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Situational and Cultural Factors Influencing Intimate Partner Violence

 By Dr. Jade Pumphrey, faculty member, Criminal Justice, American Military University

*This article is part of In Public Safety’s October focus on domestic violence awareness*

Domestic violence, also referred to as intimate partner violence (IPV), is actual or threatened physical or sexual violence against someone resulting in psychological or emotional abuse. Domestic violence perpetrators may be a spouse, ex-spouse, boyfriend/girlfriend, ex-boyfriend/ex-girlfriend, or date. Men and women engaged in either heterosexual or homosexual relationships can be perpetrators of domestic violence.

[Related Article: What Does Domestic Violence Look Like?]

Understanding how IPV is influenced by situational and cultural factors can help authorities identify individuals who are most susceptible to abuse and provide them with assistance and resources immediately.

Situational Factors
Police_DV arrest_SMDomestic violence often occurs as an acute incident at first, however, time and situational factors can increase the number of incidents as well as the level of violence. For example, victims are at greater risk of extreme acts of violence against them (i.e. homicides, aggravated assaults) when their partner is experiencing long periods of unemployment (Meadows, 2007).

Many abusers engage in substance abuse (alcoholism and chronic drug abuse) and are likely to commit IPV against a partner while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The use of illegal substances and alcohol by perpetrators may be used to cope with problems associated with a tumultuous relationship, financial problems, or other stressful situations.

Cultural Factors
The DOJ reports that IPV occurs almost equally among women of all races and is slightly more likely to occur among women with low incomes. The report showed that the most common victims of IPV are women between the ages of 16 and 24 (Gelles, 2006).

Circumstances for IPV can be differentiated by populations of individuals and by abusers and victims themselves. Data have shown that certain racial groups and socioeconomic groups are more susceptible to experiencing domestic violence. Young African-American and Hispanic females, who are often poor, live in the inner city, and have low education levels, experience disproportionately higher levels of domestic violence (Meadows, 2007, p. 49).

According to Curran & Renzetti (2001), domestic violence is the leading cause of death for young African-American women. Murder by intimates accounts for approximately 9 percent of all homicides in the United States each year (Gelles, 2006).

Ironically, many batterers show a higher level of dependence on their victims than individuals who do not batter their partners (Meadows, 2007). Batterers are often jealous individuals, who display insecurities and suspicions of infidelity, and desire complete control over their significant other (Meadows, 2007).

Understanding society’s expectations of men and women can influence the dynamic between the two genders. Specifically, those expectations that are religiously enforced (biblically); men are the leaders, the breadwinners, and the patriarch (dominance) of their family. Women are the caretakers; submissive, restrained, and have minimal control.

It is important to understand how IPV can be culturally reinforced. In a patriarchic society, sexism takes place within the context in the social system in which men dominate women, and what is considered masculine, is more superior than what is considered feminine (Curran & Renzetti, 2001).

Jade PumphreyAbout the Author: Dr. Jade Pumphrey has worked in higher education since 2006 and has taught more than 65 different criminal justice courses at both the undergraduate and graduate level. She currently serves as an adjunct faculty member in the School of Security and Global Studies at American Military University. Dr. Pumphrey obtained an AS in General Science, BS in Criminal Justice, MS in Forensic Science Investigations and a PhD in Public Safety/Criminal Justice with a 4.0 G.P.A.  In addition to currently working in higher education as a faculty member, Dr. Pumphrey also volunteers for her local police department as an on-call, victim assistant.


Curran, D.J., & Renzetti, C.M. (2001). Theories of crime (2nd ed.). Needham Heights, MA: Pearson Education Company.

Gelles, R. (2006). Domestic violence. Microsoft Encarta [DVD]. Redmond, WA: Microsoft Corporation.

Meadows, R.J. (2006). Understanding violence and victimization (4th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall.

Leischen Kranick is a Managing Editor at AMU Edge. She has 15 years of experience writing articles and producing podcasts on topics relevant to law enforcement, fire services, emergency management, private security, and national security.

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