Domestic Violence Effects – Psychology


Domestic abuse or violence involves the expression of certain patterns of behavior that are abusive towards another party in a marriage relationship or any familial affair. Domestic violence is acerbated in a number of ways, including assault, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, economic deprivation, domineering, and intimidation, among other forms of personal oppressions (Mogford, 2011). However, it is not constrained to actions that entail physical and emotional abuse. It also implies criminal coercion, unlawful imprisonment, and kidnapping. Upon considering these ways of acerbating domestic violence, the question that one needs to ask is whether a reasonable and moral person may undertake such actions.

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Domestic violence is meant to acquire total control of a person. To achieve this goal, abusers deploy tactics of instilling fear, shame, guilt, and intimidation to capture their targets physically and emotionally (Mogford, 2011). In this sense, they impede the ability of their targets to reason rationally and exercise self-control as some of the important areas of focus in psychology. One of the fundamental characteristics of domestic violence is that it does not discriminate various people in society. It occurs among heterosexual partners, homosexual partners, and/or among people of varying ages, varying economic status, and even across all ethnic backgrounds (Awang & Hariharan, 2011).

In the majority of the situations, while women are found the major victims of domestic violence, men are also abused, especially emotionally and/or verbally while not negating physical abuse in some instances (Awang & Hariharan, 2011). Nevertheless, whatever the source of domestic violence, the behavior is very unacceptable within a society. Unfortunately, domestic violence is still prevalent among various societies (Awang & Hariharan, 2011). This paper seeks to examine the principles of critical thought in relation to domestic violence. It considers the importance of ethics, moral reasoning, a research-based process to search truth, and the advantages of information technology in gathering data. These issues relate to the concerns of studies in critical thinking while addressing certain societal problems.

Literature Review

Domestic violence encompasses a behavior, becomes normalized once it is repeated (Mogford, 2011). Psychology constitutes an important tool, which can help in the analysis and subsequent understanding of the behavior. It involves the scientific study of behavior or mind. It is a multifaceted field of study that involves the study of health, cognitive processes, social behavior, and human development, among other disciplines (Reicher & Haslam, 2006).

The process of evaluation of the cause of the behaviors is done using observation, analysis, and measurement techniques (Reicher & Haslam, 2006). This strategy implies that research-based approaches in the search for truth and/or deployment of information and technology in availing data may help understand domestic violence as a psychological problem in society. Prediction, generation, and explanation are also deployed to interpret any observations. This claim suggests that psychology can be deployed to provide an explanation for almost all phenomena in society. However, clear understanding requires critical thinking about potential causes and impacts of human behaviors such as engaging in domestic violence. After the identification of the causes and implications of a given problem, it becomes possible to assess the possible solutions or strategies that can change certain human behaviors (Reicher & Haslam, 2006).

Critical thinking, as a tool for evaluating human behavior, refers to studies on both unclear and clear thinking (Tutorial CO1, 2010). However, now, it is important to note that it has limited impacts on psychology, as it does not constitute any theory of thinking. As such, it cannot be deployed in studies of the human mind with reference to how different reasoning approaches may help increase or reduce the prevalence of domestic violence. Solomon (2002) uses the term critical thinking to refer to an “intellectually disciplined process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and/or evaluating information gathered from, or generated by, observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication, as a guide to belief and action” (p.45). Thus, it is only useful in problem-solving.

Critical thinkers have the capacity to deduce the repercussions of their actions, as they are guided into acting by well reasoned and logically connected ideas (Tutorial CO1, 2010). However, although awareness of such repercussions is important, a significant question arises on whether the chosen course of action upholds the principles of morality. Moral reasoning determines the rightness or wrongness of an action. One of the important ways of determining these elements entails the evaluation of an act for its ethicalness. Several theories explain the manner in which people react when they encounter certain unethical situations. These theories fall into normative and descriptive approaches (Yassin, 2012).

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From the perspectives of normative approaches, ethical matters essentially define various values and principles, which guide decisions and behaviors. Indeed, according to the utilitarian theory, citizens need to look beyond their self-centric interests to enhance total good for all people who may be affected by their actions (Ketz, 2006). In this context, ethical action is the one, which does not result in harm on any party subjected to its consequences. Domestic violence undermines these principles of ethical behavior, which act as precedents of moral reasoning. This assertion perhaps makes more sense upon considering evidence on the negative effects of domestic violence derived from research-based processes that are aimed at searching the truth on its implications.

Research on the effects of domestic violence on the ability of women to work such as the one conducted by Audra and Shannon (2006) shows that abused women have lesser probabilities of choosing to work than women who have never experienced domestic violence. This claim implies that battering influences the capacity of women to look for means of bettering their economic status. This case has the impact of making them even more dependent on the perpetrators of domestic violence. In this context, economic independence is a subtle mechanism of reducing the risk of exposure to domestic violence among women. Women who suffer divorce due to domestic violence assume an unemployment rate of 20 percent or even less in comparison with those who are not abused in their marriages (Audra & Shannon, 2006). From these findings, it sounds subtle to infer that working women have lesser probabilities of experiencing domestic violence.

The increased economic status of women based on their employment position is a key determinant of their exposure to domestic violence. This claim is amplified by Audra and Shannon’s (2006) findings, “out of the sample of women that were abused in the past, 9.4% of women who are currently not working are abused whereas only 8.9% (3.48% out of 39.2% married women abused in the past) of women who are currently working are abused” (p.1120). These findings indicate that unemployment among women may result in a cycle of exposure to domestic violence. If more women are exposed to domestic violence, they are more likely to refrain from looking for employment. Consequently, they have a higher probability of being abused. Therefore, domestic violence is unethical. It undermines the principles of moral reasoning since it ends up denying its victims the utmost good. Employment raises the living standards of people by increasing their economic power. This situation suggests that if it can deny general good to some people, from a utilitarian ethical school of thought, it is immoral and unethical.

From the perspective that any action constitutes an immoral or unethical act if it denies general good to other people, research evidence that domestic violence affects children negatively (Kitzmann, Gaylord, Holt, & Kenny, 2003). The researchers conducted a meta-analysis study involving 118 studies on psychosocial implications of exposing children to domestic violence. The correlation figures indicated a relationship between psychological problems in children and exposure to domestic violence. Another group of researches (comparative studies) indicated that witnessing violence produced more severe psychological problems in comparisons with non-witnessing (Kitzmann et al., 2003).

Kitzmann et al. (2003) findings raise an interrogative concerning the most unethical and most immoral domestic violence. Since any ethical act, which the most reasonable person can do, must not have negative consequences, a research-based process to searching the truth introduces challenges of moral reasoning as it introduces relativity. Put differently, Kitzmann et al. (2003) tend to imply that if domestic violence is acerbated without children witnessing it, it has lesser negative psychological consequences. Thus, it is less harmful and better than in situations where children witness it. In a subjective test based on whether the action is right or wrong, critical thinkers will contend that it is not right as it has negative implications on children while Kitzmann et al. (2003) will perhaps respond that its degree of wrongness depends on the context of its execution.

Another meta-analytical research by Wolfe, Crooks, Lee, Smith, and Jaffe (2003) concluded that domestic violence is harmful to children. The authors asserted that it compromises children’s developmental outcomes such as cognitive, behavioral, social, and health functioning. Nevertheless, similar to Kitzmann et al. (2003), Wolfe et al. (2003) confirm that the effects of domestic violence on children vary relatively depending on the context. They claim that experiences through actual child violence increase behavioral and emotional damages than just exposure. Relativity here introduces a challenge that is similar to the one discussed before in terms of determining the ethicalness of domestic violence.

Research-based methodologies deployed by both Kitzmann et al. (2003) and Wolfe et al. (2003) evidence that without considering the relativity of the effects of domestic violence on children depending on the context of its execution, it generally denies children their overall good in the society. This good entails the right to grow in a socially conducive environment to foster their behavioral, cognitive, social, and emotional development in equal thresholds with reference to children who grow in a friendly environment without any witnessing or non-witnessing experience of domestic violence.

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Impacts of Academic knowledge on Social Elements and Institutions of Local and Global Communities

Avoiding engagement in an activity that degrades one’s moral reasoning is perhaps best accomplished when backed by information on its implications. Critical reasoning may be important in the evaluation of the repercussions of normalization of some behaviors in social institutions that are within the local and global communities such as normalization of battering in marriage. However, awareness of its effects on a second or a third party may help convince an individual that certain acts are not appropriate. One of the ways of acquiring information and awareness of the impacts of domestic violence encompasses the development of academic knowledge on domestic violence. Nevertheless, it is crucial to examine what compels people to act in a particular way. This necessity arises from the claim that possession of information on the impacts of an action may not act as a sufficient drive for not engaging in it (Aronson, Wilson & Akert, 2003). In this extent, the discipline of social psychology becomes important while studying domestic violence.

Engaging in domestic violence may be fostered by the development of an opposing attitude, which is an important element of social psychology between two people. This claim suggests that academic knowledge of social psychology may help reveal behaviors such as domestic violence as adopted by people in different social settings.

Attitude influences factors that help in the attachment of meaning to particular social problems or any other condition that affects people such as domestic violence, mental illness, and interpersonal conflicts. For instance, people’s understanding of how others perceive as constituting mental illness reinforces their understanding of such illness. People then develop an attitude to attribute the behaviors of such people to the condition whenever they encounter others who portray similar behaviors. In this process, intrinsic persuasion is important. Persuasion refers to “an active method of influence that attempts to guide people towards the adoption of an attitude, idea, or behavior by rational or emotive means” (Reicher & Haslam, 2006, p.27). Persuasion creates appeal while helping shape people’s understanding of various issues, including human nature, change, the need to refrain from domestic violence, and health.

Social cognition shapes human nature. It refers to the manner in which people think, perceive, or even recall information relating to others. As such, awareness of the impact of domestic violence may help manage the behavior. Aronson, Wilson, and Akert (2003) support this assertion by claiming that people think about others from different contexts. Attribution is one of the most important elements of social cognition that help reveal human behavior that characterize their nature. External or internal factors form the loci of human behavior.

Internal factors assign various causes of human behavior to character, different abilities, personality, and disposition. External factors relate human behavior to situational elements such as the condition or context of communication. Behaviors that define the nature of people are also attributed to controllable vs. uncontrollable and/or stable vs. unstable factors. However, while attributing human nature to different traits or characters of people, various errors may occur, such as fundamental attribution inaccuracy and self-serving error.

Self-concept is yet another important element of social psychology that helps explain people’s nature, their understanding on key issues that influence their lives such as illness and health, or even their capacity to embrace societal change. Self-concept constitutes self-schemas, which encompass the beliefs possessed by individuals, which are instrumental in aiding people process information in a self-reliant manner (Solomon, 2002). ‘Self’ is a crucial aspect of social psychology since it helps direct the attention of people to the conversation or even activate memory so that people can attach meaning to their environment. In this sense, ‘self’ affects people’s behaviors, cognitions, and emotional intelligence as essential elements that define the human nature that in this context, involves moral reasoning on the appropriateness of acts such as domestic violence.

Academic knowledge influences social elements and institutions of both local and global communities through the provision for explanations of causes, prevalence rates, and effects of the problems that they are facing. For instance, in the case of domestic violence, Krishnan, Rocca, Hubbard, Subbiah, Edmeades, and Padian (2011) assert that poverty and battering are essentially interwoven. This claim implies that any endeavor to run away from an abusive relationship may expose a victim to some economic challenges, which are often too hard to accept as the status quo. Precisely, any attempt to vacate from one place to another in the quest to escape domestic violence will imply losing housing, jobs, accessibility to one’s income, and childcare while also not negating quality health care. Evans (2005) expands this claim by stating, “there continues to be a higher prevalence of domestic violence in Australia, and more severe physical injury sustained because of domestic violence among population groups living with poverty” (p. 36). In this perspective, where one partner is not economically endowed, the chances are that for her or him to continue with a normal economic life, he or she needs to endure domestic violence.

Endurance only translates into the normalization of domestic violence as an acquired behavior. The severity of poverty in resulting in the exaggeration of domestic violence is exemplified by legislation and other state policies. Policies and the legislation on domestic violence only provide mechanisms of isolation of the victim from the perpetrator. They do not create provisions for guaranteeing long-term financial security to the victim (Runge, 2010). Anti-poverty schemes primarily focus on hiking accessibility to economic resources without paying attention to them and/or inculcating measures to ensure that an abusive partner does not harm the victim’s job. In this context, explanations of the causes of problems that influence social institutions and global communities help in setting the background for designing and implementing strategies for dealing with the challenges both in the short-term and in the long-term.

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How Principles of Active Citizenship can influence Contemporary Issues during the Next Five to Ten Years

Active citizenship encompasses an important aspect that glues society together. Although there lacks scholarly contention on the most appropriate model for active citizenship, European Economic and Social Committee (2012) reveals that it refers to people who take part in all public and societal affairs. Such interactions occur at international and local levels. The committee also notes that the term is normally deployed in describing people who are involved in community problems while driving change or even offering resistance to an undesired change in the extent that it disadvantages a society. However, active participation in public affairs does not imply it always has positive effects. This claim suggests that active citizens are not necessarily good citizens.

Since active citizenship involves participation in public affairs and issues that affect the society, its principles can be instrumental in influencing contemporary issues within a society over the next five to ten years. Domestic violence constitutes one of such issues. Good citizenship may help resolve these problems through fostering more engagement of people in the resolution of challenges and factors, which result in an escalation of cases of domestic violence in local and global societies. For example, poverty exposes battered women to minimal options. Women who have low incomes have a big probability of being subjected to discrimination, which has the overall result of reducing their financial security and safety (Awang & Hariharan, 2011).

From the above position, it sounds plausible to confirm that women who live in low-income neighborhoods are likely to have low economic opportunities and accessibility to employment. Hence, they are more likely to experience battering without escaping it. Directly congruent with this argument, Williams (1998) further asserts that women with low incomes may be compelled to look for emergency housing, live in homelessness, or get used to violence. Thus, poverty is critical in making victims of domestic violence continue persevering maltreatment that is acerbated by their partners. Through active citizenship, the government may be compelled to enact policies for protecting such venerable members of society.

Over the next five to ten years, active citizenship can help in influencing contemporary issues in the society through community and voluntary organizations that seek to address societal problems whilst encouraging communities to fight common challenges that affect their success. Through the principles, people can pursue common courses (European Economic and Social Committee, 2012). This strategy will make organizations that are structured from the perspectives of active citizenship play active roles in enhancing community involvement in the resolution of their problems in the next five to ten years. However, the principle of active citizenship can help in influencing contemporary issues if all societal organizations that operate at community levels have equal abilities to address issues that form their common courses proactively.

Well-off social organizations tend to have better bargaining powers. European Economic and Social Committee (2012) supports this line of argument by highlighting the likelihood of a threat for well-organized organizations to advance social exclusion in the deployment of active citizenship principles in fostering social inclusion. The most venerable members of the society are also likely to belong to poorly organized organizations. This situation implies that the capacity of the principles of active citizenship to influence contemporary issues of communities in the next five to ten years depends on several factors. The major factor is the ability of social organizations that utilize them to establish platforms that provide a room for even marginalized persons to voice their challenges and/or confront any inappropriate social problems such as domestic violence.


Domestic violence comprises a behavior that erodes the utmost common good for all members of society. The evil practice violates the principles of utilitarian theory. The conjecture views ethical matters as comprising actions, which deliver the utmost good to all people. For women, this good involves higher accessibility to employment opportunities and mental health. For children, it entails good social, physical, behavioral, cognitive, and emotional development. Possessing academic knowledge concerning these factors, which aggravate the intensity of the seriousness of the problems, is important in framing policies and strategies for mitigating domestic violence. To ensure the society embraces such strategies, its participation in public and societal affairs becomes important. It has to deploy principles of active citizenship. However, it is important for organizations that seek to end domestic violence through public participation to involve even marginalized people together with those who are in low socio-economic classes in the process of fostering unity, inclusion, and service to all people.

Reference List

Aronson, E., Wilson, D., & Akert, R. (2003). Social Psychology. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Audra, B., & Shannon, S. (2006). Domestic Violence, Employment, and Divorce. International Economic Review, 47(4), 1113-1149.

Awang, H., & Hariharan, S. (2011). Determinants of Domestic Violence: Evidence from Malaysia. Journal of Family Violence, 26(6), 459-464.

European Economic and Social Committee. (2012). Active Citizenship for Better European Society. Web.

Evans, S. (2005). Beyond gender: Class, poverty and domestic violence. Australian Social Work, 58(1), 36-43.

Ketz, E. (2006). Accounting Ethics: Theories of Accounting Ethics and their Dissemination. New York, NY: Taylor & Francis.

Kitzmann, K., Gaylord, N., Holt, A., & Kenny, E. (2003). Child witnesses to domestic violence: A meta-analytic review. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 71(2), 339-352.

Krishnan, S., Rocca, C., Hubbard, A., Subbiah, K., Edmeades, J., & Padian, N. (2010). Do changes in spousal employment status lead to domestic violence? Insights from a prospective study in Bangalore, India. Social Science & Medicine, 70(1), 136-143.

Mogford, E. (2011). When Status Hurts: Dimensions of Women’s Status and Domestic Abuse in Rural Northern India. Violence against Women, 17(7), 835-857.

Reicher, S., & Haslam, A (2006). Rethinking the psychology of tyranny: The BBC prison study. British Journal of Social Psychology, 45(1), 1–40.

Runge, R. (2010). The Legal Response to the Employment Needs of Domestic Violence Victims: An Update. Human Rights, 37(3), 13-23.

Solomon, A. (2002). Two Systems of Reasoning in Heuristics and Biases: The Psychology of Intuitive Judgment. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Tutorial CO1. (2010). What is Critical Thinking. Web.

Williams, J. (1998). Domestic Violence and Poverty: The Narratives of Homeless Women. A Journal of Women Studies, 19(2), 143-165.

Wolfe, D., Crooks, C., Lee, V., Smith, A., & Jaffe, P. (2003). The Effects of Children’s Exposure to Domestic Violence: A Meta-Analysis and Critique. Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review, 6(3), 171-187.

Yassin, A. (2012). Do Ethics Matter in Corporate Business Management From View Point of Islam? Kuwait Chapter of Arabian Journal of Business and Management Review, 2(2), 1-9.

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