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Causes and Consequences of Intimate Partner Violence

Date Published
October 24, 2007

Research supported by NIJ and others has identified some of the causes of, and risk factors for, intimate partner violence (often called "domestic violence"). Intimate partner violence has serious physical, psychological, economic, and social consequences.

  • One in five women killed or severely injured by an intimate partner had no warning: the fatal or life-threatening incident was the first physical violence they had experienced from their partner. A woman's attempt to leave an abuser was the precipitating factor in 45 percent of the murders of women by their intimate partners (Block, 2003).
  • Early parenthood is a risk factor. Women who had children by age 21 were twice as likely to be victims of intimate partner violence as women who were not mothers at that age. Men who had fathered children by age 21 were more than three times as likely to be abusers as men who were not fathers at that age. (Moffitt and Caspi, 1999).
  • Although alcohol is not the cause of violence against women, a significant relationship exists between male perpetrator problem drinking and violence against intimate female partners. Severe drinking problems increase the risk for lethal and violent victimization of women in intimate partner relationships. More than two-thirds of the offenders who commit or attempt homicide used alcohol, drugs, or both during the incident; less than one-fourth of the victims did (Sharps et al., 2003).
  • Severe poverty and its associated stressors increase the risk for intimate partner violence—the lower the household income, the higher the reported intimate partner violence rates (Carlson et al., 2000). Moreover, researchers found that reductions in benefits from Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) were associated with an increase in intimate partner homicides (Dugan, Nagin, and Rosenfeld, 2003).
  • Intimate partner violence is linked with unemployment; one study found that intimate partner violence impairs a woman's capacity to find employment (Goodwin, Chandler, and Meisel, 2003). Another study of women who received AFDC benefits found that domestic violence was associated with a general pattern of reduced stability of employment (Meisel, Chandler, and Rienzi, 2003).
  • Women who have experienced serious abuse face overwhelming mental and emotional distress. Almost half of the women reporting serious domestic violence also meet the criteria for major depression; 24 percent suffer from posttraumatic stress disorder, and 31 percent from anxiety (Goodwin, Chandler, and Meisel, 2003).

Block, C.R. "How Can Practitioners Help an Abused Woman Lower Her Risk of Death?" NIJ Journal 250 (November 2003): 4–7, NCJ 196545.

Carlson, B.E., A.P. Worden, M. van Ryn, and R. Bachman. "Violence Against Women: Synthesis of Research for Service Providers." Final report to the National Institute of Justice. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice, 2000, NCJ 199578.

Dugan, L., D.S. Nagin, and R. Rosenfeld. "Do Domestic Violence Services Save Lives?" NIJ Journal 250 (November 2003): 20–25, NCJ 196548.

Goodwin, S.N., S. Chandler, and J. Meisel. "Violence Against Women: The Role of Welfare Reform." Final report to the National Institute of Justice, 2003, NCJ 205792.

Meisel, J., D. Chandler , and B.M. Rienzi. "Domestic Violence Prevalence and Effects on Employment in Two California TANF Populations." Violence Against Women 9(10) (2003): 1191–1212, NCJ 202457.

Moffitt, T.E., and A. Caspi. Findings about Partner Violence from the Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study. Research in Brief. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice, 1999, NCJ 170018.

Sharps, P., J.C. Campbell, D. Campbell, F. Gary, and D. Webster. "Risky Mix: Drinking, Drug Use, and Homicide." NIJ Journal 250 (2003): 8–13, NCJ 196546.

National Institute of Justice, "Causes and Consequences of Intimate Partner Violence," October 24, 2007, nij.ojp.gov:
Date Created: August 15, 2019