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Why Do Persons Become Abusive to Their Partners?

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Knowing the risk factors of domestic violence can help assess whether you or a friend is at risk for becoming involved in a domestic violence incident:

Personality Factors:

  • Low self-esteem
  • Depression
  • Anger and hostility
  • Self-centered (narcissistic) personality traits
  • Antisocial personality traits
  • Borderline personality traits
  • Emotional dependence and insecurity
  • Desire for power and control in relationships
  • Being a prior victim of physical or psychological abuse

Early Childhood Factors:

  • Aggressive or delinquent behavior as a youth
  • History of witnessing abuse between parents
  • History of experiencing poor parenting as a child
  • History of experiencing physical discipline as a child

Other Individual Factors:

  • Low academic achievement
  • Young age
  • Heavy alcohol and drug use
  • Prior history of being physically abusive
  • Unemployment

Social Factors:

  • Couple not in a stable, married relationship
  • Marital/social conflict
  • Relationship instability — divorces or separations
  • Unhealthy family relationships and interactions
  • Having few friends and being isolated from other people

Community Factors:

  • Poverty
  • Lack of institutions, relationships, and norms that shape effective partner interactions

Adapted from: Centers for Disease Control: Intimate Partner Violence: Risk and Protective Factors.

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