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Domestic Violence: Psychological Abuse - Research Proposal Example

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The purpose of this study is to determine the correlation between the level of non-physical forms of abuse in order to take preventive measures to deter domestic violence. With the increasing incidences of physical abuse in the UnS, it is important to develop ways to deter domestic violence.  …
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Domestic Violence: Psychological Abuse
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Domestic violence, defined as a pattern of abusive behaviors within the intimate relationships of marriage, dating, family, or cohabitation, has been one of the most widely discussed topics in the contemporary world. It can also be referred to as domestic abuse, spousal abuse, child abuse, or intimate partner violence (IPV). Normally, domestic violence includes various types of physical and mental cruelty, ranging from a slap or shove, to a punch or kick, and to the more extreme manifestations of violence such as suffocation, strangulation, attempted murder, and murder. Significantly, the behavior that is generally known as domestic violence can take on various aspects such as physical assault, sexual abuse, and psychological abuse. To say that domestic violence is a means of achieving domination and control would mean that the perpetrators will employ other methods in addition to threats of physical or sexual assault to ensure of the subjugation of their victims. Psychological abuse is the most essential form of this type of subjugation. According to Deborah Lockton and Richard Ward (1997: 7), domestic violence “can be physical assault, sexual abuse, threats of either, or psychological abuse... It is not confined to any one socio-economic group/strata nor can it be said that it is caused by any one factor. Furthermore, its practice is extensive. It is necessary to look at some of the manifestations of violence within what should be a loving relationship, to fully understand the horror to which victims are subjected, and the need for adequate protection to be provided by civil and criminal justice systems.” It is significant to note that domestic violence is widespread in the United States and its effects can be long-lasting and life-threatening. Therefore, because it is essential to break the pattern of domestic violence through courageous efforts, certain information must become known. Consequently, deliberate planning, a strong support network, the research proposal this project undertakes, and qualitative analysis of the various forms of domestic violence can find an effective method to deal with the issues relating to domestic violence—psychological abuse.
Problem Statement:
Why are the non-physical forms of abuse such as browbeating/intimidation, yelling or screaming, the silent treatment, and other forms of non-contact violence often overlooked until the spouse is injured or killed in domestic violence altercations? The severity of the precipitators generated from the psychological abuse that eventually leads to domestic violence will determine how this quandary can be understood and subsequently changed.
The cause and effect variables for this research proposal may be defined with domestic violence as the independent variable and psychological abuse the dependent variable. These terms will define the cause-effect relationship of this research proposal paper.
Due to the lack of convention and ambiguities concerning the terms used in this research proposal, it is incumbent to include a definitions section.
“Critical review of the current literature on domestic violence and abuse reveals that the terminology used to describe psychological and emotional abuse varies from writer to writer. Terms such as psychological abuse, psychological maltreatment, verbal abuse, mental abuse, emotional abuse or maltreatment, and ‘psychological violence’ are commonly used interchangeably. While some writers use these terms synonymously to refer to nonphysical forms of abuse, others may make distinctions between them. Psychological and emotional abuse, which may include behaviors such as name-calling, verbal yelling, coercive and controlling tactics either in the presence or absence of physical abuse, are sometimes differentiated from ‘psychological violence’ which occurs only in association with physical violence, thereby carrying an implied threat of physical violence and the associated power to intimidate or control other person.the terms psychological and emotional abuse are used interchangeably” ( O’Leary & Maiuro, 2001: preface x)…Psychological aggression generally precedes physical aggression…The evidence shows that psychological aggression predicts later physical aggression, and both are associated with deterioration in relationships” (id, 22-23).
Background and Literature Review:
Domestic violence has been one of the most widely researched topics in sociology and family psychology and there have been enlightening studies that deal with specific forms and means of domestic violence. This literature review summarizes five relevant research projects in relation to domestic violence, focusing on an analysis of their usefulness, flaws, and strengths. One of the major books written on this research topic is Psychological Abuse in Violent Domestic Relationships (2001) by K. Daniel O’Leary and Roland D. Maiuro, which will be quoted in this research proposal. This proposal will review literature specific to domestic violence and psychological abuse. The five essential research projects analyzed in this review include:
1) “Recognizing Domestic Partner Abuse”
2) “Lethality Assessment Tools: A Critical Analysis”
3) “Bureau of Justice Family Violence Statistics”
4) “Intimate Partner Violence”
5) “Domestic Violence and Mental Health”
The article “Recognizing Domestic Partner Abuse” (2006) offers an exclusive and useful discussion of domestic partner abuse, information on the various signs of this type of abuse, intimate partner violence as a health issue, and ways to resolve the issue. Domestic violence, battery, intimate partner violence, etc., are terms indicating a phenomenon which is highly prevalent in the United States, and it is defined by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services as a pattern of assaultive behaviors which may be used against intimate partners to achieve power and control within that relationship. According to the article, every form of domestic violence, which includes physical and sexual abuse, and the emotional maltreatment existent in psychological abuse, has serious health consequences. “Domestic violence affects people of all ethnic backgrounds; it occurs among the poor and the rich and among the well educated and the poorly educated. Men are usually (though not always) the abusers, and women are usually on the receiving end. In the United States, a woman’s lifetime risk of being a victim of such violence is 25%. Women who were abused as children are at an increased risk of being in an abusive relationship as an adult” (, 2006: 6). The article also provides a convincing description of how to identify domestic partner abuse through first signs and maintains that the issue of control and power through fear and intimidation are at the center of domestic violence. Here, the kind of abuse normally does not involve physical harm, but rather psychological abuse. The article also suggests that intimate partner abuse has essential effects on the physical as well as mental health of the victim. “Walking away from an abusive relationship is a process more than a single action… Isolation and fear may prevent a woman from leaving, even when she knows it is probably for the best. Community support can be crucial, although a woman in an abusive relationship often has difficulty taking advantage of that support” (, 2006: 6).
Neil Websdale’s “Lethality Assessment Tools: A Critical Analysis” offers an important review of the lethality assessment tools and apposite research into domestic homicide. According to Websdale, a critique of the lethality assessment tools confirms that these instruments are more useful as a means of identifying future dangerousness rather than precisely predicting lethal outcomes. It is essential to comprehend that violence against women is much more pervasive, injurious, and lethal than official statistics report, and, as such, lethality assessment tools can be effective in determining the various means of abuses against women. “Research into domestic homicides typically reveals these to be crimes of cumulation in which men’s violence and women’s entrapment seems to intensify over time. The absolute distinction between lethal and non-lethal cases is a false dichotomy; rather there is a range or continuum of violence and entrapment that corroborates abusive intimate relationships. Indeed, it would be far more appropriate and useful to employ the term “dangerousness” rather than “lethality” assessment. (Websdale, 2000: 1). Therefore, the study by Websdale provides an important critical evaluation of lethality assessments in domestic violence cases based on a research review of the content of lethality assessment tools and domestic homicides.
“Family Violence Statistics: Including Statistics on Strangers and Acquaintances” (2005) is another essential and extensive report of family violence statistics in which the authors provide convincing evidence to indicate the depth of the issue. The statistics incorporated in the report include reported and unreported family violence, the murder of family members, family violence reported to police, state prosecution of family assault, federal prosecution of domestic violence, family violence offenders in prison, and family violence offenders in jail. The authors provide the most recent family violence statistics from sources including surveys conducted by the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), the BJS database of Federal statistics, and two statistical databases maintained by the FBI. “The sources provide statistical snapshots of family violence at different stages in the administration of justice. First, are statistics on the nature and extent of family violence. Next are statistics on family violence that is reported to police, followed by statistics on the prosecution of persons charged with family violence. Lastly are statistics on persons sent to prison or jail for family violence” (Durose, et al., 2005: 1). Analyzing the trends in family violence, the authors claim that the rate of family violence has fallen between 1993 and 2002 from an estimated 5.4 victims to 2.1 victims per 1,000 U.S. residents. Therefore, the statistics, as well as the interpretations provided by the authors, have great significance in realizing the immensity of domestic violence and the growth of this issue in contemporary America.
Another essential study of domestic violence is “Intimate Partner Violence” by Callie Marie Rennison Ph.D. and Sarah Welchans (2000) in which the authors provide credible estimates to prove that crimes of intimate partner violence are committed primarily against women. According to the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS), about 1 million violent crimes were committed against persons by their current or former spouses, boyfriends, or girlfriends in 1998, and most of them were against women. “About 85% of victimizations by intimate partners in 1998, about 876,340, were against women. Intimate partner violence made up 22% of violent crime against women between 1993 and 1998. By contrast, during this period intimate partners committed 3% of the violence against men.” (Rennison, Ph.D. & Welchans, 2000).
“Domestic Violence and Mental Health” (2002) is another article that maintains that domestic violence causes considerable emotional pain and mental health issues in women. Based on reflective analysis of the literature published on the topic, this article establishes that women who endure constant abuse normally diminish in mental health conditions and develop symptoms of depression. “In general, studies on domestic violence and mental health are designed to measure particular constellations of symptoms that meet criteria for psychiatric diagnoses, rather than the psychological impact of experiencing abuse and betrayal by an intimate partner or the developmental influence of prolonged exposure to abuse by a caretaker in childhood” (, 2008). According to presently available data, women who are victims of abuse by a partner are at increased risk for developing certain mental health problems such as depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. Therefore, the article is highly relevant to understanding in detail the issues of domestic violence.
Proposed Solution:
Proposed Solution Statement:
Evidence and testimonials of psychological abuse are collectively needed and essential for validated results. By surveying and interviewing victims of domestic violence and/or psychological abuse at shelters for women or hospitals, and by using questionnaires pre- and post-incident, intellectual reasoning could be ascertained with executable solutions offered upon completion of research and subsequent analysis. Why can’t this cycle of violence and abuse be discontinued or reduced? Are there multiple reasons for the victim not being able to terminate the abusive relationship? Four theories that can offer some relevant information on these cause-effect relationships can be found within the following: “Michael Strube (1988), in his influential critique and review, identified four theories (learned helplessness, psychological entrapment, investment model, and reasoned action/planned behavior) that may explain the process of terminating violent relationships (Rhatigan, Street & Axsom, 2006). This research proposal will concentrate on psychological entrapment as the theory to be interrogated, and results of questions and interviews with victims will focus on this theory. “Strube, psychological entrapment (Brockner & Rubin, 1985), suggests that women escalate their commitment to abusive relationships, even as abuse continues, in order to justify prior attempts to make the relationship work” (Id). Could this be a major factor explaining why abused women return to their abuser and continue the often violent relationship? Or can the following bring understanding to a complex problem and explain the underlying etiology of why women return to abusive relationships?
“Psychological entrapment provides a unique, cognitive dissonance-based understanding of victimized women's relationship termination decisions. That is, it is thought that victimized women likely experience tension and conflict in response to the lack of consistency between their thoughts (i.e., “He's violent and I don't deserve this”) and their behavior (i.e., remaining in the relationship). To resolve or reduce this dissonance, the theory states that women will minimize the negative effects of their partners' violence or overemphasize their contributions to the relationship. They will, in effect, find ways to justify their decision to remain involved with violent partners” (Ibid).
Research Methods:
Bachman & Schutt (2007: 19) posits that qualitative methods such as participant observation, intensive interviewing…are designed to capture social life…qualitative methods using the Intensive interviewing method is…”A qualitative method that involves open-ended, relatively unstructured questioning in which the interviewer seeks in-depth information on the interviewees' feelings, experiences, and perceptions” (Lofland & Lofland 1984: 12 and Bachmann & Schutt, 2007: 258). Because this research will be conducted with victims of domestic violence and psychological abuse, the subject’s well-being will be considered a primary concern. Therefore, the results will be considered confidential and the identity of each participant will be closely guarded. There should be no ethical concerns as each participant will be informed of the research design parameters. There are other types of research methods that could be considered for this research project, including longitudinal research design and a repeated cross-sectional design.
“In a longitudinal study of the etiology of partner violence, Murphy and O’Leary (1989) found that psychological aggression was a precursor of physical aggression in young couples” (O’Leary & Maiuro, 2001: 13) The length of time (requiring two or more sampling points in time) necessary for research of this type and the cost prohibitory factor will not be conducive to this project. A repeated cross-sectional design requires what would be the equivalent of two separate studies, and therefore would not be conducive to this research proposal because of cost considerations coupled with time constraints. Therefore, the research design selected for this research proposal will be a Qualitative Exploratory Design Model that will focus on personal intake/interview methods. Dantzker & Hunter (2000: 75) indicates that qualitative research is defined as the non-numerical examination and interpretation of observations, patterns, and meanings of relationships. This design also includes preliminary research, information gathering, and will identify what to focus on specifically to obtain the most dependable results. This design will explore the “what, why & how” factors. “Exploratory research provides information not previously known, or about which little is known. In other words, it seeks out information about something that is known to exist, but as to the why or how, that must be answered. Therefore, exploratory research offers additional insight into something for which there is awareness but limited knowledge” (Dantzker & Hunter, 2000: 44).
Sampling Plan:
The sampling plan selected for this research proposal will be Probability Sampling.
“The general goal when choosing a sample is to obtain one that is representative of the target population. By being representative, the results can be said to be applicable to the whole population and would be similar no matter how many different samples were surveyed. Representation requires that every member in the population or the sampling frame have an equal chance of being selected for the sample. This is a probability sample. Four types of probability samples exist simple random, stratified random, systematic, and cluster” (Dantzker & Hunter, 2000: 138).
The Probability Sampling Type will be; Simple Random:
An un-stratified and gender-specific simple random sample is the choice for this research proposal. “A random sample is one which all members of a given population had the same chances of being selected. Furthermore, the selection of each member must be independent of the selection of any other members” (Dantzker & Hunter, 2000: 67). In using this type of sampling plan the researcher must list completely every participant of the sampling frame. The people in the sample frame will all be accessible and available because of the nature of the location (abuse shelter). All possible elements/participants will be selected from abuse shelters (or other havens of refuge), they will be cataloged by name, and a computer-generated random number table will assign numbers to each element. To select numbers randomly, the ‘Random Number Generator for Microsoft Excel®’ that can be integrated into the Excel format specifically for this project will be used. The elements will be listed in Excel by name, and a number will be assigned according to alphabetical entry. The relative ease and cost of this type of sampling plan make it desirable for simplicity. Weaknesses may be found in the construct of the program and required software knowledge to fully integrate and apply sampling method. Moreover, it may not always achieve the best representation of the general population.
However, I could also use Stratified Random Sampling as a probability method. This would be stratified by ethnicity using current battered women now in a city-provided shelter. A stratified sample can provide greater precision than a simple random sample of the same size. These types of samples are easier to collect, require less time, can be cost-effective, and need no prior information as the necessary information will be gathered in the stratified sample (Bachman, Schutt, 2007: 117). Weaknesses could reside in denials of true facts; certain sampled elements may not be reported truthfully due to fear of retaliation if they return home and their spouse/domestic partner finds out about their participation. However, the sampler can control some elements to some extent by checking for reputation with the shelter staff for the veracity of element.
A reflective analysis of the various studies on domestic violence indicates that the issue of psychological abuse in domestic violence is increasing at an alarming rate, so it is essential to develop effective measures to find a deterrent (s). It is a highly prevalent phenomenon in the United States and its effects can be long-lasting and life-threatening: “In the United States, a woman’s lifetime risk of being a victim of such violence is
25 %” (, 2006: 6). It is only through courageous efforts, planning, and a support network, that the pattern of psychological abuse in/and domestic violence can be effectively changed. Researchers in this area must concentrate on establishing this issue and finding effective methods to deal with the domestic violence and psychological abuse problem affecting the societal norms.     Read More
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