This paper examines the problem of domestic violence. It is demonstrated that the scope of this problem is significant and often underestimated as not all cases of abuse are reported. The research problem is formulated. It refers to identifying major factors contributing to domestic violence, main negative effects, and potential response strategies. Key research questions are formulated. The background information is provided. The literature review is presented and major theoretical approaches are discussed. It is demonstrated that social disorganization and strain theories may be used as complementary tools for criminology analysis in this case. Major strengths and weaknesses of the analyzed studies are specified. The need for further analysis is stressed. Attention should be paid to integrating different studies and approaches related to domestic violence in a systematic framework. It will allow making the legal system more flexible and effective, as well as minimizing the scope of abuse at the national level.
Keywords: domestic violence, social disorganization theory, strain theory, legal system.
Research Proposal Example on Domestic Violance
Domestic violence is one of the most important social and legal issues nowadays. It presents a considerable theoretical and practical interest as there is a need for searching for effective methods of minimizing its scope and spread. Domestic violence, its causes, effects, and potential preventive strategies are important to the general area of criminal law for several reasons. First, this problem violates basic individual rights and liberties. Second, one of characteristics of domestic violence is that it is often not reported to the authorities. Therefore, the scope of the problem and the structure of victims may be assessed incorrectly.
The research problem is to identify factors contributing to the occurrence of domestic violence and its major effects, as well as to specify standards of the optimal strategy for reversing the current negative trend. In general, this research problem includes several sub-areas that are often examined separately. Researchers typically concentrate either on the causes of domestic violence or its effects and potential response strategies. However, all these areas are interrelated and over-specialization may not allow formulating correct practical implications. Therefore, it is reasonable to integrate all these elements in one study. Selected research questions are as follows:
- What is domestic violence and is it one of the most serious problems nowadays?
- What are major underlying factors contributing to the spread of domestic violence?
- What are major effects of domestic violence on victims and the society in general?
- What preventive and response strategies can be introduced to minimize the scope of the problem?
The proposed study can be justified both from theoretical and practical perspectives. On the one hand, it allows clarifying hidden causal relationships between people’s motives and actions. In this way, the essence and implications of domestic violence can be understood better. On the other hand, this study may contribute to a more rational and effective organization of counter-violence programs initiated by the government and NGOs. The investigation of this problem leads to the emergence of several significant issues. First, it is necessary to distinguish between universal principles contributing to domestic violence and local conditions that make its occurrence more likely, but not predetermined. Second, the examination of this topic may contribute to developing innovative forms of international cooperation in this sphere.
It is necessary to provide the rationale for the selected questions and explain their relationships with broader issues examined in the Introduction. This study will utilize qualitative research methods as they are more applicable for considering alternative explanations of human behavior and motivations. Major criminology theories that will be used are the social disorganization theory and the strain theory. The former states that the existing social environment is the main factor contributing to people’s decision of adopting socially disapproved and illegal modes of behavior (Snowden & Pridemore, 2013). The latter suggests that differences in social opportunities lead to the situation when some individuals shift to illegal means for attaining their goals (Jang & Song, 2015).
The following specific claim may be formulated. It seems that individuals initiating domestic violence experience the impact of both social and individual factors. On the one hand, some environmental factors contribute to their decision as individuals do not act in isolation from other social members. On the other hand, different individuals respond to the same stimuli differently. Therefore, the ultimate decision is not only the result of some external influence, but also of a person’s perception of the situation and his/her worldview. Therefore, it is reasonable to determine the combination of general external and internal factors that explain the behavior of a given individual adequately.
The following hypotheses may be formulated. First, proper understanding of causes of domestic violence is crucial for developing effective response strategies. It means that the corresponding theoretical background is needed for the correct evaluation of potential benefits and risks. Second, the most effective way of minimizing the scope of domestic violence is concentrating on prevention strategies. A close analysis of previous studies and application of corresponding criminology theories may allow arriving at the objectively correct conclusions regarding these hypotheses. The social disorganization and strain theories will be used.
The confirmation of both hypotheses will demonstrate that both theories contain some rational elements. At the same time, they neglect some other important aspects. Therefore, it is reasonable to combine both theories as well as introduce additional reasonable considerations related to the current trends of domestic violence. If the above hypotheses are not confirmed, then the selected criminology theories seem to be incorrect or at least inapplicable to the investigation of domestic violence. In this case, another approach and other research methods should be selected.
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It is reasonable to provide available information and research on this topic. It will serve as a foundation for further elaboration on causes and effects of domestic violence. Domestic violence refers to the aggressive pattern of behavior when one family member initiates abuse against another member. Domestic violence should not necessarily include physical abuse as the modern understanding of this term also includes emotional, verbal, or economic abuse (Jang & Song, 2015). Domestic violence may be observed both among heterosexual and same-sex couples. As it often includes relationships between different sexes, Cantrell (2013) suggests that the feminist approach is relevant in this context. The author stresses that the major problem observed in relation to minimizing the scope of domestic violence is determining the balance between autonomy and the need for initiating strategic interventions (Cantrell, 2013). On the one hand, the government should not violate privacy rights and regulate people’s relationships in their families. On the other hand, some strategic presence should exist in order to assure individuals that their rights are respected and can be enforced effectively.
Cantrell (2013) stresses that the entire burden of such conduct should not be shifted to a victim of abuse. On the contrary, the proper legal environment should exist that may address victims’ rights in the optimal way. Cantrell (2013) concentrates on women as abuse victims and explains that many of them are aware of their rights, but are mostly motivated by emotions and interests of their children. It seems that this claim is correct as individuals are motivated not only by reason, but also by other relevant factors such as emotions or interests of close people. At the same time, this analysis is applicable not only to women, but also to men. The scope of domestic abuse in relation to men is even more unreported because men often experience substantial pressure of the social environment. It is even more difficult for men to recognize that they are subject to abuse than for women (Jang & Song, 2015). The reason is the existing social stereotypes and the generalized image of men and women (Snowden & Pridemore, 2013).
In this context, it seems that the social disorganization theory provides an effective approximation of people’s behavior. One of the major causes of misbehavior is dominant social stereotypes. Moreover, it is evident that the existing social environment affects not only the likelihood of misbehavior from the side of aggressor, but also that of proper reporting from the perspective of victim. Therefore, the impact of social environment should always be considered as it is one of the major factors contributing to misbehavior and negative social consequences.
The negative social environment may also contribute to abuse through corresponding customs, traditions, and religious views. Some traditional societies or groups consider the use of violence as normal. However, traditions and customs should not include any violation of people’s rights. Therefore, both the government and NGOs should monitor the situation closely and initiate urgent responses if any misbehavior is identified. The spread of violence is also closely correlated with the spread of various dangerous diseases such as HIV/AIDS (Jang & Song, 2015). Therefore, addressing domestic violence has a number of further implications related to national health standards.
Youngs (2015) stresses the need for initialing a large-scale legal reform regarding prevention and addressing of domestic violence in all its forms. The author states that the current state of affairs is unsatisfactory. One of the main factors contributing to the scope of the problem is ineffective government strategies. The government tries to separate coercion and control from physical abuse; however, these attempts are unsatisfactory as these elements constitute the parts of the same social reality (Youngs, 2015). The current laws do not evaluate the intentions of control that may be demonstrated by some family members. As a result, the amount of harm experienced by victims is underestimated. In general, offence in a domestic setting should be evaluated from a broader perspective and include investigation of both direct and indirect harm suffered by victims.
It seems that the strain theory is relevant in this context as it shows that people may rely on socially disapproved methods if traditional means do not allow reaching desired goals. In general, the existing legal system should evaluate people’s intentions closely. The same actions may be interpreted differently and it is necessary to consider the broader social environment and interrelationships of all individuals involved. Stoever (2013) points out that the problem of domestic violence is not always presented correctly. In other words, representation models used do not correspond to the external reality perfectly. For example, the cycle of violence only specifies major stages of violence, but it addresses neither causes of violence nor potentially optimal solutions.
The author proposes to use the Stages of Change Model that demonstrates actions and needs of victims at different stages (Stoever, 2013). It is necessary for lawyers and other parties involved to understand the psychological pressure and other negative factors experienced by violence survivors. Moreover, this model can be adjusted to needs and preferences of given victims. As the empirical results confirm the model’s relevance to psychological issues, it is plausible that it can be helpful in the legal context. However, it seems that it should not be used in a pure form, but should be modified. In particular, major assumptions of the social disorganization theory may be introduced (Snowden & Pridemore, 2013). It is reasonable both regarding motivation of the criminal and pressure experienced by the victim.
Stoever’s approach shows that correct assessment of problems associated with domestic violence should include both objective and subjective elements. On the one hand, objective facts should be assessed (Stoever, 2013). On the other hand, motivation of the aggressor as well as psychological harm suffered by the victim should be taken into consideration. Punishment should be proportional to the amount of harm inflicted on another person. In some cases, it is also reasonable to consider traditions and customs of a given population group. In any case, violence cannot be justified by any traditions or customs.
Stutts (2014) concentrates on a specific aspect of the problem when domestic violence occurs in later life. Such examples are especially disturbing as they demonstrate deep social problems. Many elderly people may simultaneously be the abuser and the victim. Stutts (2014) shows that emotional and psychological forms of abuse are very popular among this category of people. However, the lack of social opportunities at this age creates even more difficulties for these people. It seems that both social disorganization and strain theories are applicable in this context. It is evident that the general social environment has an impact on elderly people and they have to accept a passive social role (Jang & Song, 2015). As it does not meet their expectations and desires, they tend to shift to socially disapproved modes of behavior. Moreover, the lack of adequate opportunities contributes to the search for alternative ways of reaching one’s objectives. The strain theory states correctly that these people often believe that success can be achieved only through crime (Jang & Song, 2015). As a result, they make incorrect actions and create additional problems for other social members.
The spread of domestic violence has a number of direct and indirect negative effects on victims and third parties. It is generally recognized that psychological harm often exceeds the physical one. Victims may experience difficulties associated with re-socialization and increase of their sphere of social presence. Children face maximal threats as their patterns of behavior are not formed yet. Therefore, fear and psychological pain may not allow realizing their full potential. For this reason, effective programs of rehabilitation and social support play a crucial role in this context. In general, almost all victims of domestic violence should receive at least some psychological assistance as the statistical probability of suicide among these people exceeds the average level considerably (Valiulis, 2014). Thus, it seems that prevention measures may be applicable as they allow minimizing the scope of potential problems.
Victims of abuse may also experience financial and economic difficulties as the aggressor often utilizes his/her power to obtain additional resources (mostly financial ones) from his/her victims. Therefore, it may be problematic to the victim to mobilize necessary financial resources to organize an adequate response to the abuser’s misbehavior. It seems that the government should inform potential victims of abuse about corresponding guarantees provided to them. In particular, they do not require suffering any economic or other costs, but should only provide corresponding agencies with objective information about the abuse. It is also reasonable to create the corresponding social atmosphere of support to victims of abuse. Currently, people are mostly concentrated on their personal problems and affairs. However, domestic abuse is a social problem as it threatens the basis of a peaceful and mutually beneficial cooperation between people (Jang & Song, 2015). As family members are by definition close people to each other, destruction of this social institution may lead to an enormous spread of violence in all social spheres. If people consider violence to be the proper method of solving misunderstandings in their families, they may rely on violence even more intensively while cooperating with other unknown people. Therefore, the effectiveness of preventing and responding to domestic violence at earlier stages has a number of serious social implications.
Douglas and Fitzgerald (2014) state that domestic violence should be addressed with the help of timely and effective legal responses. Both actual consequences and potential threats should be evaluated. If the abuser acts with the intention of maximizing harm suffered by other people, punishment should be more severe than in case he/she is driven by emotional factors. However, the person should be responsible for the harm inflicted on others despite his/her intentions. It will allow compensating (to the maximum possible degree) harm and damage to victims. Moreover, a threat of a serious and just punishment will prevent many potential criminals from implementing their plans. Although specific legal responses should depend on conditions of a particular case, the general legal system should be universal for and known to all parties involved (Douglas & Fitzgerald, 2014). In this way, many potential conflicts may be avoided as parties are aware of legal consequences of different actions in advance.
Shewmaker and Shewmaker (2014) demonstrate the role and significance of addressing the spread of domestic violence through appealing to the military sphere. They show that the functionality of the Department of Defense is threatened due to the existence of domestic violence. It decreases its effectiveness and creates a contradictory situation when people maintaining the national security participate in incidents of domestic abuse. Therefore, the authors suggest that a closer examination of the causes of domestic violence and comparison of alternative strategies are needed for minimizing this problem in the short run (Shewmaker & Shewmaker, 2014). This study shows that domestic violence affects negatively even those social areas that seem to be independent from its influence (such as the military sphere).
Carey (2014) explains that the major objective of addressing the domestic violence problem is creating favorable conditions for people’s coexistence and cooperation in the future. It means that legal actions should be not only past-oriented (evaluating actions made and their consequences), but also future-oriented (preventing such crimes in the future and creating the atmosphere of mutual respect and tolerance). Although inter-personal conflicts and misunderstandings are inevitable, people should comprehend that the only way of solving them is through peaceful negotiation and discussion. Any forms of violence or aggression are inadmissible as they violate basic rights and liberties of others. Therefore, it seems that the modern legal system should cooperate closely with various NGOs and try to influence the general social perception of the problem (Snowden & Pridemore, 2013). It is the only way of generating sustainable long-term progress in this field.
Stoever (2014) outlines another problem with the current treatment of the problem of abuse. It refers to analyzing only specific acts of abuse, while in reality abuse often takes the form of regular exploitation. Thus, even correct assessment of the abuser’s guilt often does not lead to a proper solution of the problem. The abuser may continue his/her illegal actions and the victim will not receive any guarantees regarding his/her adequate protection in the future. For this reason, Stoever (2014) suggests that the main direction of reform should be establishment of judicial protection over time. In this way, corresponding agencies will be able to control the dynamics of the problem and minimize long-term negative effects. It may be consistent with approaches used in such spheres as intellectual or real property (Stoever, 2014). The effective legal mechanism should be developed to reach this objective. Moreover, privacy rights should not be violated in any case.
The literature review demonstrates that researchers have examined various aspects of the problem of domestic violence. They have outlined the most common causes of violence, its typical physical and psychological effects, as well as proposing potentially beneficial reforms in the legal sphere. However, these studies seem to be insufficient for several reasons. First, all these elements are not integrated properly with one another. When researchers examine causes of abuse, they do not typically address potential consequences and vice versa. They are concentrated exclusively on their narrow area of investigation. However, this approach seems to be incorrect. Potential abusers may evaluate expected benefits and costs associated with different modes of behavior. Even when they are motivated by emotional factors, it is reasonable to consider the impact of the society that determines their worldview to a large extent. Therefore, it seems necessary to use the social disorganization and strain theories as complementary tools for analyzing causes and potential effects of domestic violence. Both criminology theories have their strengths and weaknesses, but they can provide an approximation of reality that may serve as a basis for developing policy changes.
Second, a large number of researches does not provide the correct justification of proposed policy changes and legal reforms. They are mostly based on scholars’ subjective understanding of the problem and the most important aspects that should be addressed. However, it seems that justification should be objective and unbiased. It can be achieved if all elements of the system are integrated and analyzed in a complex way. For example, any changes that affect causes of abuse may also have a corresponding effect on expected consequences. As a result, response strategies should also be adjusted. If interrelationships between all elements are clarified, the legal system can become much more flexible and effective.
Therefore, further analysis is needed in this field. A proper investigation of the problem of domestic violence from the systems positions is necessary for designing effective interventions and determining a proper combination of relevant criminology theories. However, the provided literature review is an important stage of research as it demonstrates dominant approaches towards the analyzed issue, as well as providing alternative explanations of people’s motivations, actions, and responses. If all these achievements are applied and integrated properly, ultimate positive results can be maximized.
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