Overview of Domestic Violence Literature and Research

The review of the literature and research over time presents a developmental picture of the issues and understanding of Domestic Violence.

Brian O’Neill

Simple Phase

  • Initially this was a simple process as a Moral/Legal model was used wherein breaking the law became a clear line to define that domestic abuse has occurred.

Complex Phase

  • Further research began to uncover more complex factors summarised as follows –
  • Research design. Meta analysis and literature reviews pointed to significant defects in the earlier research leading to more complex factors to be considered.
  • Types of violence: It became clear that physical violence was only one type of violence and t there were more forms of violence in families which such as emotional, psychological, social and spiritual.
  • Evidence of change and treatment impact.  While one type of violence may have abated (physical) other types may still be continuing – emotional, psychological, social and spiritual. This lead to previous research efficacious in reducing  re-arrest, to be less reliable and not greatly different from the no-treatment populations.
  • Homogenous vs Heterogeneous Populations. Research uncovered a variety of sub types of domestic violence populations as a smaller group of people were re-offending at a higher rate (20% of population responsible for 50% of assaults).
  • Gender. It became apparent that data supported a more complex picture and that female violence was another subtype that needed to be considered particularly in same sex relationships. This work dove tailed with sub-types of Intimate Partner Violence.
  • Standards.  It has become clear that standards have not been determined by research studies of treatment efficacy but by politics and re-cycling of treatment programs which have a popularity.
  • Content, Structure and Process Efficacy. More current research has indicated that the two more rigorously researched programs which showed efficacy were significantly different in style, structure, theoretical ground, content and process. The key element was program completion.
  • Theoretical perspectives. Several studies have presented a meta analysis of these models which show the intersection between the model and how researchers then look at outcomes and interventions.

Profoundly Simple Phase ?  A transtheoretical paradigm,

This has lead to new factors which are seen to be indicators of efficacy in treatment and intervention outcome. In brief they are as follows –

  • Treatment Completion.  Research has indicated the actual completion of the treatment program, whatever the content or structure or theory, has lead to greater efficacy. This has stimulated interventions which have targeted ways to ensure greater treatment completion, such as follow up and phone calls etc.
  • Treatment Matching. This developed out of the research on sub types and treatment resistance which then indicated that certain populations or sub populations as well as different phases of treatment resistance require different interventions.
  • Motivational Interviewing and Working Alliance.  Allied to the above work on treatment matching has been the work to interview participants for their levels of motivation and link this to treatment using Motivational Interviewing.
  • Multi systems Interventions. This presents a research paradigm that moves beyond the more simplistic evaluations of program content, structure and process to also consider the person who will be involved in the program, their level of motivation, and the environment that they are involved.

Brian O’Neill
Practice and Service Innovation
Senior Fellow in Mental Health, University of Wollongong


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