U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

Economic Distress, Community Context and Intimate Violence: An Application and Extension of Social Disorganization Theory; Executive Summary

NCJ Number
Date Published
26 pages
Publication Series
By merging 1990 census data with data drawn from waves 1 and 2 of the National Survey of Families and Households (NSFH), this study examined contextual variation in and correlates of domestic violence; this is the executive summary of the full report.
Data were abstracted on conflict and violence among couples in the NSFH, a nationally representative sample of American households, as well as data on their economic resources and well-being, the composition of the household in which the couple lived, and a large number of socio-demographic characteristics of the sample respondents. The 1990 census yielded tract-level data on the characteristics of the census tracts in which the NSFH respondents lived. These data reflected the aggregate social, demographic, and economic characteristics of the tracts. The study found that violence against women was more prevalent and severe in socio-economically disadvantaged neighborhoods. The relationship between community context and intimate violence was found not to be entirely the result of compositional differences in neighborhood populations, but rather represented a contextual effect. At the individual level, both objective and subjective forms of economic distress increased the risk of violence against women. Further, individual-level economic distress and community-level economic disadvantage combined to increase significantly the risk of violence against women. Compared to white couples, the rate of intimate violence against women was higher among African-American couples, but this difference resulted in large measure from their location in disadvantaged neighborhoods and higher levels of economic distress. 8 tables, 2 figures, and 17 references

Date Published: January 1, 2001