Causes of Domestic Violence
Learned and Reinforced
Most domestic violence is caused by learning and reinforcement rather than by biology or genetics.
Domestic violence behaviors are learned through observation. Studies have found that nearly one half of abusive men grew up in homes where their father or step father was an abuser.
Domestic violence behaviors are learned and reinforced in the family as well as in all of society's major institutions - legal, social, religious, educational, medical and mental health.
Male violence against women in intimate relationships is a social problem condoned and supported by the customs and traditions of a particular society.
Pornographic videos, magazines and websites are learning grounds which teach that women are unworthy of respect and valuable only as sex objects for men.
Music videos and computer games have become an important training source for children and teens. Many of the sex-role messages present men as aggressive males and in control with the value of females restricted to their sexual allure.
Boys often learn they're not responsible for their actions. Aggression in boys is increasingly being treated as a medical problem. Boys are being diagnosed and treated with medications instead of identifying that they have been possibly traumatized and exposed to violence and abuse at home.
Domestic violence is repeated because it works and because there are frequently no legal consequences.
Religious beliefs have often condoned the abuse of women. Religious scriptures from the Bible, the Torah, the Koran, and major Buddhist and Hindu writings instruct women to submit to male domination.
The fact the domestic violence is learned means that the perpetrator's behavior can be changed. Most individuals can learn not to batter if there is sufficient motivation for changing that behavior.
In a very small percentage of domestic violence cases, violence may be caused by organic or psychiatric impairments and is not a part of a pattern of coercive control.
Illness based domestic violence cases (e.g. Alzheimer's disease, Huntington's chorea, etc) are rare, but they have happened. With illness-based violence there is usually no particular victim and there is a constellation of other clear symptoms of the disease.
Domestic violence is not caused by addiction to drugs or alcohol.
Addiction does not cause partner abuse and recovery from addiction does not cure partner abuse.
Partner abuse and substance abuse are two separate problems.
Certain chemicals - anabolic steroids, crack cocaine - can cause violent behavior, but alcohol is not among them.
In the human body, alcohol is actually a depressant, a substance that rarely causes aggression.
Alcohol is an important risk factor for partner abuse. Some theories suggest that alcohol removes the brain's ability to block against aggressive behavior. Therefore, the use of alcohol is relevant to lethality assessment.
Alcohol and drugs are often used as excuses for abuse although research indicates that the continued pattern of domestic violence behaviors are not caused by those particular chemicals.
Interventions must be directed at both the domestic violence and substance abuse.
Domestic violence is not out-of-control behavior. It is, in fact, just the opposite.
Some perpetrators only hit certain parts of the body where bruises won't show.
Domestic violence is not caused by anger. Anger displays are often merely tactics employed by the abuser to intimidate the victim.
Abusers choose times and places to abuse that are designed to have the most powerful impact with the least risk.
Domestic violence is not caused by stress.
Everyone has stress in their lives. People can and do choose a variety of ways to reduce stress.
We would not excuse a robbery or mugging of a stranger simply because the perpetrator was stressed. We cannot excuse the perpetrators of domestic violence who use stress as an excuse.
Domestic violence is not caused by relationship problems.
People can be in distressed relationships without responding with violence.
Blaming the relationship takes the focus off the perpetrator's responsibility for the violence and unintentionally supports the perpetrator's denial, minimization and rationalization of the abuse.