employees receive family violence screening
and treatment through their insurance plans.
Decade in Review from the Journal of Marriage and Family
One of the most cited journals in the field of family studies is the Journal of
Marriage and Family. It has been published for over 60 years and continues to be one of
the most widely cited journals in the area of family research. In addition to addressing
concerns pertaining to many areas of family life, this journal also provides decade
reviews on family-related topics dating back to the 1960s. A brief summary of each
decade review in relation to family violence had been provided here in attempt
understand what was considered noteworthy during each ten year period included in this
Prior to the 1960s, the Journal ofMarriage and Family existed under another name
(Marriage andFamily Living), and did not produce decade reviews. Although many
articles focused on issues concerning family relations, violence in the family was not
addressed. Instead, conflict in relationships was discussed in terms of power structure
within the family (Safilos-Rothschild, 1970). The first decade review was published in
November 1970, and reviewed research of the 1960s.
The Decade of the 1960s
No articles featured in the decade review of the 1960s addressed the issue of family
violence. Instead, research activity, as cited from other articles in the decade review, will
be discussed here. In addition, potential reasons behind the lack of family violence
research attention in this decade will be discussed. Research that was published in the
1960s took a clinical perspective, focusing only on medical evidence pertaining to the
occurrence of family violence. As previously mentioned, this attention is often accredited
to the publication of the Kempe et. al.,(1962) study, which identified the physical signs
and medical symptoms of child abuse.
Through an examination of article titles and abstracts within this JMF decade
review, it was determined that domestic violence was not a topic of interest, nor were
forms of family violence other than child physical abuse. Although, there was recognition
of psychological impacts of growing up in a 'broken home', family violence was not
addressed. This may be due to the fact that a broken home was often characterized as a
result of the following classifications: death of mother, death offather, death of both
parents, divorce, separation and other (Kaplan & Pokorny, 1971), i.e., a change in family
During this time period, family violence was seen as an isolated issue, with
pathological factors (such as mental illness) behind the perpetration of abuse (Gelles,
1985). In fact, the existing research often labeled the abuser as being psychopathic or
sociopathic. Little was discussed regarding reasons associated with family violence. Most
of the research that did exist focused on possible reasons for the assertion of power and
authority within the family, and did not question that the legitimacy of that power
belonged to men. Researchers did not identify factors related to family violence that need
greater scholarly attention in the future (Rothschild, 1970).
The Decade of the 1970s
The 1970's review focused more attention on family violence, and the article on
this topic recognized violence against both women and children as a social problem
(Gelles, 1980). Reasons for this recognition were social in nature, and the following
assertions were made,
first, social scientists and the public alike became increasingly sensitive to violence
due to a war in Southeast Asia, assassinations, civil disturbances and increasing
homicide rates in the 1960s. Second, the emergence of the women's movement
played a part-especially by uncovering and highlighting the problems of battered
women (Straus, 1974, p.874).
According to the review, a central focus of research during this decade was on
determining the nature and extent of violence within the family. For instance, a good
portion of studies published during this decade focused on determining how often acts of
abuse occurred within the family.
Also, during this time theories that focused on explanatory factors behind family
violence emerged. These theories included: resource theory, the ecological perspective,
systems theory, evolutionary theory, and concepts in relation to patriarchy and wife abuse
Potential factors related to family violence occurrence were identified, such as low
socioeconomic status, stress and isolation (Gelles, 1985). Greater attention was also given
to the need to develop research methodologies for the study of family violence (Gelles,
1985). Prior to this time, conducting research on violence in the family was considered
impossible, as most research designs were not applicable (i.e., researchers could not
predict or control for the occurrence of abuse).
Areas identified as needing attention in the field were primarily for the
development of methodology to assist in better understanding the scope and dynamics of
family violence. Also, the development of theory was identified as needed to overcome
society's reliance on stereotyping and myths concerning violence within the family
The Decade of the 1980s
According to research in family violence during the 1980s, attention was awarded
to causes and outcomes of family violence. Included in the outcomes was a focus on the
psychological implications of victimization. In addition, the classification of family
violence into various categories was refined to include intimate partner violence, child
abuse, elder abuse, and courtship violence (Gelles & Conte, 1990). The sexual abuse of
children was also heavily researched and discussed during this decade. A great deal of
emphasis was placed on the causes, incidence and consequences of child sexual abuse.
The strongest theoretical representation during this time period was on the
intergenerational transmission of violence (a concept often associated with social learning
theory). Also, a small number of studies dedicated to program evaluation emerged with
the purpose of better understanding the effectiveness of intervention. At the close of this
decade, areas identified as having a need for future attention were theory, methodology
(specifically, a need for longitudinal studies on family violence), and the need to examine
the co-morbidity of abuse forms within the family (Gelles & Conte, 1990).
The Decade of the 1990s
The decade review article on family violence (Johnson & Ferraro, 2000) observed
that research in the 1990s focused on classification of family violence abuse forms with
more refined definitions and greater inclusion. Forms of intimate partner violence, such
as common couple violence and intimate terrorism were identified. In addition, violence
impacting specific groups such as cohabiting couples, immigrants, the homeless, and
lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual couples was addressed. During the 1990s a greater
focus was placed on the occurrence of family violence throughout the world, and the
threat to basic human rights family violence causes (Johnson & Ferraro, 2000).
In relation to theory, a great deal of focus on power and control in abusive
relationships was present in the literature. This was part in conjunction with a growing
dissatisfaction with the reliance on intergenerational transmission as the primary model
of family violence. Finally, research began to address negative implications of witnessing
violence in the home (Johnson & Ferraro, 2000).
At the end of the decade, the primary area identified as needing increased attention
was the development of theories to account for the various forms of family violence.
Also, there was a call for greater precision in distinctions within data produced, in order
to promote public awareness and policy development. The next decade review will take
place in November of the year 2010.
This research examined the overall growth and development of published family
violence research over the past 5 decades. Because my research explores the emergence
of research and policy regarding family violence, theoretical foundations may best be
found in theories of knowledge development (rather than family violence per se). Yet, it
appears that few theories of knowledge development exist (Ylikoski, 2004).
This is not to say that no general epistemological frameworks exist. In fact,
schools of thought such as the Strong Programme have focused a great deal of attention
to the development of scientific knowledge (Thagard, 1994). Social scientists adhering to
this school of thought argue that human knowledge is formed within, and is influenced
by, the social context through which it is derived. Considerable attention (both positive
and negative), has been directed at the Strong Programme. For example, it has been
asserted that the reliance on pure social explanations for the generation of knowledge
ignores the role of reason, rationality, and logic in the development of science (Slezak,
Another relevant area of study pertaining to the development of knowledge has
been labeled sociological meta-theory (also referred to as reflexive sociology, or the
sociology of sociology) (Yukoski, 2004). Thinkers who adhere to this framework are
concerned with examining the development of sociological theory and epistemology over
time (Ritzer, 1988). Scholars have maintained that the process of meta-theoretical
analysis has been present and crucial since before the inception of sociology as its own
science. Such scholars who adhere to this orientation often point to the importance of the
process of theoretical and philosophical thought in relation to such works as that of Marx
on Hegel, or Parsons on Durkheim, Weber, and Pareto (Ritzier, 1988). Others, however,
consider meta-theoretical analysis to be "bogged down in philosophy" and argue that this
can prevent social science progress through hindering the development and strengthening
of new theoretical frameworks (Ritzer, 1988).
This research sought to examine the development of social science research
focusing on family violence. The various and emerging categories of family violence
have been, arguably, related to the theoretical and epistemological thought of the time.
For instance, before Kempe's publication on the battered child syndrome, little attention
or questioning was given to safety of children in the home (Gelles, 1987). The
importance of the theoretical and epistemological framework can also be referenced with
social movements such as the rise in the feminist ideology and the identification of
violence against women as a problematic social issue; or the prevalence of conflict
theory-oriented reasoning in the development of the power and control model of
explaining domestic violence (Ingoldsby, Smith & Miller, 2004). Finally, newer
theoretical developments, such as those under the umbrella of postmodernist
epistemology, have been tied to the recent (within the past 15 years) surge of literature
pertaining to racial, ethnic, and sexual orientation in relation to family violence (Mills,
1996). It can be asserted that all examples are situations in which theoretical and
sociohistorical shifts have influenced the types of questions social science researchers
have asked, and the knowledge they have derived.
Various theories have been applied in attempts to answer pressing questions asked
about family violence. These theories seem to fall into one of the three following
categories: intrapersonal, interpersonal, and cultural (Eckhardt & Dye, 2000). Earlier
studies pertaining to family violence often took an intrapersonal perspective, focusing on
the individual (Eckhardt & Dye, 2000). This is due, at least in part, to the medical
grounds on which this social problem was first defined. However, as the field progressed,
more studies emerged that took on a more interpersonal perspective. Some of these
prominent theories were social learning theory, conflict theory, and feminist theory.
The first of these, social learning theory, is one of the most widely used theories of
family violence. The widespread recognition of this perspective came about as a result of
the development and use of the intergenerational transmission of violence model. This
model focuses on the interactions within the family, and the transmission of certain
abusive behaviors from parent to child through experience, observation and modeling
(Hoffman & Edwards, 2004). Another theory that grew in popularity was conflict theory,
which focused on the unequal distribution of, and the constant struggle for power and
control within relationships (Hoffman & Edwards, 2004; Van Wormer & Bednar, 2002).
Feminist theory, which focuses on gender and patriarchal norms, has become prevalent in
family violence literature (Hoffman & Edwards, 2004). That is, this theory focuses a
great deal on how gender and gender roles impact power distribution and experiences
within relationships. All three theories tend to share a focus on interpersonal relationships
when applied to family violence.
However, certain scholars claim that by focusing only on the interactions between
family members, important sociocultural influences are missed (Mills, 1996). This is not
to say that existing theories do not take cultural and environmental influences into
consideration. In fact, theories such as family stress and family systems theory take both
interpersonal and environmental characteristics into account. Multi-level perspectives
concerning the causes and consequences of family violence have also been utilized
(Eckhardt & Dye, 2000; Mills, 1996). Finally, newer theories such as the ecological
model, which takes a multilevel approach to family violence in society, are being used
more and more. This is partially due to the recognition of the usefulness of a multilevel
approach to family violence, as opposed to specific individual or interactional
perspectives (Mills, 1996).
An overview of the literature pertaining to family violence research has been very
beneficial. However, there are patterns within the literature that need to be addressed.
First, as previously stated, there seems to be a great deal of debate within the field
pertaining to definitions and taxonomy of abuse within the family. Furthermore, there
also seems to be a mutual agreement within the literature that certain forms of abuse have
been neglected within the field. However, it has been very difficult to locate adequate
statistics about the amount of neglect that is occurring among the various areas of family
violence research. Instead, what can be found is a cycle of reference. That is, repeated
assertions of neglect within the research, followed by recurring (often circular),
referencing of others making the same claim. This is a phenomenon that is not
uncommon within social science research, and is what Straus and Gelles refer to as a
Deterministic Truism. That is, certain assertions, often ones that appear logical in nature,
become so widely accepted within a field, that they often become referenced as concrete
fact (s & Gelles, 1995). This is not to claim that there is no validity to the assertions made
by scholars in these situations. However, this study aimed to avoid making similar
assertions, and focused only on evidence present within the examined trends.
This study utilized Giddens' Structuration Theory (Giddens, 1984). The theory's
basic concepts focus on the relationship between agency (action) and structure. Structure
usually entails informal institutions that are relatively stable across time and space.
Agency usually consists of individuals, groups, and masses that act within structure to
sustain and perpetuate it. Giddens asserts that structure needs agency to exist just as
agency needs structure. He terms this effect, the duality of structure and the process as
structuration (Cuff, Sharrock & Fracis, 1998). Furthermore, structure is said to both
enable and constrain agency. That is, through the rules and values of structure we come
by assets that enable us to pursue our own goals (these can be tangible like wealth or
intangible like social status). It is also important to note that structure is often composed
of the social norms and values of a given time, and can be changed (over time) by the
agents who actively reproduce structure.
According to Giddens,
social practices are not random and purely voluntaristic, but ordered and stable
across space and time, in short they are routinized and recursive. In producing
social practices, which make up the visible patterns which constitute society, actors
draw upon 'structural properties' (rules and resources) which are themselves
institutionalized features of societies. Structure is therefore activity-dependent. It is
both the medium and outcome of a process of' Structuration' the production and
reproduction of practices across time and space. This process is what Giddens has
called the 'double hermeneutic', the double involvement of individuals and
institutions. Put perhaps more truistically: 'we create society at the same time as we
are created by it."(Giddens, 1984, p.14, Rose, 1998, p. 6).
This thesis involved structuration theory's component of structuration.
Specifically, the study explored organized forms of agency that adhere to shared rules
and constraints, in order to reach some common goal. For purposes of this thesis, the
relationship between social science research and policy were examined as a social
process, adhering to the same developmental constraints and allowances as any other
social institution, which can be exemplified as a process of structuration.
The relationship that exists between family violence research and policy has been
discussed elsewhere, and the following was stated: "The production of sociological
research depends on the interplay between the main currents of the broader culture and
social structure, and the main currents of research" (Straus, 1992, p. 20). That is, much
like Giddens' idea of agency, social science research acts within the set of cultural norms,
values and rules. Also, research often depends on existing institutions (i.e. structure) for
tools and assets needed to function (i.e., funding and publication). Through this process,
research is done; and ideally, theory is built and changed, publication (a structural tool) is
accomplished, and communication of knowledge within society persists. Also, this
research in turn, is often relied upon heavily by policy-makers when determining
legislative action; thus, exemplifying the mutually interdependent relationship between
Within family violence research, this process has been cited again and again,
although not in the context of structuration theory. For instance, many publications have
alluded to the influence that research publication and academic communication has had
on social movement and policy development (Miller & Mullins, 2002). Furthermore,
many meta-analytical studies point to the process of scientific questioning, and
specifically, the events and structures that determine which questions are deemed
acceptable to ask (Yukoski, 2004). Such an example can be seen in the recent literature
pertaining to violence against women. That is, the act of defining violence against women
as a social problem has influenced the types of questions, as well as the amount of
questioning scholars designate to the topic (Kelly, 2004; Klien & Orloff, 1999; Zinn &
Eitzen, 2005). Another example within family violence research can be found in the
realm of domestic violence research pertaining to gay and lesbian relationships. It was
not until postmodern trends in society (including trends in research) began to change
definitions of family, that battery within same-sex couples was given attention (Zinn &
Thus, keeping in mind assertions regarding the continuous interplay between
agency and structure (in this case, family violence research development and policy), the
goal of this research was to examine the progression of our collective knowledge
pertaining to family violence. This was attempted through an examination of trends
within research publications over the past 60 years in conjunction with social movements
and policy changes during this time period. By incorporating an analysis of publication
frequency and type in relation to public policy development, it may also be possible to
gain a better understanding regarding the process of structuration of the field of family
Research Questions and Hypotheses
Q1. What are the trends in the family violence literature within the past 60 years?
Q1. 1. What is the relative representation of each area of family violence in the family
research literature at selected points in time?
Hlo: There will be no significant differences in the relative representations of categories
of family violence in the family research literature at selected points in time.
Hla: There will be significant differences in the relative representations of categories of
family violence in the family research literature at selected points in time.
Q2: What are the trends in policy related publications pertaining to family violence
within the past 60 years?
Q2.1 What is the relative representation of policy related articles to all articles on family
violence at selected points in time?
H2o: There will be no significant differences in the relative representation of policy-
related journal articles pertaining to family violence in the family research literature at
selected points in time.
H2a: There will be significant differences in the relative representation of policy-related
journal articles pertaining to family violence in the family research literature at selected
points in time.
Q3: Will there be changes in the number of published articles on family violence during
times of greater public policy activity?
H3o: There will be no significant differences in the number of publications of family
violence-related journal articles in times of greater public policy activity.
H3a: There will be significant differences in the number of publications of family
violence-related journal articles in times of greater public policy activity.
Various forms of family violence covered in scholarly publications, practice and
policy were discussed in this chapter. Forms of family violence discussed include:
intimate partner violence, child abuse, sibling violence and abuse, elder abuse, and
violence within LGBT couples. Behaviors identified within these categories are: physical
abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, financial abuse, drug abuse, and neglect. Common
theories used in family violence research were also discussed, as well as the applicability
of structuration theory to the field of family violence research. Finally, changes in policy
pertaining to family violence were also addressed, including shifts in social norms and
the increasing recognition of various forms of family violence as a social problem.
The central purpose of this study was to describe the historical trends in social
science literature pertaining to family violence in the past 5 decades by examining the
published literature for the appearance of articles on the major categories of family
violence during this time frame. An additional purpose was to situate trends in family
violence research within the context of a changing society by observing the appearance of
articles pertaining to family violence policies. Taking the temporal component required in
evaluating change into consideration, this study implemented a retrospective longitudinal
research design, using archival data. This type of research design lends itself to studies
that involve rebuilding past events and allowed the researcher to process data in a
sequential and temporal pattern. A final aim of this project was to provide a springboard
for discussions pertaining to the future development of the field of family violence
This study may be considered descriptive rather than explanatory. Although this
type of research is considered by many to be somewhat less desirable than explanatory
research (Timmer, 1997), it is also necessary in developing research on understudied
topics. That is, descriptive research provides an essential basis for future scientific
Because this design was retrospective, many of the common issues surrounding
longitudinal design, such as variance in instrumentation or variance in measurement over
time, did not pose a threat (DeVaus, 2004). Furthermore, the use of archival data reduced
many of the problematic effects related to following human participants over time, such
as individual dropout or panel attrition (DeVaus, 2004). Thus, this form of research
design was useful in this type of study, as it enabled the review of various documents
published over a long period of time and from various sources. In addition to the benefits
listed above, a retrospective longitudinal study was convenient in that it lent itself well to
the application of structuration theory to family violence research. That is, the analysis of
data from various periods of time prepared the researcher to describe contextually
situated scientific progress and processes in the evolution of this field of research.
This research utilized a non-probabilistic or purposive sample, focusing on a
selection of articles pertaining to family violence research published in selected journals.
The sampling frame consisted of 505 family violence-related journal articles published in
selected social science journals in the United States during the past 5 decades. An
exclusive focus on journals pertaining only to family violence was not possible for
several reasons. First, there are few in existence, and the goal was not to examine trends
in family violence journals but rather, to describe trends in the content of articles in the
field overall. Also, some of the journals that are currently publishing articles on family
violence were not established during the early portion of the study frame time, and
selecting only these journals would not adequately represent changes in the field over
The Social Science Citation Index
Four family journals were identified based on the frequency of publications
appearing in the Social Science Citation Index. This search engine provides researchers
with information concerning bibliographic information, abstract information, and journal
citation information from a current or retrospective point of view across various
disciplines (Thomson Scientific, 2007).
For this study, a search was conducted that limited results to journals in family
studies only, and provided a list of research journals in ranked order based on the total
number of annual citations of articles appearing in that journal. This enabled the
researcher to identify the four most frequently cited journals in the field of family studies.
These journals were: The Journal ofMarriage and Family, with 4211 citations, Child
Abuse and Neglect, with 3141 citations, The Journal ofInterpersonal Violence, with
1572 citations, and The Journal of Family Psychology, with 1263 articles.
From these journals, the researcher selected all articles published on family
violence over the past 5 decades for inclusion in the study. From the four most frequently
cited journals, all family violence articles were identified through an examination of all
volumes and issues published in selected years. A content analysis was conducted based
on the content of the title, content of the abstract, and year of publication. This
information was collected beginning with the most recent journals in the selected time
frame (2005) and traced back to the earliest publication in the year 1960 (for pre-existing
journals), or the earliest publication of the journal (as many of the used journals were not
in existence in the 1950s). The year 1960 was chosen because it dated before the
publication of the landmark 1962 study of child maltreatment, by C. Kempe.
Five-year markers (i.e. 2005, 2000, 1995, 1990, 1985, etc.) were chosen for
purposes of data collection. These dates allowed for the collection of a sample of articles
over the designated time period in a time frame that was suitable for this study. Also,
using 5 year intervals within each decade enabled the examination of trends in relation to
significant policy developments throughout this time period. That is, sampling in 5 year
intervals allowed for the examination of increases or declines in article publications in
time periods both before and after development of subject-significant policies (i.e.,
policies pertaining to the same subject matter as research publication).
Content analysis has been found to be particularly useful in research that tracks
categories and frequencies over time and in situations where groups are difficult to access
(Bryman, 2004). It has been described in many ways, and can involve diverse approaches
and practices. This method has been credited with an ability to apply an objective and
systematic method of analysis to data that are more qualitative and abstract in nature
(Berelson, 1952; Bryman, 2004; Holsti, 1969). In this situation, the manifest content of
communication was applied to the titles and abstracts of selected article publications.
A significant weakness of content analysis resides in what some claim to be its
theoretical nature. According to Bryman (2004), this is due to the ease with which data
can be systematically measured, making it an objective method that does not require
strong theoretical support. However, in this situation, the very purpose of the content
analysis was to provide a systematic method of showing process over time, thereby
alleviating concern about theory. That is, this research aims to build structuration theory
by utilizing it in a new area.
Instrument for Family Violence Content in the Literature
No instruments have previously been created to examine the content of family
violence articles in such a way that could be applied to this study. Therefore, an
instrument was created for purposes of data collection.
A content analysis codebook was created and used to count and classify articles on
family violence. However, as discussed in Chapter Two, the operationalization of the
abstract term, family violence, proved to be difficult. Therefore, an extensive review of
the literature was conducted to ensure adequate construct validity of this instrument.
Members of the researcher's committee further ensured face validity and proper
categorization regarding forms of family violence during the process of data collection by
reviewing and recommending.
This instrument was used to analyze each selected article and the results were
compiled into a spreadsheet. The following categories of family violence were included:
intimate-partner violence (IPV); child abuse; violence in lesbian, gay, bisexual and
transsexual couples (LGBT); elder abuse; sibling violence and abuse; and general family
violence. This final category was applied to those journal articles that focused on
generalized aspects of family violence, and/or did not denote any specific form of abuse
involvement or participation. In instances where the article identified the perpetrator and
the victim in greater detail, a more specific code was given, depending on information
provided. For example, an article that discussed intimate partner violence where the
perpetrator was a heterosexual woman was categorized as female to male IPV. This
captured more specific details regarding the focus of research in a given area.
In addition to abuse category, articles were also coded according to abuse behavior.
Behaviors included in the instrument were: physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual
abuse, general neglect, medical neglect, educational neglect, abandonment, financial
abuse drug abuse/chemical Restraint, homicide /fatalities, and other/unspecified abuse
forms. Unspecified abuse was coded for situations where the abuse form was not
identified in the article.
A frequency analysis was conducted for the occurrence of each code to locate
specific trends within selected published literature over the past 5 decades. This included
influxes or declines in the types of violence represented in the literature. In addition, a
frequency analysis of articles concerning emerging policy trends in relation to family
violence was conducted.
Two chi-square analyses were used to analyze the data by both category and abuse
form to test for differences in distribution of article publication over time. This analysis
was designed to reveal if the differences (where present) in the frequency counts
regarding the representation of family violence categories were representative of changes
in the field (i.e., and not caused by characteristics unique to the sample).
The chi-square analysis was followed by a test of standardized adjusted residuals.
This analysis was designed to reveal areas with extreme values in relation to the expected
distribution of values. For the standardized test of residuals, any values greater than the
absolute value of three (positive or negative three), were considered significant. This is
due to the understanding that zero equates to complete evenness of distribution, and
anything with a value greater than three (positive or negative), will indicate a significant
discrepancy within that particular area. Having both positive and negative residuals
allows understanding concerning direction of representation (i.e., over-representation or
under-representation). Thus, areas with very strong positive or very strong negative
residuals provided information regarding the degree to which all selected categories of
family violence have been addressed in the research literature.
One potential limitation of this study is the inability to account for contextual
variables due to the nature of the data. That is, political and social events specific to a
historical time period, or changes in agency and structure, such as technological
advancement and changes in administration, are not accounted for. This establishes a
need to avoid making conclusions concerning causality, as potential spuriousness cannot
be avoided. Furthermore, this project was built on the premise that contextually situated
knowledge is potentially conflictual in nature to this form of research. That is,
retrospective longitudinal research depends, to some degree, on the interpretation of the
reviewer and, therefore, cannot be completely objective.
A final limitation of this research rested with the use of chi-square on a purposive
sample. However, the primary predictive power of chi-square analysis is strongest with a
random sample; when a sample is random, chi-square is able to predict a sample's true
representation of its population. However, in this circumstance random sampling was not
desirable because it would have severely reduced the ability to obtain data (i.e., using a
random sample of family-related publications would significantly reduce the amount of
family violence-related publications in the sample). Therefore, due to the need for
purposive sampling (in order to measure what needs to be measured), the predictive
power of chi-square analysis cannot be as strong as in other circumstances. Yet, because
this study is more concerned with descriptive data, this was not an overriding concern.
This study examined the growth and development of family violence research
literature over the past 5 decades, as reflected by publication trends in selected family
research journals. The focus was on the difference in publication rates and subject matter
of articles pertaining to various types of family violence featured in the research
literature. In addition to examining trends in publications, this study explored the
potential implications of significant social policies in family violence.
This chapter will describe the study findings, including the general trends in
publications over the time period utilized in data collection, and more specific
information about these trends including: (a) the distribution of relation type, and (b) the
abuse type among overall publication rates. This will provide knowledge regarding
general proportions of each form of family violence among all family violence research
in selected journals, and how these ratios changed over time.
The content analysis of the four selected family journals began in the most recent
year in the study time frame, and worked back through each decade in five year intervals.
A total of 505 articles were reviewed. Of the four journals sampled, only one (The
Journal ofMarriage andFamily) existed in the early portion of the study time frame. The
other journals, The Journal of Child Abuse and Neglect, The Journal ofInterpersonal
Violence, and The Journal of Family Psychology, date back to 1977, 1987 and 1986,
respectively. Therefore, all entries before 1980 can include only one journal.
In addition to the establishment of new journals during this time frame, publication
rates within the journals changed over time. For instance, the Journal ChildAbuse and
Neglect, increased its annual publication rates from four issues to twelve issues in the
The coding process for the content analysis used an ad hoc approach to allow for
the emergence of topics on family violence during the process of data collection. Topics
that emerged and were added to the codebook were: parenting styles, criminality and
deviance, cohabitation, religiosity, risk-taking behaviors, and general incidence rates.
General Publication Trends by Decade
The mean year of publication for this sample was 1997.14, and the standard
deviation 6.953. That is, 68% of all articles in this sample were published within seven
years of 1997 (i.e., between 1990 and 2004).
Std. Dev. =6.642
1975 1980 1985 1990 1995 2000 2005 2010
Figure 1. Changes in Frequency of Publications about Family Violence Over Time
Results indicate that there has been a large increase in the publication rate of family
violence research articles in the study time frame, 1960-2005 (as shown in Figure 1). This
increase began in the 1980s (as there were no articles located before this date), with a
large influx between 1980 and 1985 from approximately nine articles (1.8%) in 1980, to
48 articles (9.5%) in 1985. However, the greatest increase between any two measurement
points occurred between 1990 and 1995, with publication rates more than doubling from
51 to 124 (10% to 24.6%). This may be attributed to both the establishment of The
Journal of Interpersonal Violence, as well as an increase in the annual publication rate of
Child Abuse and Neglect. The peak of article publication within this sample occurred in
2000 (140 articles), with a small (1.4 %) decline in 2005 (133 articles).
Trends in Family Violence Abuse Category
One of the three major classifications in the coding process was that of family
violence category. These relationships (i.e., child abuse, intimate partner violence, sibling
abuse, elder abuse, etc.) have been classified under perpetrator/victim because the code
enables the researcher to identify the perpetrator, the victim, or both parties in the forms
of family violence addressed within each research article. The distributions for each of
these forms of family violence differed by decade. Once again, no articles emerged
within this sample in the 1960s and 1970s. Thus, this analysis only accounts for articles
published between 1980 and 2005 (see Figure 2).
The decade of the 1980s saw an upswing in articles pertaining to child abuse (with
14 articles identifying a perpetrator and 38 not), totaling 52 publications or 91.3% of all
articles published in the 1980s. This was followed by general and unspecified family
violence, with four publications (7%); and intimate partner violence, with only one
publication (1.8 %). There were no articles in the areas of lesbian, gay, bisexual and
transgender violence, sibling violence and abuse; or abuse of the elderly.
The decade of the 1990s brought an influx of articles related to several categories
of family violence. Again, the largest category was child abuse, totaling 134 articles for
76.5% of all articles, (with 21 articles that specify perpetrator and 113 that did not);
intimate partner violence with a total of 22 or 12.6% of articles (with six articles that
specified perpetrator and 16 that did not); and unspecified family violence, with 14 or
8.5% of articles.
IPV male female
LGBT IPV men
80- Child Abuse Non-
60 -IPV General
o Sibling Abuse
1980 1985 1990 1995 2000 2005
Figure 2. Trends in Family Violence Category-Related Publication Over Time
For the first time in these four journals, articles were published on sibling violence,
although only two or 1.2% appeared. Finally, publication on LGBT violence was also
present with two or 1.2% of articles. There were no values for publications on elder
The period between 2000 to 2005 produced data that were distributed into the
following areas: Child abuse, with 170 or 62.3% of articles (28 articles with specified
perpetrator and 142 without); intimate partner violence with 83 or 30.4% of articles (31
with specified perpetrator and 52 without), unspecified family violence with 18 or 6.6%
of articles, and LGBT violence with two or 0.7% of articles. There were no values for
publications in the areas of sibling violence and abuse, or elder abuse.
Behaviors Identified in the Literature
The second indicator of trends in publication by topic is the type of abusive
behavior that the article addresses. The differences in distribution for each decade are
depicted in Figure 3.
1980 1985 1990 1995 2000 2005
Figure 3. Trends in Publication by Abuse Behavior Over Time
These areas include physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, general neglect,
medical neglect, educational neglect, abandonment, financial abuse, drug abuse,
unspecified abuse, and fatalities as a result of abuse. For the decade of the 1980s, data
were distributed as follows: 32 articles or 56.1% on unspecified abuse; 12 articles or
21.1% on sexual abuse; nine articles or 15.8% on physical abuse; and four articles or 7%
on neglect. No articles were published on emotional abuse, financial abuse, educational
neglect, medical neglect, drug abuse, or fatalities related to family violence.
The 1990s distribution was: 85 articles or 48.6% on sexual abuse; 62 articles or
35.4% on unspecified or general abuse; 19 articles or 10.9 % on physical abuse; four
articles or 2.3% on emotional abuse; three articles or 1.1% on abuse related fatalities; and
two articles or 1.1% on neglect. No articles were published on abandonment, financial
abuse, drug abuse, educational neglect or medical neglect.
During the time period of 2000 to 2005, data were distributed into the following
areas: 142 articles or 52% on general or unspecified abuse forms; 73 articles or 26.7% on
sexual abuse; 45 articles or 16.2% on physical abuse; six articles or 2.2% on emotional
abuse; two articles or 0.7% on neglect; and one article or 0.4% on abandonment. No
articles were published on fatalities associated with family violence, financial abuse, drug
abuse, educational neglect, or medical neglect.
General Trends in Family Violence Concerning Issues
In addition to coding for behavior and relationship by year, various issues discussed
within these articles were included in data collection as well. Some themes that were built
into codebook included: theoretical development, methodological development, policy,
social services for victims and batterers, service program evaluations, judicial and law
enforcement issues, the child welfare system, substance abuse, medical care and physical
health outcomes, mental health outcomes, homelessness, immigrant violence and abuse,
cohabitation, as well as demographic indicators such as race/ethnicity, gender,
socioeconomic status, and religiosity.
The most common themes in relation to family violence were: Mental health
outcomes with 97 articles or 19.2%; research methodology with 58 articles or 11.5%;
trends and incidence rates with 52 articles or 10.3%; child welfare with 45 articles or
8.9%; parenting styles and skills with 42 articles or 8.3%; international family violence
with 33 articles or 6.5%; service programs for victims with 27 articles or 5.4%; and
general theoretical development with 22 articles or 4.4%.
In addition to the common themes listed above, articles focusing on demographic
characteristics such as race, gender, socioeconomic status, and religiosity were also
coded. The results of the frequency analysis revealed that articles focusing on these
factors were small in number, with 14 articles or 2.8% focusing on gender; seven articles
or 1.4% on socioeconomic status; six articles or 1.2% on race; and two articles or 0.4%
focusing on religiosity.
Several hypotheses were tested to determine whether there were significant trends
within the data. These hypotheses are reviewed below and the results of chi square
analyses used to test for differences in distribution of article publication over time are
Hlo: There will be no significant differences in the relative representations of categories
of family violence in the family research literature at selected points in time.
Hla: There will be significant differences in the relative representations of categories of
family violence in the family research literature at selected points in time.
Two separate chi-square analysis were conducted. The first tested for a difference
in distribution concerning relationship type, and the second for differences in abusive
behavior type. In addition, in cases where the chi-square test was significant, a
standardized test of adjusted residuals was conducted to determine degree of deviation
from equal distribution. Statistical significance is reached if adjusted residuals are greater
than positive or negative three (with zero indicating equal distribution).
The value of the chi-square for family violence category publication by year was
85.725 (with statistical significance at p=0.000). This reflects that across all decades,
there were significant discrepancies in the publication amounts for various articles on
family violence. In relation to abuse category, very few areas had significant adjusted
residuals. However, these residuals are telling, as they can show points in time that the
influxes and declines in each area of research occurred. For example, intimate partner
violence (male to female violence), had a non-significant, but negative residual in every
period of this study. Yet, the residual increased to a significant 5.1 (the strongest positive
residual value), in 2005, indicating an increase of research representation over the past 5
years; despite the slight overall decline in research publication. Another significant
residual was for child abuse (by a relative), which was 3.3 in 1985, indicated
overrepresentation in relation to other forms of family violence research publication.
However, all other years following had non-significant, negative residuals, indicating that
the slight decline in child abuse research publications that identified a relative perpetrator
occurred after 1985.
No other residuals for family violence category were significant; however, it is
notable that in 1995, publication rates in sibling violence and abuse had a positive
residual approaching significance (2.5). This occurred in the only year where publication
on sibling violence and abuse was present, and all other year points were negative.
The value of chi-square for behavior by year was 60.846 (with statistical
significance at p=0.001). Significant adjusted residuals were found in 1990 (3.1) and
1995 (3.6) for sexual abuse, and decreased in 2005 for a negative residual (-3.6). This
indicates that the representation of sexual abuse in the research literature declined in
relation to other forms of research. No other areas of abuse behavior have significant
residuals. However, it is interesting to note that neglect is near significance in 1985 with
a positive residual (2.7). This was the only year with a positive residual for neglect.
These residuals provide useful information regarding the development of each area
of family violence across time. However, caution must be given in that because this is a
purposive sample, the explanatory power of the chi-square (which residuals are directly
dependent on) is limited. Regardless, in relation to the findings of this analysis, the
alternative hypothesis, that significant differences in the relative representations of
categories of family violence in the family research literature at selected points in time
would be found, was supported. We turn now to the second hypothesis.
H2o: There will be no significant differences in the relative representation of policy-
related journal articles pertaining to family violence in the family research literature at
selected points in time.
H2a: There will be significant differences in the relative representation of policy-related
journal articles pertaining to family violence in the family research literature at selected
points in time.
Descriptive statistics were run to examine activities in publication related to policy
issues. The overall representation of family violence policy-related articles in this sample,
over all decades, was a mere 0.6%. This can be broken down by decade to reveal that in
the 1980s and 1990s no articles were published in direct relation to family violence
policy, in the selected journals. In the first part of the decade of 2000 there have been
three (one in 2000 and two in 2005). Although these frequency counts reveal that policy
articles have been under represented in these journals, no statistical information can be
given regarding significant changes over this time period, due to the small amount of data
obtained. Consequently, there is insufficient evidence to reject the null hypothesis that
there were no differences in policy-related article publication.
H3o: There will be no significant differences in the number of publication of family
violence-related journal articles in times of greater public policy activity.
H3a: There will be significant differences in the number of publication of family
violence-related journal articles in times of greater public policy activity.
No statistical methods of analysis could be employed in testing this hypothesis due
to insufficient data. However, a descriptive investigation was conducted in attempt to
identify commonalities between research publication trends and policy development. This
analysis will be discussed in Chapter 5.
DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSIONS
This study was designed to examine trends in the publication of research literature
pertaining to family violence in selected family research journals over the past 5 decades.
The research sought to identify areas of family violence that have been neglected in
research and publication. The results were telling, and provided information concerning
the relative representation of various topics in family violence selected for examination in
The central research question for this study was: What are the trends in the family
violence literature within the past 60 years? There has been a steady and noteworthy
increase in overall publication of articles on family violence across five-year intervals,
with a decline occurring after 2000.
Another research question in relation to the first was: What was the relative
representation of each area of family violence research at the points in time selected for
this study? Clearly, child abuse and intimate partner violence accounted for the majority
of publications. However, violence among lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender
relationships seems to be an emerging area of research. Finally, there was little to no
representation of elder abuse, or sibling abuse.
The second research question was: What was the relative representation of policy
related articles to all articles on family violence at selected points in time? Policy articles
were highly underrepresented relative to other topics of family violence. In fact, the
overall representation of policy-related articles across decades was less than 0.6%, and in
many individual year points was 0%.
The final question was: Will there be changes in the number of family violence
related articles during times of greater public policy activity? There was no concrete
answer reached for this question because statistical analysis could not be conducted due
to insufficient data. Instead, an assessment of significant policies pertaining to family
violence with trends identified in this study was conducted. The findings will be
discussed later in this chapter.
The first hypothesis of this study read: There will be significant changes in the
relative representations of categories of family violence in the family research literature
at selected points in time. This hypothesis was supported. A significant discrepancy was
found to exist in the relative representation of various areas of family violence in the time
frame selected, as well as in the overall representation of family violence publications.
Specifically, research on child abuse was overrepresented, whereas, intimate partner
violence, elder abuse, LGBT violence, and sibling abuse were underrepresented.
The second hypothesis read: There will be significant changes in the relative
representation of policy-related articles pertaining to family violence in family research
literature at selected points in time. This hypothesis was not supported because
insufficient data were available to confirm or refute the presence of significant changes in
policy-related articles during the time period of this study.
The third hypothesis read: There will be significant changes in the amount of
publication of family violence related articles in times of greater policy activity. This
hypothesis not supported because insufficient data were available. However, because the
evidence obtained from a general policy exploration also does not directly support or
contradict the hypothesis; further study is required to put this statement under higher
The open-ended content analysis codebook was useful in classifying material in
this situation, as it allowed for identification and coding to continuously emerge and
develop throughout the data collection period. The codebook assigned numeric values to
various categories, forms and issues in relation to family violence. The applicable codes
were entered for each article featured, based on title and abstract, along with information
about the journal volume, issue, year, and article author information. Also, only articles
published in English were included, so the research published in other languages could
not be considered.
A content analysis was conducted on four journals selected from the field of
family studies on the basis of their representation in the Social Science Citation Index,
i.e., the journals chosen had the greatest number of article citations. The sample consisted
of 505 articles published between 1960 and 2005, gathered from volumes published at the
beginning, middle, and end points of each decade within this time frame. However, all
articles sampled were taken from volumes dated on or after 1980, because no family
violence-related articles appeared in the sample before this time.
Overall Trends in Family Violence Publication
Significant trends were identified in the increase in overall publications in this area
of research (as well as increased proportion of all articles published in these journals).
More attention has been awarded to the problem of violence within the family with each
passing decade. Interestingly enough, the only decline noted in the overall research
literature was identified within the last five years (since 2000). Potential indicators
behind this decline are not known, however one could speculate a relation between social
and political changes following September 11, 2001, as a possibility. Perhaps a decline in
attention to this area of family violence research is a result of a shift in the pull of
resources toward research in the areas of national defense, global relations, and terrorism;
and away from domestic social problems such as violence in the family. Further
empirical research is needed to explore any potential link between shifts in social and
political climate, resources and publication in the area of family violence.
The most heavily represented type of publication was on child abuse. This was
found to be the case in every decade that produced testable data featured in this study.
Therefore, it can be determined that a great deal of attention in the research community
has been devoted to and continues to be focused on child abuse. However, the proportion
of publications in abuse category has shifted closer to equal distribution over time, as
other forms of family violence have received more attention in recent years.
A small number of articles focused on demographic information such as race, class
and gender. Almost half of these articles focused on issues related to gender.
Surprisingly, only seven articles were published on socioeconomic status. This is despite
the fact that issues related to social class and poverty have been shown to be directly
correlated with most forms of family violence (Barnett, Miller-Perrin & Perrin, 2005).
It is important to note that the delimitations of this study must be taken into
consideration when discussing the trends identified here. There may be many family
violence-related topics that are not of interest to the journals chosen for this study; which
would influence frequency counts and proportions by topic. That is, because only the four
most frequently cited journals were used, it is impossible to capture a completely
generalizable idea of what is occurring in the field overall, because these journals may
not be completely representative of overall activity in the research field.
Trends in Category of Family Violence Research
It is evident that the largest proportion of family violence related articles have been
consistently on child abuse. Within these articles, the majority (82.3%) have an identified
victim (i.e., a child), but no clear perpetrator. Those where a perpetrator has been
identified usually involve a batterer that is a relative caregiver to the child.
More attention has been given to intimate partner violence in recent years than in
previous decades. Also, although it is a small percentage, the emerging representation of
lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender research is very telling about shifts in how we
define intimate partner violence; as well as what we consider worthy of research
attention. Finally, within this sample, no articles focusing on elder abuse were identified,
and a very small percent on sibling violence and abuse emerged in only one decade.
An additional finding in relation to representation of family violence categories has
been the identification of underrepresented categories in the research literature. Of all
categories identified in this study, the most neglected were sibling violence and abuse,
with only two articles published, and elder abuse, with no articles published. That is, the
number of articles published from this sample frame on elder abuse was such that no
analyses could be run due to insufficient numeric values (i.e., not enough cases were
identified). This is important also because it reflects another highly neglected area in the
It is also fascinating to note that there were no relevant articles identified before
1980. The common topics appearing in the 1960s and 1970s were divorce and the sexual
"deviance" of women, which was often defined in articles as premarital sex and
extramarital sex. This is once again a good example of how society has changed over the
past 60 years, especially in relation to what is considered a social problem worthy of
empirical scientific research and publication, and how researchers and journals may focus
on topics reflecting key social changes of the period.
Finally, although abuse during pregnancy has been recognized as a significant
social problem (Gelles, 1997), only one article was published on this category from this
sample. This article was published in the 1990s and accounted for 0.6 % of all research
literature that decade.
Trends in Behavior Associated With Family Violence Research
Important findings emerged in relation to behaviors associated with family
violence. For example, the most common types of abuse discussed in the research were
sexual abuse and unspecified abuse. In the articles pertaining to sexual abuse, the
perpetrator was seldom identified (i.e., information was not given regarding whether or
not the abuser was a family member, acquaintance or stranger). However, more often
than not, when a perpetrator was identified, it was a parent or family member.
Another highly occurring form of abuse in publications was found to be physical
abuse. However, once again, the perpetrator was not identified. The least published
topics were emotional abuse, neglect, fatality and abandonment.
Once again, the gaps in the proportions of articles about various forms of family
violence have narrowed over time, suggesting greater representation in areas that have
been previously ignored; this seems to be the case with emotional abuse and neglect. An
ironic finding was that many articles focused on the mental health outcomes for abuse
victims, while research on emotional abuse appears to be lacking. This trend is
fascinating because it is evident that there is an interest in mental health and
psychological well being, but not on the abuse form that most directly impacts the
victim's mental health.
It is also interesting to note that the publication rate for neglect, although minimal
in all time periods, has actually decreased slightly in frequency and proportion over time.
Also notable is that with the high amounts of sexual abuse-related article publications, the
vast majority focused on the sexual abuse of children and not sexual abuse in intimate
partner relationships. Finally, with all decades, a good proportion of articles (over half in
the 1980s and in 2000) did not specify any behavior in association with family violence.
Instead, these articles focused on abuse category (i.e., IPV or child abuse), or
occasionally on other factors such as social services, policy and program evaluation.
Decade Reviews from The Journal of Marriage and Family
Several interesting trends in family violence research have been identified,
including areas that have been overrepresented as well as neglected, as well as overall
changes in family violence publication rates over time. For purposes of comparison, the
decade reviews from the Journal ofMarriage and Family (JMF), are discussed again
In the 1960s there were no articles pertaining to family violence research. This is
congruent with the findings presented here for the entire sample of journals, as no articles
were identified in the sample during the 1960s. In the decade review of the 1970s, the
first review article focusing on family violence appeared, recognizing that family
violence research was emerging; most of the articles discussed the nature and extent of
violence in the family. In contrast, no articles in the study sample were identified from
this time period. This suggests that the study strategy of sampling articles in 5 Year
intervals missed articles appearing at other times, or that these articles appeared in
journals not included in the sample (i.e., not the most cited journals).
According to the JMF, 1980s decade review, many areas of family violence were
present in the research literature, including IPV, child abuse, and elder abuse. The
findings here are in accordance with the exception of research on elder abuse, which did
not appear in the sampled articles. In addition, the JMF decade review for the 1980s also
discussed the emphasis that was placed on child sexual abuse. This was also supported
here, in that child sexual abuse accounted for the largest proportion of articles represented
in the sample during the 1980s (91.3%).
According to the JMF decade review, the 1990s was a very active time period in
family violence research. Research focused on refining categories of family violence, and
addressing violence in populations that had been previously unrecognized (LGBT
couples, immigrant groups, the homeless, and international family violence). Although
articles on many of these issues did appear (excluding homelessness) in this study during
the 1990s, they were very small in number and proportion. For example, only two articles
were published on immigrant violence (1.1%), and seven on international violence
(4.0%). Interestingly, the number of articles on international family violence more than
doubled in the decade of 2000, to 23 (8.4%). It will be interesting to see if this trend will
be reflected in the next decade review for The Journal ofMarriage and Family,
scheduled for publication in November 2010.
Findings indicated that only a very small number of articles related to any form of
family violence policy were published. In fact, the frequency of publications was so
minute that analyses could not be performed. One possible explanation is that the selected
journals are not as concerned with policy as journals not selected for this study. For
example, the Journal ofFamily Policy, the Journal of Family Law, and the Journal of
Family History, may include more policy related articles. It is important to note,
however, that publishing on the topic of policy is not necessarily indicative of the impacts
of policy development and social movement on the field of family violence research.
That is, the potential impacts of policy on research initiatives, funding and resources is
not a relationship that can identified simply through an examination of articles that focus
directly on policy, as policy can influence the entire process of research, publication and
development of the field.
To examine the potential relationship between research and policy when statistical
analyses could not be run, the research explored policy development in relation to the
trends revealed in this study was done. Several major policies that were passed over the
past 5 decades that apply to the issue of violence in the family were identified, then
mapped on a time line and examined in relation to trends in the publication of articles
pertaining to the subject matter of the policy. Because this study examined trends
according to five-year markers, points directly before and after the policy was passed
were examined. This investigation does not attempt to imply a causal relationship
between research publication and policy; instead, it aims only to examine the potential
evidence of an association that may exist. The areas of research interest were designated
as overall publication in family violence, specific publications in child abuse, and specific
publications in intimate partner violence. These precise areas were chosen because child
abuse and intimate partner violence policies have been at the forefront of family violence
Several interesting similarities emerged from the comparison of research trends and
policy development. First, in several circumstances, times of low policy development
were also marked by minute increases, or even declines in research activity. For instance,
for trends in child abuse literature, the only period in this study that had no new policy
development, 1985 to 1990, excluding the revision of an existing policy, was also marked
by a decline in the research literature pertaining to this subject matter. Despite the decline
in article frequency between 1985 and 1990, the decade of the 1980s had the highest
proportion of articles published on child abuse, and the policies passed in relation to
family violence were focused primarily on child abuse (i.e., Adoption Assistance and
Child Welfare act of 1980, Social Security Act Amendments of 1981, and three CAPTA
Revisions). An additional finding of interest was in relation to intimate partner violence
research and the passing of The Violence Against Women Act. VAWA, which was
established in 1994, was passed shortly before the period of the largest increase of
intimate partner violence research, 1995 to 2000. During this time period a revision was
also made to the original VAWA (2000); thus, the time period of highest research
publication on domestic violence was situated directly in between two periods of intimate
partner violence policy development. Similarly, in 1995, the Sex Crimes Against
Children Act was passed, and the highest number of articles on the sexual abuse of
children was published. This five-year period also included a revision to CAPTA (1996),
and ended with the passing of the Child Abuse Prevention and Enforcement Act (1999)
However, in this investigation, several areas of publication do not appear to be
related to policy development. For instance, the first sharp increase in publication of child
abuse-related articles did not occur until nearly six years following the passage of the
original Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (1974). Furthermore, there were time
periods in this study that actually revealed declines in research during periods of policy
activity. For instance, the greatest decline in both child abuse and intimate partner
violence research, as well as overall family violence research, occurred between the years
2000 and 2005, yet important policy activity was occurring at that time, including
revisions to both VAWA and CAPTA, and the enactment of the Domestic Violence
Screening and Prevention Act (2003). Also, despite the passage of the Older Americans
Act (2000), there continued to be no research articles published on elder abuse in this
sample. Thus, although several interesting similarities emerged from this descriptive
analysis, the findings are too preliminary and mixed to assert any type of relationship that
may exist between research trends and policy development.
Family violence research development is a dynamic process that is continuously
changing over time, as shown by the publication trends identified in this study. Strong
evidence of changes in family violence knowledge development were identified through
changes in distribution of articles on family violence over time. The development of new
journals and the dramatic increases in newer areas of research, as well as marked declines
in existing areas of research publication, reveal the constantly changing nature of
scientific research in this area.
This study sought to utilize structuration theory to explain the patterns of change in
family violence research publication. That is, the trends identified in research publication
were examined in relation to significant social policy development on family violence.
This theory was used in attempt to identify a relationship between these areas, and to use
this dynamic relationship to better understand the development of this field.
Central components of structuration theory, including agency (action), structure,
and the process of structuration, were all applied to the field of family violence. Agency
was examined in the form of research publication trends, structure in the form of policy,
and the process of structuration through the interdependent relationship that may exist
between the two. In other words, this study sought to identify a relationship between
family violence research publication and family violence social policy that may reveal the
presence of an intricate process of structuration (i.e., a mutually interdependent
relationship between research and social policy that is present in the creation and
perpetuation of the field of family violence research).
The development of policy on family violence within this time period reflects
changes in social acceptability, legal definitions and regulations, and political shifts
where family violence is concerned. Potential commonalities identified between trends in
research publication and policy development may demonstrate the intricate relationship
between research publication and policy, as a reflection of the culturally contextual and
somewhat subjective nature of scientific research. That is, viewing family violence
research as a process influenced by social movement and change (indicated by policy
development) allows for the understanding of how this area of scientific research has
developed, and how it can be influenced by, and in turn, influences social action and
cultural change, which is the process of structuration.
Because no statistical analysis could be conducted, the dynamic relationship
between family violence research trends and policy development was explored in an
attempt to better understand the process of structuration pertaining to family violence
research. Although these findings were mixed, there was sufficient evidence of a
potential relationship between agency (family violence research activity) and structure
(family violence policy), to warrant further empirical investigation. That is, the various
commonalities found, such as increases in publication on research areas pertaining to
policy subject matter during time periods of social policy development, may be evidence
of the dynamic relationship (i.e., the process of structuration) between policy
development, and research activity within this sample.
Just as plausible, it seems there is a relation between social change and research.
For instance, as U.S. society has become more accepting of same sex couples, we have
seen an interest in same sex violence. Also, as society ages, we would expect to see the
emergence of an interest in elder abuse. With the occurrence of 'specific' tragic events,
such as horrific child rapes and homicides, the research community may respond with
increased attention to this area. Other examples of the tie between social change and
family violence research have been made. Such ties include the early emergence of
family violence research literature decades ago as a result of greater sensitivity of
violence due to war, social activism, increased crime rates, and other societal issues of
the time (Straus, 1974).
Another area that is in need of further investigation in relation to family violence
research is changes in theoretical and epistemological orientations. That is, it is apparent
that there may be a relationship between emerging trends in research, and theoretical
development. For example, changes in theory over the study time frame, such as the
growth in popularity in the feminist and conflict perspective may be related to the
increases in research initiative in areas of violence against women and other forms of
violence in the family. This also may be the case with the rise of postmodernist theories
and changes in definitions concerning what constitutes as "family", as well as the
increasing attention to forms of family violence such as violence and abuse in same-sex
marriages. Thus, examining trends in family violence research in relation to the growth
and development of general social theory may produce interesting and useful findings.
Although it was difficult to peg down a connection between social policy and
family violence research, the possibility of this connection still seems evident, and
worthy of investigation. In short, further studies are needed regarding the potential
application of this theory to the process of family violence research.
The most significant limitation was the inability of this study to adequately
measure policy as a representation of social change or its impact on family violence
research. This made it difficult to strongly support structuration theory, as statistically
sound research on the relationship between policy and publication, and therefore, on the
process of structuration, could not be identified. One potential reason for this may be that
the selected journals are not emphasizing the publication of family violence policy-
related writings. Instead, such articles may more likely be found in journals in the
disciplines of law, criminal justice, and political science, as well as policy reports issued
by agencies and organizations. So, by virtue of the sampling focus on family journals,
policy related publications may have been overlooked.
In addition, the small journal sample limited the scope of this study in that there
may not have been a valid representation of the many areas of publication in family
violence research. Therefore, rate of citation may not have been an adequate method of
selection of journals. This became particularly apparent in the time period before 1980,
when the journal selected for this study was apparently publishing very little on family
violence. However, there is still valid information in that the most frequently cited
journals in the field were not publishing in the underrepresented areas identified.
An additional limitation identified in relation to the journals selected was that the
change in volume and issue publication could not be controlled for. That is, during this
time frame, spikes in frequency may have been attributed to increases in annual
publication rates. For example, the Journal of Child Abuse andNeglect increased
publication rates from four issues a year to twelve issues a year after 1990. Although this
activity may represent an increased interest in family violence research, it also may have
skewed the proportion balance to reflect a greater amount of child abuse research
publications than is actually occurring within the field. This is another example of how
the study sample is limited in scope concerning general applicability, as frequency of
child abuse article publication may have skewed the results to reflect higher rates of
publication than may actually be occurring overall in the field of family violence
Another limitation to this study is in the limited number of year points. It was not
possible to sample every year in the past five decades in the study time frame. Therefore,
the number of articles taken into consideration for analysis was small in relation to total
field activity (i.e., 505 articles in this sample as opposed to 1572 in the sample frame).
However, by choosing to only include five-year markers, this study was still able to
gather a good amount of information regarding trends in publication over a long period of
time (as opposed to using every year in a shorter amount of time). Thus, this method was
chosen as opposed to sampling every year in a shorter period of time.
Finally, the difficulty of applying structuration theory to this study was a limitation.
This may be associated with the nature of the theory itself, that is, scholars have stated
that structuration theory may be difficult to test empirically (Cuff, Sherrock & Francis,
1998). Also, as was previously stated, the lack of historical contextual factors in this
study may have limited the extent to which structuration theory could have been applied.
For example, in a recent study, the applicability of structuration theory in various areas of
social science research was investigated. The results reflected that the most successful
studies had ethnographic information about actors across time and space. Those that used
a broader, more collective approach (i.e., following overall institutional progress as
opposed to change among individuals or groups), had a more difficult time utilizing the
theory (Phipps, 2001).
Future Research Recommendations
The primary recommendation of this study for future research is to address those
areas of family violence that have been identified as underrepresented in the literature.
This lack of research attention must be addressed if we are to gain knowledge that can be
applied to outreach, education, policy and prevention.
First, elder abuse research did not arise in the time frame utilized. Although this
may be due to the fact that the sample journals do not publish on elder abuse, the
complete omission of this area in these journals is still alarming. Research that does exist
tells us that this is a widespread problem (i.e., over 450,000 elders maltreated annually),
with significant negative victim outcomes (Jogerst, Brody, Dyer & Arias, 2004; Rothman
& Duntop, 2001). Therefore, increased research attention needs to focus on elder abuse.
In addition, the limited knowledge we have on sibling violence and abuse tells us
that the incidence of this form of family violence is estimated at nearly 60% (Noland, et
al., 2004), and that victims suffer long lasting, negative outcomes exacerbated by the lack
of validation received from a society that does not recognize this as a social problem
(Wiehe, 2002).Yet, sibling violence and abuse was one of the two topics in family
violence category that was the most underrepresented in the literature. Special focus
should be given to this area if we are to increase professional and public awareness of this
form of family violence. Posing questions about why sibling abuse exists, how it has
gone unrecognized for so long, whether or not it has been normalized in our society (and
if so, in what ways), what constitutes a healthy versus unhealthy sibling relationship, and
how we can address the problem for better prevention and intervention would be a start in
better understanding sibling violence and abuse. However, before we can tackle this
social problem, shifts in the research field, policy arena, and overall public perception
must take place to recognize and accept that abuse among siblings is in fact, a social
Another area of family violence that is in need of research attention is neglect.
Despite the fact that neglect accounts for over 60% of confirmed child abuse cases (HHS,
2004), This topic was underrepresented among articles considered in this study. Similar
points have been made regarding the lack of research on neglect. One such study stated
that despite the growing incidence rate of neglect (a 100% increase between 1986 and
1993), research on neglect has accounted for a very small proportion of research (of the
489 articles published in the first five volumes of Child Abuse and Neglect, only 25 were
on child neglect) (Bloom, 2000; Zuravin, 1999). In another study, there were only 559
articles of neglect published in a psychology index that published a total of 5,848 entries
(Garbarino & Collins, 1999). Thus, the neglect of research on neglect continues to be a
significant issue in family violence research.
For further understanding of the influences of social context on the process of
scientific research and publication, an additional suggestion for future research would be
to conduct decade-specific analyses that can take contextual variables into consideration
when examining trends in research literature. For example, an in depth analysis of the
1970's, using a larger sample (every year) from journals that focus more on policy could
allow for a more in depth analysis and a greater understanding of the potential
relationship between policy activity and research development. Also, a more detailed
examination of research development would be beneficial. That is, because this study was
only able to examine article publications from very specific journals, a great deal of
research activity was not addressed. This includes research published in journals from
other disciplines, as well as research activity that may not have been published at all.
Therefore, a more detailed examination of social science research on family violence
could potentially provide useful information on the growth and development of the field.
As previously stated, a limitation of this study was the potential incompatibility of
social science journal articles and family violence policy-related publications. Therefore,
an additional research recommendation would be to explore alternative sources of policy-
related information. One such source would be the Thomson West law search engine.
This source contains over 23,000 databases concerning case law, state and federal
statutes, administrative codes, newspaper and magazine articles, public records, law
journals, law reviews, treatises, legal forms and other information resources. Therefore, it
may be suitable in accessing more information concerning policies, media coverage,
public response, and details surrounding the legislative process in relation to family
violence policy overall.
Finally, selecting specific policies on family violence and examining publications
in time periods directly before and after legislation has been passed may be a useful
approach to examining the potential relationship between scholarly publication and
policy activity. With research that meets this goal, structuration theory could be better
applied and supported to the development of the field of family violence research.
Implications for Practice
The first recommendation for practice based on this research would be to apply the
knowledge gained here regarding the neglect of certain forms of family violence to public
education campaigns. Increasing public awareness of areas that we now know to be
underrepresented can help to change perceptions and values regarding various forms of
violence in the family. These changes in awareness can better enable outreach
organizations to serve populations that may be struggling with family violence. For
example, victim advocacy training that incorporates information about less known areas
of family violence may be influential in helping in the identification, intervention and
prevention of these forms of abuse.
A second recommendation would be to expand efforts to educate families
themselves about family violence. That is, through education, we may be able to increase
awareness and recognition of the presence of abuse forms that are not widely known or
understood (i.e., elder abuse and sibling abuse), and increase the likelihood of reporting
and intervention for families in crisis.
We can start to educate families by educating those in practitioner positions that
involve direct outreach and community involvement. Giving them any information (as
research information has proven to be limited), to use in educational programs,
counseling, prevention, lobbying, and other services has the potential to reach a great deal
of the population. These small steps can go far in increasing public awareness, changing
public perception of unhealthy family relationships, and assisting families themselves.
Implications for Policy
Although the results pertaining to policy were mixed, implications based on the
trends identified for social policy are extensive. Because the nature of this study was to
examine the relationship between family violence research publication and family
violence social policy, many of the recommendations offered here touch upon this
relationship. More specifically, these policy recommendations emphasize the importance
of policy development on research initiative and knowledge development.
To begin with, legislation that recognizes the nature and extent of underrepresented
areas of family violence is needed. For example, policies focusing on elder abuse are
needed to increase research funding and initiative, enact stronger protective legislation,
and promote educational programs that can increase public attention regarding
maltreatment of the elderly.
Another area in need of policy attention is that of abuse between siblings.
Legislation that recognizes the presence of and consequences that result from sibling
violence and abuse can increase public attention of this social problem. Also, having
protective guidelines in place can aid practitioners in the identification, intervention and
prevention of this form of abuse. Finally, public policy that recognizes this problem is
intrinsic to increasing social awareness and redefining how we define healthy and
unhealthy sibling relationships; thus, promoting change in social norms regarding the
acceptability of abusive behavior between siblings.
In addition, policy attention that recognizes the nature and extent of domestic
violence in lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender relationships is needed. The legal
rights of same-sex couples is currently a highly controversial issue. Most debate
surrounds family-related issues such as the right to marry and the right to adopt children.
However, attention that focuses on abuse in these relationships is lacking. As is the case
with other forms of underrepresented research identified in this study, increases in public
awareness are needed. This can be addressed by the development of policies that increase
funding to the development of programs that can aid this population. Such programs
include service programs that aid this population through increasing resources, education,
and general public recognition. Also, funding that increases research initiative is needed
to generate knowledge, as well as promote methodological advances and theoretical
development addressing violence in the LGBT community.
This study has identified trends in the publication of journal articles on family
violence over the past 5 decades. Trends identified include the lack of research
publication on family violence in selected journals before 1980. Popular topics of
publication, such as research on child abuse and specifically, child sexual abuse, were
identified. Also trends such as the increasing proportion of research on intimate partner
violence emerged. Finally, areas of family violence research articles from selected
journals that have been underrepresented in publication, such as elder abuse, sibling
violence and abuse, LGBT abuse, neglect, emotional abuse and abandonment, have been
Although many areas identified were thought to have been neglected previously,
this study is unique in that it produced statistical evidence, not only identifying
underrepresented areas but also showing the degree to which these areas have been
neglected. With this knowledge, we can move foreword and work towards providing
more empirical research in these areas. Furthermore, we can avoid what Straus and
Gelles (1995) have referred to as the deterministic truism, as when we discuss areas that
have been overlooked in the research literature, we now have statistical evidence to
support our claims.
Having the understanding that family violence research is a social process that is
contextually situated, culturally influenced, and subjective to the researcher can help us to
be aware of how definitions and perceptions of what constitutes family violence, and
what warrants research attention has changed over time. With this understanding, we can
be aware of and open to potential changes in future research, especially regarding how
we define violence in the family. That is, as we have seen a portion of the historical shift
in research, policy, definition, classification and awareness concerning family violence,
we may be more open to the reality that these areas will continue to shift and change. It is
possible that family violence forms that may emerge in future research and be accepted as
social problems may not enter our consciousness today. To be open to this possibility,
and to pursue areas of research that have been previously neglected, may be the
immediate future of this field; and the time to entertain the possibility that our awareness
may continue to shift concerning these areas is now.
CONTENT ANALYSIS CODEBOOK
Family Abuse Categories:
1- IPV (male to female)
2- IPV (female to male)
3- IPV (LGBT men)
4- IPV (LGBT women)
5- Child Abuse (parent/guardian or relative to child).
6- Child Abuse (non-relative to child)
7- Sibling Abuse (male to female)
8- Sibling Abuse (female to male)
9- Sibling Abuse (male to male)
10-Sibling Abuse (female to female)
11-Elder Abuse (IPV male to female)
12-Elder Abuse (IPV female to male)
13-Elder Abuse (family caregiver to victim)
14-Elder Abuse (non-family caregiver)
15-Family violence General/Unspecified
17-Child Abuse Unspecified
18-Sibling Abuse Unspecified
19-Elder Abuse Unspecified
Family Abuse Behaviors:
100- Physical abuse
101- Emotional/psychological abuse
102- Sexual abuse
103- General neglect
107- Financial abuse
108- Drug abuse/Chemical Restraint
Family Violence Issues
200- Intergenerational transmission of violence
201- Theoretical development
202- Family violence policy
203- Service program- victim oriented
204- Service program- batterer oriented
205- Service program evaluation
206- Demographic- SES
210- Legal services (judicial)
211- Legal services (law enforcement)
212- Child Welfare Services
215- Methodological development
216-physically or developmentally disabled
218- Substance Abuse
219- Healthcare/Medical treatment
222- Service program-family
227-risk taking behavior
Numeric Value of year
CITATION INDEX TABLE
Rank Journal Title Number of Citations
1 Journal of Marriage and the Family 4211
2 Child Abuse and Neglect 3141
3 Journal of Interpersonal Violence 1572
4 Journal of Family Psychology 1263
5 Family Relations 901
6 Journal of Family Issues 848
7 Family Process 829
8 Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy 801
9 Journal of Family Violence 729
10 Journal of Marital and Family Therapy 698
11 Child Welfare 660
12 Journal of Research on Adolescence 643
13 Journal of Early Adolescence 600
14 Future of Children 590
15 Children and Youth Services Review 544
16 Families In Society- The Journal of Contemporary 418
17 International Family Planning Perspectives 377
18 Journal of Comparative Family Studies 280
19 Family & Community Health 263
20 American Journal of Family Therapy 255
21 Journal of Family Therapy 236
22 Journal of Elder Abuse & Neglect 204
23 Perspectives on Sexual & Reproductive Health 204
24 Journal of Family Planning and Reproductive 198
25 Child & Family Behavior Therapy 185
26 Family Law Quarterly 163
27 Journal of Family History 153
28 Culture Health & Sexuality 110
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