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Theories That Explain Domestic Violence

Domestic violence is one of the most widespread social evils that affects both individuals and families. The development of efficient interventions and strategies to combat domestic violence is impossible without a deep understanding of the factors that are involved in this peculiar phenomenon. The sociological theories of symbolic Interactionism, Functionalism, and Conflict theory give critical insights into the societal origins of domestic violence and its consequences. More importantly, considering alternative approaches to understanding psychological dynamics offers additional insights into the complex nature of this phenomenon (Batista et al., 2023). Additionally, historians and social-behavioral scientists use different approaches to analyze domestic violence through archival research or observational studies to get a full picture of its factors. This essay will elaborate on these theories and approaches to reveal the complicated nature of domestic violence, which should serve as a guide for actions aimed at dealing with this problem.

Domestic violence is seen as an outcome of individual interactions and interpretations within intimate relationships in perspective to Symbolic Interactionism (Batista et al., 2023). In this sense, domestic violence stems from the interpretations that individuals give to their own and others’ actions. For example, a violent partner may associate controlling behavior with dominance or love, while the victim internalizes abuse as an indication of their value and affection towards their abuser. Symbolic Interactionism stresses communication patterns, power issues, and socialization processes in forming these interpretations and behaviors that prevail within relationships.

Functionalism, on the other hand, could consider domestic violence based on how it fits into the societal structure. Although not advocating violence directly, functionalists could counter that domestic abuse fulfills some purpose in the family or society – it might act as one means of maintaining social order, for instance (Batista et al., 2023). For instance, violence could be viewed as a form of power imposition in situations deemed unstable or even as an avenue for maintaining gender principles. Nevertheless, functionalists also would recognize the dysfunctions of domestic violence as negative impacts on individuals and families; they might suggest measures to deal with this phenomenon.

Conflict theory provides a lens that views domestic violence in terms of uneven power relationships and pervading social discrepancies. From the perspective of this point, domestic violence reflects power imbalances in intimate relationships and the entire society. For instance, patriarchy and gender-based oppression can play a role in the domination of women whom their male partners will abuse due to vulnerability (Dokkedahl et al., 2022). Moreover, economic inequalities, racial discrimination as well as other forms of social inequity can aggravate power asymmetries and enhance the possibility of violence within relationships. Conflict theorists claim that to prevent domestic violence, these systemic inequalities should be addressed.

A different approach to understanding domestic violence might be the psychological perspective of individual offenders. This approach considers the psychodynamic aspect of intimate violence, including specific personality traits and characteristics, as well as childhood experiences and mental health (Dokkedahl et al., 2022). For instance, people who were victims of abuse or trauma in their lives are more likely to inflict violence on their partners. Also, untreated mental health problems like substance abuse or personality disorders can lead to an increase in domestic violence. Outlining these personal-level variables helps formulate interventions that address and prevent domestic violence.

Domestic violence is a research topic by historians, social scientists, and behavioral researchers who conduct their research using archival inquiries, survey interviews, case studies, or observation. Archival research refers to the study of historical documents, such as court records, newspapers, and personal correspondence, among others, which allows an understanding of how common domestic violence is in different countries through different times (Dokkedahl et al., 202). Surveys and interviews enable researchers to get data from people who have either suffered or participated in domestic violence, thereby shedding light on their attitudes and behaviors. By focusing on individual cases of domestic violence through case studies, researchers can delve deeper into the complex factors and relationships at play. In observational studies, researchers observe interactions between intimate partners to understand the patterns of behaviors and communications that may contribute to or prevent domestic violence (Dokkedahl et al., 2022). These varied approaches allow for a better understanding of the contributors, outcomes, and associated factors that are related to domestic violence, resulting in prevention initiatives directed at preventing or addressing this social issue.

To summarize, domestic violence is a complex social phenomenon that involves the interactions of individual, interpersonal, and societal factors. Regarding viewpoints, Symbolic Interactionism Functions and Conflict introduce valuable perspectives, while considering psychological dynamics leads to an insight into individual-level contributors. Historians and social scientists use various tools, such as archival research or observational studies, to identify causes and effects. Considering power imbalances, social inequalities, and psychological factors, society can make safer environments. The combination of theories and methods contributes to the creation of proper interventions that help fight domestic abuse, thus ensuring a favorable environment for every citizen.


Batista, V. C., Barreto, M. D. S., Gomes, N. P., Prado, E., Padoin, S. M. D. M., Godoy, F. J. D., … & Marcon, S. S. (2023). Unveiling family relationships based on the context of domestic violence: a Grounded Theory. Revista da Escola de Enfermagem da USP, 57, e20230009.

Priya, A. (2021). Case study methodology of qualitative research: Key attributes and navigating the conundrums in its application. Sociological Bulletin70(1), 94-110.

Dokkedahl, S. B., Kirubakaran, R., Bech-Hansen, D., Kristensen, T. R., & Elklit, A. (2022). The psychological subtype of intimate partner violence and its effect on mental health: a systematic review with meta-analyses. Systematic Reviews, 11(1).


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