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Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in Victims of Domestic Violence: A Review of the Research

NCJ Number
Trauma, Violence, and Abuse Volume: 2 Issue: 2 Dated: April 2001 Pages: 99-119
Loring Jones; Margaret Hughes; Ulrike Unterstaller
Date Published
April 2001
21 pages
This study reviewed the literature on studies of battered women to determine the correlation of domestic violence with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), the best treatment strategies for PTSD, and the evidence of PTSD treatment effectiveness with battered women.
The available research found that the symptoms exhibited by battered women were consistent with the major indicators of PTSD as currently defined by the DSM-IV. A consistent finding across varied samples was that a substantial proportion of victimized women (31 percent to 84 percent) exhibited PTSD symptoms. Studies also found that the domestic violence shelter population were at a higher risk for PTSD than victimized women who had not been in shelters. Having multiple victimization experiences (childhood abuse, particularly sexual abuse, and adult sexual abuse) increased the likelihood of PTSD and many other types of psychiatric disorders. The extent, severity, and type of abuse were associated with the intensity of PTSD. Other forms of emotional distress that accompanied PTSD, particularly depression and dysthymia, were noted among domestic violence victims. Suicide was a risk among domestic violence victims who exhibited PTSD symptoms, suggesting that PTSD may mediate the link between partner abuse and suicidal ideation. Substance abuse was reported in a high percentage of victimized women. In addition to PTSD, depression, and substance abuse, other mental health problems were noted in victimized women. The empirical evidence suggests that younger, unemployed women with a relatively large number of children, low income, and low levels of social support were more at risk for experiencing PTSD symptoms and other mental health problems than women without these characteristics. Implications were drawn for practice, policy, and research. 76 references and 5 suggested readings