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Stress and Family Violence (From Social Causes of Husband-Wife Violence, P 94-114, 1980, Murray A Straus and Gerald T Hotaling, ed. - See NCJ-72913)

NCJ Number
K M Farrington
Date Published
21 pages
This article applies a general stress framework to the study of intrafamily violence and agression.
Much family violence can be explained in terms of the stress experienced by family members and family units. The family is a unique social group in terms of its potential for frustration and hence violence, and the family setting can be attributed to various stresses operating within it. Building on these two basic premises, a general stress model of behavior is presented which attempts to explain intrafamily violence. In the model the phenomenon of stress is viewed as being composed of several distinct elements: a stressor stimulus (which imposes a demand on those involved to respond); an objective demand (or the reality of a given situation); a subjective demand (where danger is perceived subjectively); response capabilities (resources to deal with stressor stimuli); choice of responses to such stimuli; and stress level (high or low). As stressor situations present themselves to an individual or group, responses will be made. If these responses do not resolve the stressor situation, an increase in stress level will result. Violence occurs in the family setting as an assertive response to a stressor stimulus. It is even more likely to occur as a consequence of tension and frustration caused by unresolved stress situations. Because families encounter a high amount of stress, both instrumental and expressive intrafamily violence are likely to occur. The general stress model can contribute to an integrated theory of family violence which takes into account the various structural factors that determine which families will be most likely to experience stress, what resources they will have to deal with stress, and the likelihood that stress will result in violence. Tables and notes are included.


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