Journal article

Societal Change and Change in Family Violence from 1975 to 1985 as Revealed by Two National Surveys

Straus M, Gelles R ...see all

Journal of Marriage and the Family, vol. 48, issue 3 (1986) p. 465

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This article compares the rate of physical abuse of children and spouses from a 1975 study with the rates from a 1985 replication. Both studies used nationally representative samples (2,143 families in 1975 and 3,520 in 1985), and both found an extremely high incidence of severe physical violence against children ("child abuse") and a high incidence of violence against spouses. However, the 1985 rates, although high, were substantially lower than in 1975: the child abuse rate was 47% lower, and the wife abuse rate was 27% lower. Possible reasons for the lower rates in 1985 are examined and evaluated, including: (a) differences in the methods of the studies, (b) increased reluctance to report, (c) reductions in intrafamily violence due to ten years of prevention and treatment effort, and (d) reductions due to changes in American society and family patterns that would have produced lower rates of intrafamily violence even without ameliorative programs. The policy implications of the decreases and of the continued high rate of child abuse and spouse abuse are discussed.

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  • Murray A. Straus

  • Richard J. Gelles

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