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Economic Distress, Community Context and Intimate Violence: An Application and Extension of Social Disorganization Theory, Final Report

NCJ Number
Date Published
165 pages
Publication Series
This study merged data from waves 1 and 2 of the National Survey of Families and Households (NSFH) (Sweet, Bumpass, and Call, 1988) with census tract-level data from the 1990 U.S. Census to investigate contextual variation in and correlates of domestic violence.
Completed in 1988, the first wave of the NSFH included interviews with a probability sample of 13,007 adult respondents representing 9,637 households. In wave 2, completed in 1994, interviews were conducted with all surviving members of the original sample (n=10,007) and with the current spouse or cohabiting partner of the primary respondent (n=5,624). The study was based primarily on a subsample of households in which respondents were married or cohabiting during wave 1 or 2 or both, participated in both waves, and had complete data on the outcome variables. Data were collected on variables grouped into three major categories: indicators of conflict and violence in couple interactions; indicators of the economic status and experiences of the couple; and individual, couple-level, and household socio-demographic characteristics. Data from the 1990 census data were analyzed to determine the contextual variation in and correlates of domestic violence. A number of major findings emerged from the study. It was evident that violence against women was more prevalent and severe in socio-economically disadvantaged neighborhoods. Further, the relationship between community context and intimate violence was not entirely the result of compositional differences in neighborhood populations, but rather involved a contextual effect. At the individual level, both objective and subjective forms of economic distress increased the risk of violence against women. The risk of violence against women increased dramatically when individual-level economic distress and community-level economic disadvantage coexisted. The study also found that compared to white couples, the rate of intimate violence against women was higher among African-American couples; this difference resulted primarily from the contextual variables of location in disadvantaged neighborhoods and higher levels of economic distress. 40 tables, 67 references, and appended variables abstracted from the U.S. Census

Date Published: January 1, 2001