Domestic violence on the decline but young women are at highest risk

Research Activities, August 2010, No. 360

Although rates of domestic violence have declined in lockstep with overall crime rates, women are most vulnerable to becoming victims of abuse while they are in their mid-20s to early 30s, according to a new study. Given these findings, the authors suggest that women in their 20s and 30s who use college health clinics or family planning or obstetrical services be screened for domestic violence.

Of the 3,533 women aged 18 to 64 in Idaho and Washington who participated in telephone interviews, 42 percent reported having suffered abuse since they were 18 years old. The risk of suffering abuse fell once women reached the age of 50. What's more, women born after 1960 had a lower risk of experiencing domestic violence than women born before that decade.

The authors found a dramatic decrease in the occurrence of abuse in the past 5 to 10 years and cite several reasons for this decline. For example, overall awareness of domestic violence surged in the past several decades, resulting in more programs to support victims of violence. Stronger laws that result in more arrests and easier access to civil protection orders and no-fault divorces may also have contributed to the waning numbers. Additionally, the feminist movement and the influx of women in the labor force may have led to a reduction in domestic violence. This study was funded in part by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (HS10909).

See "Age, period, and cohort effects on intimate partner violence," by Frederick P. Rivara, M.D., M.P.H., Melissa L. Anderson, M.S., Paul Fishman, Ph.D., and others in Violence and Victims 24(5), pp. 627-638, 2009.

Current as of August 2010
Internet Citation: Domestic violence on the decline but young women are at highest risk: Research Activities, August 2010, No. 360. August 2010. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD.