The underlying causes of domestic violence

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Human behavior is a critical element of research in the modern society because it determines how people interact with each other and their environment. One such human behavior that has significance in the society is domestic violence and as such has received increasing attention in recent years in terms of research. Various models have been used to try and explain the causes of domestic violence. This research paper, through extensive research based on secondary data sources, tries to explain the causes of domestic violence and how and why it persists from generation to generation. It is the finding of this paper that the causes of various forms of domestic violence are stress, depression, anger, provocation, economic hardships among other things. Additionally, the exposure of children to domestic violence is the main underlying cause of this type of violence as children exposed to such form of violence in their upbringing are much more likely to be perpetrators of such violent behavior in their adult life.


Domestic violence is the aggressive behavior that is leveled on people in relationships or within their families with the aim of creating a sense of dominance by the persons who carry out this practice who in fact are their intimate partners (Benedictis, Jaffe, & Segal, 2017). To that end, domestic violence is also referred to as intimate personal violence. This form of aggression is not only physical but can also be psychological in nature. The overall effect of this kind of violence is reduced self-esteem of the victims in addition to the physical injuries that most of the times go unreported and even treated.

In the past, domestic violence was considered a private affair, but this has changed. The prevalence of this behavior in families and the significant damage has resulted in the classification of this behavior as a public health crisis. In order to explain the causes of domestic violence, some theoretical models have been used, one of them being the social learning theory (Black, Sussman, & Unger, 2009). This paper is going to apply the above-mentioned theory in the determination of the causes of domestic violence.

Literature review

Statistically, women are disproportionately affected by domestic violence as compared to men. The annual number of men in the USA who experience physical attacks from their partners is approximately 2.9 million compared to the 4.8 million women who report rapes and injuries linked to assaults by their intimate partners. Current studies have evolved to accommodate the effect of psychological abuse as a form of domestic violence which has been found to have a greater adverse consequence compared to physical assault on the victims of Domestic Violence (Black, Sussman, & Unger, 2009)

Although the causes of domestic violence are varied, its effects are clearly discernible. In a survey carried out by social scientists whereby the respondents (who were perpetrators of domestic violence) were asked the reasons for their violent behavior, the respondents cited  stress, depression, anger, provocation, economic hardships and jealousy as being the major immediate triggers of their aggression (Benedictis, Jaffe, & Segal, 2017).

Intergenerational transmission of domestic violence has been of late the primary focus of social scientist researching the causes for domestic violence. There is significant empirical data supporting the intergenerational transmission of violent behaviors in families that have a history of intimate personal violence (Black, Sussman, & Unger, 2009). Extensive studies show that children who grow up in such families, having witnessed firsthand interparental violent behavior are likely to assume such behaviors in their adult life (Goldsmith, 2017). Although such evidence is based on observations by scientists, the data obtained can be explained by the social learning theory.


The social learning theory emphasizes the role played by an individual’s environment in shaping the behavior of the said individual (Darling, 2017). The original proponent of this theory –Albert Bandura believed that there was a form of reciprocity in the interactions between an individual and the surrounding environment concerning how they influence each other. The above logic explains concisely how human behaviors are transmitted in human society.

Concerning domestic violence, the causes mentioned earlier on such as jealousy, anger and provocation may be just the factors that trigger the violent response. The underlying cause of the problem is the learned behavior of violence as a way of life in relationships. Since children spend most of their formative years in their homes, they acquire both good and bad habits from them (Black, Sussman, & Unger, 2009). It is thus entirely conceivable that if the exposure of children to domestic violence were reduced through social reforms, then there would be a drastic decrease in the incidences of domestic violence in the long run.


Domestic violence is a significant public health issue that needs to be addressed if society is to thrive. Anger, depression, provocation, jealousy and economic hardship have been cited as some of the immediate triggers of domestic violence although exposure of children to this form of violence, through research has been proven to be the main underlying component responsible for perpetuating this behavior across generations, all of which has been made possible through the concept of social learning.

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  1. Benedictis, T., Jaffe, J., & Segal, J. (2017). Domestic Violence and Abuse: Types, Signs, Symptoms, Causes, and Effects. Retrieved 19 March 2017, from
  2. Black, D., Sussman, S., & Unger, J. (2009). A Further Look at the Intergenerational Transmission of Violence: Witnessing Interparental Violence in Emerging Adulthood. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 25(6), 1022-1042.
  3. Darling, N. (2017). Social Learning Theory | Psychology Today. Retrieved 19 March 2017, from
  4. Goldsmith, T. (2017). What Causes Domestic Violence?. Psych Central. Retrieved 19 March 2017, from
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