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National Trends in Intimate Partner Homicides: Explaining Declines in Canada, 1976 to 2001

NCJ Number
Violence Against Women Volume: 15 Issue: 3 Dated: March 2009 Pages: 276-306
Myrna Dawson; Valerie Pottie Bunge; Thierno Balde
Date Published
March 2009
31 pages
This study identified factors linked to declines in spousal homicide in Canada.
Three variables were consistently associated with the declining rates of male and female spousal homicide during the past several decades: shifts in the relative employment and divorce rates, as well as education rates. With women’s improved independent socioeconomic status, fewer women may feel trapped in abusive and/or threatening relationships over time, resulting in less likelihood of homicides due to desperation or self-defense. The study also suggests that as university education has increased for men, the rate at which men were killed by female spouses decreased. The authors speculate that better educated men have a more liberal understanding and acceptance of women’s roles in society, and this translates into less traditional and more liberal attitudes toward equality in gender roles. For women, the increased prevalence of higher education has resulted in more job opportunities and financial independence. The trend in high divorce rates has a contradictory effect on spousal homicide. The prevalence of divorce as a way of escaping violent relationships may make it less likely that an abuse victim will resort to killing as a means of self-defense. On the other hand, the perpetrator‘s rage at the partner’s exercise of freedom or abandonment may result in the killing of the partner who initiates the divorce. Apparently, the reduction in self-defense killings related to the higher divorce rate has contributed to an overall decline in spousal killings. Study data were obtained from Statistics Canada’s annual Homicide Survey, which collects detailed information on all homicide incidents, victims, and accused persons. Data from a combination of other statistical sources, primarily the Census and Labor Force Survey, were used for independent variables. 6 tables, 8 figures, 22 notes, and 54 references