Paper presented at the 1988 meeting of the American Sociological Association. This research is part of the Family Violence Research Program of the Family Research Laboratory, University of New Hampshire, Durham. A program description and publications list will be sent on request. The work of Dr. Feld was supported by a postdoctoral fellowship made possible by the National Institute of Mental Health, grant T32MH15161. The data for the first wave of the study are from the National Family Violence Resurvey, funded by National Institute of Mental Health grant RO1MH40027 (Richard J. Gelles and Murray A. Straus co-investigators). The second wave of interviews was supported by National Science Foundation grant SES85202232 for a Panel Survey of Deterrence Processes (Kirk R. Williams and Murray A. Straus, co-investigators). The Family Violence Research Program has been supported by the University of New Hampshire. It is a pleasure to acknowledge the support of these organizations. We appreciate the comments and suggestions of Kirk Williams and the members of the Family Violence Research Seminar at the University of New Hampshire.
ESCALATION AND DESISTANCE OF WIFE ASSAULT IN MARRIAGE*
Article first published online: 7 MAR 2006
Volume 27, Issue 1, pages 141–162, February 1989
How to Cite
FELD, S. L. and STRAUS, M. A. (1989), ESCALATION AND DESISTANCE OF WIFE ASSAULT IN MARRIAGE. Criminology, 27: 141–162. doi: 10.1111/j.1745-9125.1989.tb00866.x
Scott L. Feld is an Associate Professor of Sociology at the State University of New York at Stony Brook. His research articles on social networks, individual and collective decision-making, and social policy have been published in sociology, political science, and interdisciplinary journals. His current research includes studies of: 1) the impact of social networks on parenting, and 2) decisions of weak social actors to use violence. The central problem underlying his diverse research agenda is to provide systematic principles describing how rational choices are made within a social context of norms, values, structures, and interpersonal relationships.
Murray A. Straus is Professor of Sociology and Director of the Family Research Laboratory at the University of New Hampshire. He is the President-Elect of the Society For the Study of Social Problems, former President of the National Council on Family Relations, Vice-president of the Eastern Sociological Society, and Member of the Council, American Association For the Advancement of Science. He is the recipient of the Ernest W. Burgess Award of the National Council of Family Relations for outstanding research on the family and an American Sociological Association award for contributions to undergraduate teaching. Straus is the author or co-author of over 150 articles on the family, research methods, and South Asia; and eleven books including The Social Origins of Rape In the United States (1989), and Intimate Violence, (1988).
- Issue published online: 7 MAR 2006
- Article first published online: 7 MAR 2006
This article examines two widely held beliefs concerning the nature of “careers” of wife assault. Most researchers and members of the public believe that assaultive behavior in marriage, once begun, tends to continue for the life of the marriage. It is also commonly believed that minor violence (e.g., slapping, shoving, throwing things at a spouse) is unrelated to severe assaults (e.g., punching, kicking, using a weapon). These beliefs are based on the most severe cases of wife battering, as described by the media and by women in shelters. Despite these beliefs, we suggest that wife assault is similar to other forms of deviance and crime, in that desistance is common and engaging in minor forms of deviance is a risk factor for engaging in major forms of deviance and crime. The article reports a study using data on a sample of 380 married respondents who reported some violence in their marriage in 1985 and were reinterviewed in 1986. The findings indicate that most marital violence is transient, but even minor violence by a wife poses a risk of escalation to more dangerous assaults by a husband. Theoretical and practical implications of the findings are discussed.