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Socioeconomic Disadvantage Increases Risk of Partner Violence for Women


Intimate partner violence (IPV) takes many forms, including physical violence, emotional abuse, and sexual violence. Research into IPV has explored a variety of factors that influence risk for IPV. It has been theorized that individuals from lower socioeconomic communities may be at greater risk for IPV because of increased exposure to risky behaviors such as drug and alcohol use, aggression, and violence. Although most of the efforts aimed at reducing IPV are targeted toward women, many men are victims of IPV as well. The rates of female perpetrated IPV are much lower than male perpetrated IPV; these numbers could be inaccurate because men may be hesitant to report IPV if they perceive a stigma associated with it. However, it is important to know what risks exist for men and women with respect to different types of IPV in order to maximize intervention efforts.

Hind Khalifeh of the Department of Mental Health Science at the University College London in the U.K. recently led a study that examined data from the British Crime Survey. This survey contains information about IPV, as well as socioeconomic and demographic data. Khalifeh studied the data from over 21,000 adult men and women and assessed how social climate, social deprivation, and economic disadvantage affected emotional, sexual, and physical IPV. The results revealed that over 23% of the women reported lifetime IPV while only 12% of the men did. Women had double the risk for physical IPV and slightly 1% higher risk of emotional IPV than men. IPV was associated with low income housing, lower level of education, social deprivation, and lower incomes for women. But Khalifeh did not find a relationship between social deprivation and emotional victimization for men or women in this study.

Khalifeh believes that these findings demonstrate a link between social limitations and IPV for women. Those with a history of abuse were more likely to live in disadvantaged communities and experience more severe forms of IPV over time. Even though those with low incomes were more likely to experience IPV than those with higher incomes, Khalifeh does not believe that increasing a woman’s financial security or empowering her to be more financially independent is the answer. Many men feel threatened by financially independent women and this could serve to increase the risk of IPV for these women. Khalifeh believes the answer lies in inequality itself, not just income inequality. Khalifeh added, “Tackling domestic violence may therefore require political and socioeconomic measures that tackle inequality in society as a whole.”

Khalifeh, Hind, James Hargreaves, Louise M. Howard, and Isolde Birdthistle. (2013). Intimate partner violence and socioeconomic deprivation in England: Findings from a national cross-sectional survey. American Journal of Public Health 103.3: 462-72. Web.

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  • RE March 26th, 2013 at 11:52 PM #1

    To say domestic violence is present only in poorer neighborhoods would be a gross understatement! It thrives in all strata of society and just because it isn’t reported does not mean its absent in certain circles!

  • rochelle w March 27th, 2013 at 3:55 AM #2

    All of this is such a cycle. These are the kinds of homes that these people were raised in and therefore this is the only kind of behavior that they now know how to exhibit toward another It does not matter how much you love someone if you don’t then know how to treat them with that same love and respect. I don’t know if how much money you have or do not have plays a really strong role in all of this because I have never been in that type of deprived environment. What I do know is that all of these things often create another. There is violence in the home, there is a lack of substantial income, there is a lack of education and then it starts all over again with the next generation.

  • cade March 27th, 2013 at 11:48 PM #3

    anyone else agree this happens because women in these communities are either unaware of their rights or are unable to stand up for their rights? because I think that is exactly what happens. nobody wants to suffer from any form of violence, whatever community he or she belongs to. but when someone is unable to get away from it they go through it. and go through it they have to. because really they have no choice, or at least they think so!

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