A Multi-Factor Social Ecological Approach to Family Violence

Suzette Cote, California State University, Sacramento

Traditional family and domestic violece studies have utilized single-factor models to explain why men batter women (battering behavior) and whyt women do not leave their abusers (victim behaviors). Although studies using these theoretical perspectives have yielded important findings, the single-factor approach has not effectively nor fully explained these phenomena. More recently, researchers have shifted toward a multi-factor approach to understand the complexities of family and domestic violence. By examining interactions of factors within individual, social, political, and cultural arenas, a multi-factor social ecological model looks at human needs, problems, and behaviors as produced by the interaction between people and their environments. It considers not only how family and domestic violence situations arise but also how the criminal justice system responds to those problems in terms of legal and social intervention programs and processes. This paper will provide a review of the literature on multi-factor models and discuss the application of a social ecological approach to understanding family and domestic violence. Secondly, it will address the ways in which law enforcement can utilize multiple indicators of intimate violence--including family behavior and structure and the demographic, social, and economic characteristics of communities where this violence occurs in their prevention and intervention strategies.

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Updated 05/20/2006