Defining Domestic Violence Reasons – Family Law


The social phenomenon of domestic violence has given rise to scholarly debates concerning its main causes and consequently, the methods for handling the issue. The measures offered for solving the problem depend upon the definition of the primary reasonsthe for abusing a spouse or a child which range from biological and socian ological to cultural aspects of batterers’ behavior.

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Definition of domestic violence

The concept of domestic violence is rather broad and includes the cases of emotional, psychological, physical, sexual or economical abuse of an intimate partner or a former partner as well as misbehavior of parents or children. The Oregon Domestic Violence Council, for example, defined family violence as “a pattern of coercive behavior used by one person to control and subordinate another in an intimate relationship…

Tactics of coercion, terrorism, degradation, exploitation, and violence are used to engender fear in the victim in order to enforce compliance” (McCue, 2008, p. 3). The problem of domestic assault is complicated with the cultural and social context which makes the oppression of particular groups possible.

Women become the victims of the family violence in the majority of cases and lacking knowledge concerning their rights and freedoms do not register the incidents and even stay in the abusive environment. It is possible that the assault occurs in one of its forms or as a combination of forms, but the psychological aspect is present in the majority of incidents.

Along with the diversified forms and tactics of family abuse, there are a number of approaches to explaining the roots of assaultive behavior, and biological, psychoanalytical and cross-cultural perspectives on the problem are among them.

The biological perspective

The biological approach to defining the reasons of battering the intimate partner focuses mainly on the peculiarities of the makeup of the batterers’ brains. Previously the exponents of biological approach emphasized the importance of genetics and hereditary factors. This explanation has been criticized for justification of the assaultive behavior and shifting the responsibility from the batterers who appear to be victims themselves in this context.

At present, the biological theoreticians point at the higher percentage of brain traumas in batterers than those who do not practice the abusive behavior. According to the biological approach, the childhood trauma causes the physiological changes in brains which in their turn can result in occurrence of domestic violence in adulthood. This hypothesis requires further research for gathering more empirical data and supporting it.

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The psychodynamic perspective

The contemporary psychodynamic theories are based on Freud’s psychoanalytic approach to defining the elements of human consciousness, explaining the roots of the assaultive behavior with the conflict between the conscious and subconscious parts of the batterer’s mind. The psychodynamic approach to coping with the posttraumatic stress is focused not on the struggle between the parts of the victim’s mind but on individual’s objective representation of the relationship with the partner.

The important aspect of psychodynamic theories is person’s experience of early relationship which has a significant impact on the development of further relationships with other partners. Thus, in case an individual has experienced partner’s abuses in early relationship, he/she might regard this behavioral pattern as normal and desirable in future.

The behavioral perspective

The proponents of behavioral perspective on the causes of the occurrence of domestic violence focus on family as the main source of behavioral models. Rapp-Paglicci, Roberts, and Wodarski (2002) noted that “people learn to be violent when they grow up in violent homes and environments” (p. 74). Thus, according to the behavioral theories, a child who witnesses the incidents of domestic violence in his/her family or is battered himself/herself has higher chances for becoming a family batterer in future.

Getting accustomed to moral justification of domestic violence with inability to cope with tension and frustration, people can regard violence as an effective means for handling disputes. It is significant that the behavioral perspective sheds light upon the importance of the environment and the contextual factors which have a significant impact on the occurrence of domestic violence.


It is important to raise public awareness of the necessity of violence ending and the risks of the emotional or even physical death of a victim which can become the result of the prolonged or incidental battering behavioral pattern of a partner.

Shedding light upon the problem of domestic violence and representing its various aspects in the mass media can be helpful for preventing the formation of stereotypes in potential victims and decreasing risks of creating the endless circles of family assault.

Registering the cases of domestic violence is important not only for protecting victims’ basic rights but also for collecting more observational data, developing new theories of the origin of the problem and the most effective way for solving it and supporting the victims who experience the traumatic stress.

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The biological, psychodynamic, and behavioral approaches to defining the reasons for the occurrence of domestic violence emphasize various aspects which have an impact on behavioral patterns of domestic batterers and require further research.

Reference List

McCue, M. (2008). Domestic violence: A reference handbook. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC CLIO.

Rapp-Paglicci, L., Roberts, A., & Wodarski, J. (2002). Handbook of violence. New York, NY: John Wiley and Sons.

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