Quantitatively Demonstrating the Complex Nature of Intimate Partner Violence

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

Producción científica: Chapter


Background, Aims & Objectives. While some critics argue that complexity science concepts in qualitative medical research are used mainly as a novel metaphor, quantitative research does suggest that intimate partner violence (IPV) is non-linear in its dynamics, its decision-making, and effects of community interventions. The purpose of this study was to quantitatively demonstrate that complex adaptive systems dynamics are present in violent relationships. Methodology. Two hundred women in violent relationships were recruited from primary care settings and asked to report daily on the presence of violence and the household environment for 12 weeks using a telephone-based, interactive verbal response method. Attitudinal, behavioural, and clinical outcomes were assessed at the end-of-study interview. Analysis employed three non-linearity measurements to classify dynamic pattern when possible, vector auto-regression using multiple concurrent time series to develop models explaining other variables’ time series, orbital decomposition (based on symbolic dynamics) using categorical time series to identify recurrent patterns of strings, and staged multiple regression. Results. The 200 participants provided 9618 daily assessments; women reported abuse on 39 % of days, while perpetrating violence themselves on 23 % of days. First, based on non-linearity assessments of daily violence, IPV generally displayed non-linearity with only a few relationships exhibiting periodic dynamics. Second, using vector auto-regression, relationship violence involved multiple, interdependent factors, circular causality, and feed-forward dynamics as expected in complex systems. Third, using orbital decomposition, we observed recurrent multi-day, alcohol–violence patterns suggesting attractors within dynamic patterns. Fourth, after controlling for demographics and violence frequency and severity, measures of violence non-linearity predicted three of five attitudinal/behavioural outcomes and two of four clinical outcomes. Conclusions. IPV is a complex phenomenon, quantitatively demonstrating many of the features expected in complex systems. As this study shows, IPV is non-linear, non-causal and attractor-laden, and violence dynamics contributes to relevant outcomes. Complexity science is not just a metaphor; it is a paradigm with explanatory power.

Idioma originalEnglish (US)
Título de la publicación alojadaThe Value of Systems and Complexity Sciences for Healthcare
EditorialSpringer International Publishing
Número de páginas15
ISBN (versión digital)9783319262215
ISBN (versión impresa)9783319262192
EstadoPublished - ene 1 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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