In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Intimate-Partner Violence

  • Introduction
  • Introductory Works
  • Textbooks
  • Manuals and Guidebooks
  • Bibliographies
  • Legal Responses
  • Children Exposed to IPV
  • Ethnically Diverse Communities
  • Same-Sex Relationships
  • Women with Disabilities
  • Interventions
  • Interventions with Victims
  • Interventions with Children Exposed to Family Violence
  • Interventions with Offenders

Related Articles Expand or collapse the "related articles" sectionabout

Forthcoming Articles Expand or collapse the "forthcoming articles" section

  • Rare and Orphan Diseases and Social Work Practice
  • Social Work Practice with Transgender and Gender Expansive Youth
  • Unaccompanied Immigrant and Refugee Children
  • Find more forthcoming articles...


Social Work Intimate-Partner Violence
Angelique Jenney, Cheryl Regehr
  • LAST REVIEWED: 22 February 2018
  • LAST MODIFIED: 22 February 2018
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195389678-0081


Intimate-partner violence (IPV) is any behavior in an intimate relationship that causes physical, psychological, or sexual harm to those in the relationship. It includes acts of physical aggression (e.g., slapping, hitting, kicking, or beating), psychological abuse (e.g., intimidation, constant belittling, or intimidation), forced sexual activities, or any other controlling behavior (e.g., isolating a person from family and friends, monitoring his or her movements, or restricting access to information, financial support, or assistance). This definition includes current and former spouses and dating partners, and it also includes people in both heterosexual and same-sex relationships. This is differentiated from the earlier term “domestic violence,” which tended to refer to violence between spouses and in particular was often used synonymously with “woman abuse” and “wife battering” due to the fact that women have primarily been the victims of spousal violence throughout history. According to the National Crime Victimization Survey (see Statistics Resources), between 2003 and 2012, IPV accounted for 21 percent of all violent crimes in the United States, with women (76 percent) experiencing such victimization more than men (24 percent). Between 2001 and 2005, children were residents of the households experiencing IPV in 38 percent of the incidents involving female victims and 21 percent of the incidents involving male victims. In 2015, 28 percent of violent crimes reported to police were for IPV. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that one in three (35 percent) of women worldwide have experienced IPV. In 2005, WHO initiated a survey of over twenty-four thousand women in fifteen countries (see Statistics Resources), revealing that women who reported IPV also reported significantly poorer health status, emotional distress, and both suicidal ideation and attempts. In further response to such concerns, the WHO (2013) has released clinical and policy guidelines for responding to IPV and sexual violence against women.

Introductory Works

This section begins with some important historical works that provided early insights into the issue of IPV, including McLeod 1980; McLeod 1987; Davies, et al. 1998; Pleck 2004; and Walker 1999. Early writers in this area focused on the task of identifying domestic violence and in particular violence against women as a problem. These early books also identified the outcomes of the violence in terms of the mental health and social functioning of victims, the subtle dynamics within the family that allowed the violence to continue, patterns of violence, and how these factors combined to trap abused women in their homes. A major task was identifying why women did not merely leave situations where they were abused. This includes analysis from multidisciplinary and multinational perspectives, including intersectionality (Bograd 1999); analyses of issues faced by those who are representatives of minority groups (Alaggia and Vine 2012; also see Ethnically Diverse Communities) and those who have unequal rights under the law (see Legal Responses); and the issues faced by children who are exposed to domestic violence (Alaggia and Vine 2012; Jaffe, et al. 1990; also see Interventions with Children Exposed to Family Violence). These resources have begun to consider intervention in a much-broader context than was originally envisioned, and have moved from individual approaches to familial and community-based approaches as well as social action (also see Interventions).

  • Bograd, Michele. 1999. Strengthening domestic violence theories: Intersections of race, class, sexual orientation and gender. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy 25.3: 275–289.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1752-0606.1999.tb00248.x

    This theoretical article considers how modern theories on domestic violence may be enhanced through the application of a lens of intersectionality that incorporates such primary aspects of social life as race, class, sexual orientation, and gender.

  • Davies, Jill M., Eleanor Lyon, and Diane Monti-Catania. 1998. Safety planning with battered women: Complex lives / difficult choices. SAGE Series on Violence against Women 7. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.

    This seminal work, which has since been published in a 2013 second edition (Davies and Lyon, Domestic Violence Advocacy: Complex Lives / Difficult Choices, Los Angeles: SAGE), highlighted the unique issues behind women’s need for safety and the complexity this entailed from multiple perspectives.

  • Gordon, Linda. 1988. Heroes of their own lives: The politics and history of family violence; Boston, 1880–1960. New York: Viking.

    This book provides a historical approach by tracing social and policy responses to family violence from 1880 to 1960 and gives valuable insight into the evolution of child protection approaches to this issue in the late 20th century.

  • Jaffe, Peter G., David A. Wolfe, and Susan K. Wilson. 1990. Children of battered women. Developmental Clinical Psychology and Psychiatry 21. Newbury Park, CA: SAGE.

    This groundbreaking text was the first to identify and begin to address issues for children exposed to violence against their mothers.

  • McLeod, Linda. 1980. Wife battering in Canada: The vicious circle. Ottawa, ON: Canadian Advisory Council on the Status of Women.

    This was the first attempt to estimate the incidence of wife assault in Canada and suggested that one in ten Canadian women were victims of intimate violence. McLeod’s work was instrumental in changing public policy in Canada and bringing about funding for shelters and programs for battered women.

  • McLeod, Linda. 1987. Other side of the mountain: Preventing wife battering in Canada. Ottawa, ON: Canadian Advisory Council on the Status of Women.

    Documents significant gains being made, “applauding our progress” in bringing the problem of woman abuse from the private sphere into the public domain. Nevertheless, McLeod identified that despite a dramatic rise in services, the problem was not diminishing, and the original formulation of wife battering did not fully account for the complexity of the battering relationship.

  • Pleck, Elizabeth. 2004. Domestic tyranny: The making of American social policy against family violence from colonial times to the present. Urbana: Univ. of Illinois Press.

    First published in 1987 (New York: Oxford University Press). Pleck is a professor of history and human and community development and thus brings to the discussion of IPV a unique perspective that is important grounding for students and scholars in the field. Her work reviews legal, political, and medical campaigns against domestic violence from colonial times to the present.

  • Walker, Lenore E. A. 1999. The battered woman syndrome. New York: Springer.

    This book, first published in 1979 as The Battered Woman (New York: Harper & Row), was the first to consider patterns of abuse in relationships and to propose the concept of the cycle of violence. This book also gave rise to the notion of learned helplessness in battered women, which has been subsequently used as a legal defense strategy (see Legal Responses) in cases of battered women who kill their abusive husbands. A highly controversial but important historical piece.

back to top

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content on this page. Please subscribe or login.

How to Subscribe

Oxford Bibliographies Online is available by subscription and perpetual access to institutions. For more information or to contact an Oxford Sales Representative click here.