Recurrent patterns of daily intimate partner violence and environment

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

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Although predictors of violent relationships have been identified, we are only beginning to understand the day-to-day dynamics of domestic violence. The objective of this study was to identify commonly seen patterns and strings of consecutive days involving verbal or physical abuse, and their preceding and subsequent events. Adult women (n=20) seen in a primary care clinic who experienced violence within the past month were enrolled. Subjects completed a daily telephone assessment of household environment and marital relationship for two months using Interactive Verbal Response (IVR). Results were analyzed using orbital decomposition, an analytic technique based on symbolic dynamics, in which categorical time series data are used to identify recurrent patterns of strings and quantify their complexity. While days without abuse had varied patterns involving arguments, stress levels, daily hassles, husband's alcohol intake, and sense of closeness (27 unique patterns), days involving verbal or physical abuse included a narrower range of patterns (15 patterns for verbal and 16 patterns for physical abuse). Daily patterns appear to cluster in triplets (3 consecutive days) of activity and show nonlinearity with 6 triplets involving verbal abuse and 8 triplets involving physical violence. Triplets involving either verbal or physical abuse were associated with arguments and high stress, but differed in the consistency of association with hassles, alcohol intake, and closeness. Finally, physical and verbal abuse tended to self-propagate. However, days involving verbal abuse did not precede days involving physical violence. In conclusions, while patterns of violence and household environments followed a nonlinear trajectory, only a limited set of patterns were observed. Although violence led to more violence, verbal abuse did not necessarily lead to physical aggression. In fact, verbal abuse and physical violence differed in the consistency of their relationships to hassles, husband's alcohol intake, and closeness.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)511-524
Number of pages14
JournalNonlinear dynamics, psychology, and life sciences
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2010


  • Alcohol
  • Domestic violence
  • Orbital decomposition
  • Symbolic dynamics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Mathematics


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