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Family Violence (From Handbook of Crime and Punishment, P 178-206, 1998, Michael Tonry, ed. - See NCJ-173306)

NCJ Number
R J Gelles
Date Published
29 pages
Over the past three decades, family and intimate violence has been transformed from an issue obscured by selective inattention to a problem that receives increasing professional, public, and policy attention.
The explosive growth in knowledge and understanding of the various aspects of family violence has produced a wealth of empirical data that show virtually every type of family and intimate relationship has the potential for being violent. An overriding factor that influences the study and consideration of family and intimate violence is the emotional nature of both research and practice. Few other areas of inquiry in the field of criminal justice generate such strong feelings and reactions as do child abuse, child sexual abuse, violence against women, elder abuse, and courtship violence. Even the most extreme case examples fail to adequately capture the devastating physical and psychological consequences of physical abuse at the hands of a loved one or caretaker. The relatively recent emergence of family and intimate violence as an area of study and the fact that the first decade of research was dominated by a psychopathology model of causation resulted in a limited level of theoretical development. Moreover, the emotional nature of family and intimate violence has generated deep and heated controversies over estimates of extent, risk and protective factors, and causal models. Despite controversies and limited theoretical developments, it is clear no one factor can explain the presence or absence of family and intimate violence. Characteristics of the child, parent, partner, family, social situation, community, and society are all related to which family members are abused and under what conditions. Individual and emotional characteristics, psychological characteristics, and community factors such as cultural attitudes about violence are moderated and influenced by family structure and family situations. In addition, power and control are common features of nearly all forms of family and intimate violence. Intervention and prevention efforts need to be focused on the importance of power and control and on family system functioning if family and intimate violence are to be effectively treated and prevented. 114 references, 2 notes, and 2 tables


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