Domestic violence is a common name for a variety of spousal and parental violent behaviors that have an extremely negative psychological and social influence upon the familial and filial relations. The abusive behavior of perpetrators of domestic violence is often accompanied with other forms of discrimination, and generally underpins the latter’s different forms. Domestic violence may come in both physical and emotional varieties, and often results in the perpetration of inequality between partners, parents and children. Therefore it is necessary to examine its causes in more depth.

An exact explanation of the causes of domestic violence depends on the approach selected by the researcher. According to McCue, following theoretical explanations for the phenomenon may be offered: psychopathological (batterers are prone to personality disorders that lead them to indulge in abusive behaviors); social learning (abusive behavior is stipulated by the adverse childhood experiences); biological (propensity for battering is conditioned by hereditary and other biological factors); family systems approach (abusive relationships are caused by the specific structure of the family); and feminist approach (domestic violence is conditioned by the structural effects of patriarchal system that creates favorable conditions for abuse and violence against women and children) All of these theories offer different practical solutions to the problem of domestic violence (McCue 12).

The psychopathological theory of domestic violence posits that battering men are typically subject to some serious mental problems and could therefore be cured of their habits in the course of relevant medical and/or psychiatric treatment. Even though this theory was increasingly under doubt in the 1970s to 1980s, it has experienced something of a revival in the mid-1990s, which may be explained by the growing evidence of correlation between psychological disorders and tendency for domestic violence (McCue 12). The existence of antisocial personality disorders in battering men was documented by several relevant studies, and in general it may be inferred that a specific type of abusive personality exists, which is coupled with the tendency to project one’s rage and sense of anxiety against one’s family members (Dutton and Bodnarchuk). The sense of alienation generated by these impulses leads to aggravation of further violent tendencies and exacerbates the problem.

Another important explanation for domestic violence phenomena is a social learning theory. The proponents whereof argue that tpatterns of battering are invariably connected with personal childhood experiences in abusive families, which then become the main reason for reproduction of such relationships in victims/perpetrators’ new families. Despite its superficial appeal, this theory is not generally propped up by any significant findings, and it appears to have lost its previous significance (McCue 14).

The biological theory of domestic violence focuses on the impact of hereditary traits, brain traumas, etc. and may be viewed as a continuation of psychopathological theory. Still, the research results in this area are inconclusive/incomplete, and even though it may be concluded that in general men with higher level of battering incidents have a higher level of brain injury, exact connection between brain deficiencies and propensity for domestic violence is unclear.

The family systems theory views domestic violence incidents as dependent variables situated in the context of a dynamic environment involving an interaction between behavioral acts of family members. The communicative feedback between different subjects of family environment determines further development of the family system in general. That is, the domestic violence risk is conceptualized as being dependent on the response of victims as well. Such approach may be rather objectionable due to its blame-sharing implications, but it is worth examining as well.

 The feminist theory of domestic abuse is built on the premises of the existential determination of abusive relations by the system of patriarchy which invariably puts women in subordinate positions. According to such approach, patriarchy assigns to male partner a role of strong and authoritarian family leader, while female partner is relegated to  secondary, subordinate role. Consequently, structural inequality caused by such relationships must be underpinned by the periodic exercise of force on the part of the dominant party, and domestic violence is the most often encountered form of male authority. The prevention of domestic violence is thus premised on the destruction of the system of patriarchy in general.

The positive aspect of this theory lies in its conceptualization of structural inequality as a factor in the growth of domestic violence tendencies. Its implications involve the necessity of transformation of dominant family relations system as perpetrating gender hierarchy, while feminists’ attention to the gender roles problems enables them to analyze deeper socio-psychological conditions of patriarchal society. Nevertheless, the feminist analysis of social dimensions of domestic violence is necessarily partial, as it tends to ignore socioeconomic and psychological factors outside of the gender relations sphere.

Therefore it should be concluded that all the theories presented herein are by themselves unable to explicate causes of domestic violence. A synthesis of these approaches may prove fruitful, but it is unclear how it may be brought about. At this stage of analysis, it may be claimed that domestic violence is caused by the variety of social and biological factors of character often overlapping with each other.

When dealing with the effects of domestic violence, one should bear in mind that its impact is manifold and not limited to one or another field of social life. According to Marcelino, each year the costs of domestic violence in the USA (measured in the amount of the victims of physical domestic abuse assistance) are equal to around $2 billion (101). However, such measurements do not take into account indirect costs of domestic violence (i.e. those connected with thelabor time and productivity lost ), which may be estimated at $3 to $5 billion (Marcellino 101).

Effects of domestic abuse on psychological health of its victims are hardly calculable in cash. Nonetheless, their implications are perfectly tangible. According to the data cited by Marcellino, abused women most often report anxiety and fear responses, while depression is a rather widespread consequence of the emotional stress endured by abuse victims (102). Other adverse effects of domestic violence include posttraumatic stress syndromes such as eating problems, exaggerated startle responses, irritability, headaches, chronic illnesses, etc. (Marcellino 102). Of special concern is the domestic abuse’s impact on female reproductive health, as the experience of battering may have extremely negative consequences in this regard. Chronic pain and physical disability may complicate the chances of problem-less pregnancy and have highly negative influence upon women’s capacity for motherhood.

 In general, the causes and effects of domestic violence are extremely complicated and cannot be put down to a list of simple factors. Nonetheless, some conclusions can be made.

Firstly, socio-biological factors likely play concomitant role in the development of domestic violence tendencies. This makes its prevention and combating especially complicated.

Secondly, various effects of domestic violence are closely connected, as the factors conditioning them are interrelated as well. This necessitates the development of complex system of domestic abuse prevention. 



Marcellino, Joan Humberto. Domestic Violence: A Gender Issue? Durham, CT: Eloquent Books, 2009. Print.

McCue, Margi Laird. Domestic Violence. 2nd ed. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2008. Print. 

Domestic Violence(116524)Credit: Black & Missing Foundation, Inc., 2012
Credit: Black & Missing Foundation, Inc., 2012