Predictors and Consequences of Decision Making in Domestic Violence

Hill, Jemma (2009) Predictors and Consequences of Decision Making in Domestic Violence. Masters thesis, University of Central Lancashire.

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The impact of domestic violence upon the individual and society is widespread. Despite this up to 75% of women choose to remain in or return to abusive relationships, a decision that represents significant barriers towards the provision of support, a wider understanding, and criminal justice engagement. This study aimed to explore predictors and consequences of decisions to leave and return to abusive relationships, investigating specifically the components of the Theory of Planned Behaviour, along with patterns of abuse exposure, social support and health.

The study used a survey of 31 women recruited from North West support agencies. Participants completed a survey instrument incorporating measures of patterns of violence, quality of life, mental health, social support and decision making. In addition the study incorporated a semi-structured interview and a cognitive probe task.

The results were analysed using regression models to predict intentions to leave, intentions to return and health and well-being. Significant models were found to support the applicability of the Theory of Planned Behaviour as a framework for understanding decisions to leave (explaining 51% of the variance), with internal perceived behavioural control as the strongest predictor. In contrast, the Theory of Reasoned Action predicted intentions to return. When the contribution of health and abuse were explored, no significant models were found, although depression approached significance as a predictor of decisions to leave. In models predicting health, abuse was the only significant predictor with different components predicting physical and mental health. Social support was found to interact with abuse to predict physical health.

Findings supported the decision to leave as a complex, evaluative process, influenced predominantly by women's own perceptions of control and capabilities, emphasising the importance of support in this area. The decision to return appeared to be less complex, with findings suggesting an overlap between leaving 'cognitions' and intentions to return. The importance of social support in this population is highlighted in addition to the emotional health of women which should be addressed as part of the support process.

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