Webs of causation in violent relationships

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

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Rationale, aims and objectives: Predictors of intimate partner violence (IPV) include husband, wife and relational characteristics. However, we know little about the proximal, day-to-day triggering of abusive events. The purpose of the study was to analyse the daily temporal relationships among environmental, relational and violence variables in violent marital relationships. Method: Two hundred adult primary care women who experienced violence in the previous month were recruited from six primary care clinics. Women completed daily assessments of household environment, marital relationship and violence using telephone interactive verbal response for 12 weeks. Same-day correlates were sought using cross-correlations among the environmental, relational and violence factors. Prior-day and prior-week associations were sought using vector autoregressions. Results: Except for wife's alcohol intake, all household environment and relationship factors demonstrated significant same-day correlations with IPV. However, prior-day violence by the husband, hassles, lack of husband's alcohol intake, emotional upset and marital distance were significantly related to current husband-perpetrated violence.Wife's violence depended upon her prior-day violence and alcohol intake only. All factors were related to husband-perpetrated violence in the subsequent week. Only wife's alcohol intake and husband's seeking forgiveness did not feedforward. In addition to the presence of multiple interdependent factors, circular causality was noted for marital distance and feeling upset. Conclusions: IPV was due to multiple interdependent factors, feedforward dynamics and circular causality as expected in complex systems. The complex dynamics imply that simple interventions may have little chance of success, but understanding couple-specific dynamics may allow women to recognize high-risk prior-day profiles and take preventive action.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)703-710
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of evaluation in clinical practice
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2014


  • Battered women
  • Domestic violence
  • Intimate partner violence
  • Non-linear dynamics
  • Systems theory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Policy
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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