Value of Modeling Violent Relationships

David A Katerndahl, Sandra K Burge, Maria del Pilar Montanez Villacampa, Johanna Becho, Jasmine Rodriguez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Intimate partner violence (IPV) is a scar on human society. Growing evidence demonstrates that relationships involving IPV and women’s decisionmaking about violence represent complex phenomena, best studied as complex adaptive systems. Unfortunately, that complexity limits our ability to fully understand it. This paper presents findings from a series of agent-based models (ABMs) that were created from studies involving multiple time series of couples’ daily reports of violence, perceptions and behaviors. To identify potential influencing variables, we modeled the impact that random stress and intentional behavior of the women could have on men’s violence and stalking. ABM models of IPV noted the lack of violence at baseline without influence, and found that three variable parameters (Distance→Distance+, HerViolence→HerViolence+, Distance→Distance–) accounted for most patterns of violence development. Random stress and arguments had little effect and the nature of the alcoholviolence relationship remained unclear, however, her violence could increase his violence and stalking. One important difference between ABMs was the importance of the persistence of her concern about the effects of violence on children. Although only modeled in the second ABM, it proved critical to results. When modeling women’s decision-making, her abstinence from arguments, alcohol use and violence had no effect on whether to seek help, take legal action or leave; random stress and her daily violence did not affect seeking counseling. However, daily arguments, forgiveness and heavy alcohol use did impact actiontaking, increasing counseling, legal action and leaving generally. The addition of catastrophe equations could alter these outcomes, resulting in more counseling but less legal action. In addition, children are very important when considering decision-making; concern for children affects violence while number of children affects decision-making. In conclusion, ABM can yield important insights into IPV and have clinical implications. It can provide greater understanding of the phenomenon and allow us to test the nature of correlations. (i.e., between alcohol use and violence). ABM can clarify the inherent complexity within violent couples and facilitate sense-making. Finally, it can allow clinicians to test interventions in vitro without risk to vulnerable women.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)315-347
Number of pages33
JournalNonlinear dynamics, psychology, and life sciences
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2022


  • Battered women
  • Domestic violence
  • Mathematical modeling
  • Nonlinear dynamics
  • System science

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Mathematics


Dive into the research topics of 'Value of Modeling Violent Relationships'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this