The Origin & Evolution of Domestic Violence

The Origin & Evolution of Domestic Violence

A Complex Social Issue Needing More Robust Programs

Domestic violence is a complicated area of research. The complexity of understanding domestic violence is wrought from cultural misunderstandings and biases concerning this social issue. One of the most prevalent cultural biases concerning domestic violence is the viewpoint that domestic violence is an adult isolated event. This bias creates a system of programs and study that are almost exclusively focused on adult victims. While adult women are the largest population of domestic abuse victims, this cultural bias serves to undermine the understanding of domestic violence from a developmental standpoint. Most adult victims of domestic violence were victimized as teens by intimate partners. Understanding origin and evolution of domestic abuse allows for the development of more effective programs and interventions from human service professionals.

Violence in Youth

Domestic violence in youth is an understudied social issue as denoted by the lack of literature (CDC, 2017). The current literature suggests domestic violence begins at early ages and maintains specific defining characteristics that should be studied, identified, and treated. (Hickman & Lisa, 2004) There are consistent demographics that show youth at-risk of domestic violence and this is a fact that is reflected in the literature despite lack of scientific study into causes and development of violent partner behavior in adolescents and teens (Vagi, Olsen, Basile, & Vivolo-Kantor, 2015). Many of these statistics are derived from law enforcement data taken from crime and reporting:

Supplementary Homicide Reports about 10% of all 12- to- 15-year-old girls, and 22% of all 16- to 19-year-old girls, murdered between 1993 and 1999 were killed by an intimate partner (Hickman & Lisa, 2004).

This large number of victims provides evidence that intimate partner violence begins early and follows developmental lines. This early origin of domestic violence is an area of study that is pointed to in the results of many studies of violent offenders and victims. For example, studies of witnessing domestic violence and its impact on developing children is a common theme that can be traced back to the early part of the 19th (Dryden-Edwards & Stöppler, 2013).

Studies of children raised in environments and experience or witness domestic violence are highly likely to learn or develop a belief that violence is an acceptable means for resolving conflict (Dryden-Edwards & Stöppler, 2013). This risk is 40% higher in cases of children witnessing domestic violence (Vagi, Olsen, Basile, & Vivolo-Kantor, 2015) This learned behavior shows that early intervention research is needed because the partner violence begins developing in the initial years of dating.

Studies of crime data also yield that twenty percent of 13–14-year-olds reported being harmed by a partner (Liz Claiborne Inc, 2008). Typically, these children were girls reporting violence of boyfriends or friends. Statistics that show the early origins of domestic violence also indicate an emerging pattern of abuse.

Emerging Patterns of Abuse

As the aforementioned statistics indicate, early domestic abuse begins as early 12 and this is the first stage of the emerging victimization. In keeping with a patter or cycle of abuse, victims often experience abuse through high school and even into college. College campuses are rife with sexual assaults that occur at almost every college (Shapiro, 2014). While prior abuse victims are at the highest risk another mitigating factor is alcohol. In fact, alcohol and substance abuse is the leading risk factor for sexual assault being prevalent in almost 85% of cases of both college sexual assault and domestic violence (NIJ, 2008) (Dryden-Edwards & Stöppler, 2013). As a serious factor with domestic violence, alcohol and substance abuse complicates the reporting and identification of intimate partner violence. When adolescents and young adults are drunk, they are less likely to report a sexual assault (Hickman & Lisa, 2004). In a largescale survey conducted by the National Institute of Justice, participants asked if they experienced unwanted sexual contact while under the influence or incapacitated by alcohol or drugs stated:

…the incapacitated group, 50 percent said they did not report the incident because they felt partially or fully responsible for what happened, 29 percent said they did not report the incident to the police because they did not want anyone to know, and 31 percent said they did not remember or know what really happened. Survey participants could offer more than one reason (NIJ, 2008).

Despite the importance of alcohol as a large contributing factor, substance abuse alone does not explain the high rates of intimate partner violence on college campuses. The rates of intimate partner violence on college campuses are six times the national average which shows that other factors are at work. (Sinozich & Langton, 2014). Another factor at work which increases rates of intimate partner violence and domestic abuse are cultural patterns (NIJ, 2008).

Complicating Factors

Intimate partner violence is entrenched in cultural, environmental, personal, and family factors (Hickman & Lisa, 2004). Culture is one of the most significant factors that promotes and allows intimate partner violence to continue. The evidence for this factor can be seen clearly in college sexual assault violence which is directly linked with misogynistic culture that promotes and often rewards violence and abuse of women (Yoffe, 2015). Simply speaking, universities and colleges downplay sexual assault, rape, and intimate partner violence in order to maintain their public image (Yoffe, 2015) (NIJ, 2008). Often these crimes involve students who are members of sports teams or fraternities and college leadership is hesitant to take action against their largest funding sources (Yoffe, 2015). This creates a culture of rape and violence because there is little consequence for these students.

The culture of violence promotes continued violence towards victims into adulthood. Statistically, this point is clear as the prevalence of intimate partner violence in the US diminished tremendously between 1993 by 63% while college rape, sexual assault, and intimate partner violence grew by 49% between the years of 2008 and 2012 (RAINN, 2017) (Shapiro, 2014). National decreases in intimate partner violence were attributed to increased attention from police investigations as well as increased prosecution and stiffer penalties for offenders (RAINN, 2017). These statistics are likely to be underreporting the actual number of incidents of intimate partner violence. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics the crimes of rape and assault are often unreported 80% of the time (Sinozich & Langton, 2014). Again, this underreporting is the fault of culture which admonishes the victim and rewards the offender (Yoffe, 2015).

The problem of culture extends beyond college and young adults find themselves continuing in a pattern of intimate partner violence that started for some as early as 12 years of age. There are many cultural risk factors that might cause this pattern to unfold such as religion which in the case of fundamental religious groups domestic violence is almost 80% higher than in nonfundamental religious groups (Dryden-Edwards & Stöppler, 2013). There are many risk factors such as substance abuse, economic status, religion, and education (Dryden-Edwards & Stöppler, 2013).

Another factor pertaining to culture is the fact that most teen violence in relationships is not taken seriously despite being a precursor to more serious problems (Liz Claiborne Inc, 2008). Parents and teens themselves often view violent incidents as one-time-events which open the door to patterning violence into adulthood (Vagi, Olsen, Basile, & Vivolo-Kantor, 2015). If these incidents were recognized properly, interventions could be used to avoid future issues.

These factors need to diagnostically be standardized for the purpose of problem identification and intervention design. Cultural factors are difficult to identify but when viewing the statistics certain factors can be highlighted. For example, teen survivors of abuse and violence are 85% more likely to become involved in abusive relationships (Hickman & Lisa, 2004). This research is backed by other studies of violent offenders and victims, and along with being abused, witnessing domestic violence also elevated the risk of becoming victims (Hickman & Lisa, 2004). Twenty percent of 13–14-year old’s also reported being harmed by a partner (Liz Claiborne Inc, 2008).

These statistics provide compelling evidence to support programs aimed at adolescent victims of intimate partner abuse both for prevention and tertiary interventions. To cut through cultural bias, the authors suggest diagnostic methods need to be developed for adolescent intimate partner abuse as well as creating adolescent focused programs. Currently, there is a lack of standardized diagnostic approaches as well as a lack of programs and interventions for teen intimate partner violence (Hickman & Lisa, 2004).

Lack of Diagnostic Methods

Current diagnostic methods used for intimate partner violence are inadequate for teens and young adults. There is a lack of standardized approaches for identifying and diagnosing partner violence in teens and young adults as well as inadequate programs for intervention. Many of the programs currently being used for teen and young adult violence have never been studied or evaluated for efficacy (Hickman & Lisa, 2004). Additionally, a lack of standard methodology in the identification or risk modeling for teen partner violence exasperates the problem of proper intervention (Vagi, Olsen, Basile, & Vivolo-Kantor, 2015). Intimate partner violence in youth is often viewed and dealt with from law enforcement rather than as a social issue which dismisses the view that there is a developing pattern of violence (Vagi, Olsen, Basile, & Vivolo-Kantor, 2015). This presents a large area of ignorance when dealing with this problem from a human services standpoint.

Ineffective Prevention

The reason that current prevention methods are ineffective when dealing with intimate partner violence in youth is due to the fact that the problem is not seen until later in adulthood despite violence often occurring as early as 11 years old in many cases (Vagi, Olsen, Basile, & Vivolo-Kantor, 2015). The systemic issue is likely to have begun earlier and this means that preventative measures are often delivered too late (Dryden-Edwards & Stöppler, 2013). According to the CDC, most prevention is aimed at identifying risk factors:

· Symptoms of depression and anxiety
· Engagement in unhealthy behaviors, such as tobacco and drug use, and alcohol
· Involvement in antisocial behaviors · Thoughts about suicide (CDC, 2017)

These risk factors may help identify the problem in adults, but it may not properly show the risks for teens. As well, most of these risks occur after the abuse occurs.


Partner and domestic violence begin early and has roots in cultural, environmental, personal, and family experiences. The problem of partner violence is likely to be an escalating problem that does not become overt until the adolescent and even adult years. This problem is likely due to the fact that tween and adolescent violence is not taken seriously or is not seen as a precursor to more serious problems until it is too late. Study in this area is needed in order to identify in the pre-tween years the propensity and risk factors for violence. These factors should be standardized in order to identify the problem and create early interventions.

Currently, teen prevention methods are ineffective at reducing partner violence. Because intimate partner violence can begin as early as 11 years of age, most programs are preventative rather than offering tertiary assistance (Hickman & Lisa, 2004). This research should be used to describe the need for new methods, increased research, and ongoing research in human services to remove culturally biased programs and serve better victims of teen intimate partner violence.


CDC. (2017). Teen Dating Violence. (CDC, Producer) Retrieved from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

Dryden-Edwards, R., & Stöppler, M. C. (2013). Domestic violence: Causes. Retrieved from Medicinenet:

Hickman, L. J., & Lisa, J. H. (2004, April). Dating violence among adolescents: Prefalence, gender distribution, and prevention program effectiveness. Trauma, Violence, & Abuse, 5(2), 123–142.

Liz Claiborne Inc. (2008). Tween and teen dating violence and abuse study. The National Doemstic Violence Hotline. Liz Claiborne Inc.

NIJ. (2008). Seuxal assault on college campuses . Retrieved from National Institute of Justice:

RAINN. (2017). Sexual Violence has fallen by more than half since 1993. Retrieved from RAINN:

Shapiro, J. (2014, April 30). Campus Rape Reports Are Up, And Assaults Aren’t The Only Reason. Retrieved from National Public Radio:

Sinozich, S., & Langton, L. (2014, December 11). Rape And Sexual Assault Among College-Age Females, 1995–2013. Bureau of Justice Statistics.

Vagi, K. J., Olsen, E. O., Basile, K. C., & Vivolo-Kantor, A. M. (2015). Teen dating violence (physical and sexual) among US high school students: Findings from the 2013 National Youth Risk Behavior Survey. . JAMA Pediatrics, 169, 474–482.

Yoffe, E. (2015, February 27). The Hunting Ground. Retrieved from Slate:

Photo by M. on Unsplash


Triola Vincent. Mon, Mar 01, 2021. The Origin & Evolution of Domestic Violence Retrieved from

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