Black couples report the
highest rates of abuse, followed by Hispanic couples and lastly white couples (Cunradi,
Caetano, Schafer, 2002). Women living in rural areas report higher incidence of abuse
from their partners (Logan, Walker, Cole, Ratliff, & Leukefeld, 2003). A strong link
between being poor and abuse exists. Living in a low-income context appears to make a
greater contribution to the probability of experiencing domestic violence than education
or employment status (Cunradi, Caetano, Schafer, 2002). As high as 52 percent of the
women receiving welfare support have reported being abused (Lyon, 2002). Adult
domestic violence appears to be linked with child abuse with abuser’s taking advantage
of both the mother and children (Lawrence, 2002).
Domestic violence has a clear impact on the quality and stability of marriage. Abuse also
has many impacts upon the decision to marry. Women who have experienced abuse in
childhood are less likely to remain in sustained stable relationships (Bloom, 2004).
Women who have been abused as an adult are less likely to marry or cohabitate (Bloom,
2004). Once married, abuse, especially physical violence, is a significant deterrent to
couples staying together (Fertig, McLanahan, & Garfinkel, 2002). Domestic abuse is a
barrier to the formation of healthy marriages among the poor.
Among the poor, domestic violence takes its toll not only on adult individual
relationships, but also on children. A parent’s ability to provide a stable emotionally
supportive context for their children’s development is impacted by abuse. Of the women
in domestic violence shelters 75 percent reported that their children had experienced one
or more forms of maltreatment (English, Marshall, & Stewart, 2003). Child functioning is
linked to domestic violence. Children who live in homes where domestic violence is
present show loss of self-esteem, increased levels of anxiety, perform worse in school,
exhibit aggressive or acting out behaviors, and have impaired problem-solving skills
(Litrownik, Newton, Hunter, English, Everson, 2003). Battered mothers are often less
emotionally available to their children and children’s needs (Lawrence, 2002). The longterm
impact is that children who are battered can become batterers as adults.
Domestic violence is an issue that is central to a woma n’s decision- making in planning
for the safety of herself and children. Central to this decision is accessibility to economic
resources. Women who experience both recurring violence and poverty are likely to have
more complex needs and view marriage from a different paradigm. The safety that a
Connecting Families Penn State Cooperative Extension
Domestic Violence’s Effect on Marriage 63 2004
relationship can offer may not be as appealing when abuse has been an aspect of past
Blum, B. (2004). More research needed to put marriage policies on track. The Form. New York:
National Center for Children in Poverty, Columbia University, 7, 1-5.
Cunradi, C., Caetano, R., & Schafer, J. (2002). Socioeconomic predators of intimate partner
violence among white, black, and Hispanic couples in the United States. Journal of Family
Violence, 17, 377-389.
English, D., Marshall, D., & Stewart, A. (2003). Effects of family violence on child behavior and
health during early childhood. Journal of Family Violence, 18, 43-57.
Fretig, A., McLanaham, S, & Garfinkel, I. (2002).
Black couples report the
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