Differences in Social Network Structure and Support Among Women in Violent Relationships

David Katerndahl, Sandra Burge, Robert Ferrer, Johanna Becho, Robert Wood

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

59 Scopus citations


Social support is critical for women in abusive relationships. While social support may decrease the risk of getting into a violent relationship, it can also allow battered women to remain in violent relationships by reducing the negative impact of intimate partner violence (IPV). In addition to the social isolation that women in abusive relationships may experience, her social contacts appear to be important. The purpose of this study was to compare the size, structure, and composition of the social networks of women in abusive relationships with those of a matched cohort of nonabused women. The authors enrolled women from primary care clinics who reported abuse within the prior month, and a demographically matched comparison group of women in nonabusive relationships. Participants completed a social network analysis, and investigators compared social networks of abused with nonabused women. The networks of women in abusive relationships were smaller in size, but more efficient in their ability to reach their members, than those of nonabused women. Proportionally, networks of abused women had more women but fewer in-laws than those of comparison women. The women in these abusive relationships had higher measures of centrality, suggesting that they were more critical in holding their networks together. Yet, they had fewer social contacts, and provided more support than they received with fewer reciprocated ties. Thus, social networks of women in violent relationships are small and offer less support than those of comparison women. However, previous work on networks with weak ties and structural holes suggests that access to resources may be available through these networks.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1948-1964
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Interpersonal Violence
Issue number9
StatePublished - May 2013


  • battered women
  • community violence
  • cultural contexts
  • domestic violence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Applied Psychology


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