chapter  3
Explaining Family Violence
Pages 40

As mentioned in Chapter 1, family violence is not a new phenomenon, but it is a fairly recent concern of academic researchers, public offi cials, advocacy groups, and the general public. However, the study of family violence is immense, at least in part as a result of the fragmentation of the fi eld. Nearly all of the social sciences (e.g., psychology, sociology, criminology, economics, and so on) have contributed to the research literature on family violence, as has the fi eld of medicine. Sociologists and criminologists tend to focus on large-scale surveys or offi cial reports from government agencies. Their main interests lie in the structural as well as the process variables. They tend, obviously, to emphasize social factors as opposed to individual characteristics. Psychologists, in turn, are interested primarily in the individual characteristics (e.g., psychological functioning or personality types) of people who abuse their family members. They tend to use smaller, clinical samples of people seeking treatment, or those coerced into treatment by the criminal justice system. Ohlin and Tonry (1989:3) write:

It is easy enough to call for a synthesis or a multidisciplinary research agenda, but much more diffi cult to actually engage in the process. The diffi culty resides largely in the specialization of the social sciences and in the problem of simply keeping up with the large volume of literature. In this

chapter we make some attempt at integration but, in fact, emphasize sociological and criminological theories. As we present the theories we will emphasize how they might be applied specifi cally to family violence and may be fertile for incorporation with life-course perspectives. In evaluating the theories we will emphasize the availability of empirical support for the theory.