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Do Collective Efficacy and Community Capacity Make a Difference "Behind Closed Doors"?

NCJ Number
Date Published
128 pages
This study, entitled "Behind Closed Doors," examined whether the degree of collective efficacy and community capacity in the neighborhood in which an abused woman lived had a positive effect on her help-seeking and increased the probability that the violence would decline or cease, taking into account other factors in the woman's situation that might make the probability of violence cessation more or less likely.
The study combined longitudinal data on a sample of 210 abused women from the Chicago Women's Health Risk Study and community-context data for each woman's residential neighborhood from the Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy (CAPS) evaluation. The unit of analysis for the study was the individual abused woman. After placing each woman in her residential neighborhood, defined as the Chicago Police Beat, researchers sought to determine whether the neighborhood's collective efficacy and capacity to solve problems -- measured by indicators of informal social control, organizational involvement, and downtown connections -- had an effect, over and above the woman's individual situation, on the kind of help she sought and whether she escaped future intimate-partner violence. The study found that abused women living in organized neighborhoods where collective efficacy was high were no more likely to escape further intimate-partner violence and seek various kinds of help than women living in other neighborhoods, other factors being equal. This finding has implications for both research and practice. Most community-level research studies have focused on street violence and ignored violence within the family. The findings of this study indicate that researchers have thus ignored a significant category of violence in neighborhoods. Even though collective efficacy and community crime-prevention action may reduce levels of "street crime," they may not have an impact on one of the most prevalent kinds of violence, i.e., violence "behind closed doors." 106 references and appended supplementary information

Date Published: January 1, 2001