Public Beliefs About Partner Violence and the Law: Modeling the Effects of Social Background, Experience, and Community

Bonnie E. Carlson, University at Albany
Alissa Pollitz Worden, University at Albany

Domestic violence has been the target of policy reforms and program initiatives over the past two decades. While most of these initiatives have focused on changing offenders, or providing help to victims, a long-term objective of many reformers has been to improve the public's understanding of the nature and causes of violence, and to increase public awareness of, and support for, more effective social and legal interventions. This paper reports the findings of a multi-site study of public attitudes about domestic violence. The research will address the following questions: (1) Are attitudes about the nature and causes of domestic violence associated with individual characteristics (such as respondent's age, gender, race, or ethnicity), or with individual life experiences (education, social class, personal experience in abusive or violent relationships)? (2) At the aggregate level, do public beliefs about violence vary across rural and urban areas? Is the level of public understanding of violence correlated with comunity-level practices, policies, and outreach efforts directed toward domestic violence? (3) How do people's beliefs about the causes of violence shape their attitudes about what sorts of behaviors should, and should not, be criminalized?

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Updated 05/20/2006