Domestic violence: Defining a social problem. The response of helping professionals
Cary, Kathleen M.
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This study examined how social workers and other helping professionals viewed the problem of domestic or partner violence prior to the passing of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) and subsequent to its passing. The sample consisted of 12 academic journals over a 23-year period and represented the professions of social work, psychology, sociology, and legal scholars. The literature was subjected to quantitative content analysis in order to discover whether the perceptions of domestic violence have shifted between the two time periods: before the passage of VAWA (1980-1994) and following the passage of VAWA (1995-2002). For each period, the percentage of articles that referenced domestic violence as individual pathology, the percentage of articles that referenced institutional or systemic approaches, and the percentage of articles that referenced an integrative or ecological approach was analyzed. A coding guide was constructed by pulling themes from the domestic violence literature and inserting those themes into an ecological grid. In addition, this study utilized qualitative analysis in order to observe and describe unexpected trends that fell outside predetermined operational definitions. This study found that the discourse in this sample of journals increased its approach after VAWA, with the batterer as a target of study, yet continued to focus on the psychology of the individual as an intervention. Throughout the sample, causality of domestic violence and not prevention continued to frame the debate. Macro level concerns such as economics, race and ethnicity, societal culture, tolerance of violence, and political contexts were barely noted.