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Includes biological and personal history factors that may increase the likelihood that an individual will become a victim or perpetrator of violence. (WHO, 2010)

The Center for Disease Control lists the following as risk factors for individuals:

  • Low self-esteem
  • Low income
  • Low academic achievement
  • Young age
  • Aggressive or delinquent behavior as a youth
  • Heavy alcohol and drug use
  • Depression
  • Anger and hostility
  • Antisocial personality traits
  • Borderline personality traits
  • Prior history of being physically abusive
  • Having few friends and being isolated from other people
  • Unemployment
  • Emotional dependence and insecurity
  • Belief in strict gender roles (e.g., male dominance and aggression in relationships)
  • Desire for power and control in relationships
  • Perpetrating psychological aggression
  • Being a victim of physical or psychological abuse (consistently one of the strongest predictors of perpetration)
  • History of experiencing poor parenting as a child
  • History of experiencing physical discipline as a child (CDC, 2016)

To illustrate this issue, Mary Alice shares her story.

I come from a large Hispanic family where I saw family members abused, but leaving wasn’t an option. In my community, your husband gives you food, gives you shelter, and the attitude is, “Why would you even think of leaving?” My grandmother was harder on my aunts for wanting to leave their abusive relationships because, to her, you stayed with your husband no matter what. Leaving was just not part of the deal. Even though my mother did not experience an intimate partnership violence relationship, she did experience some violence from her older brothers. When my mother told my grandfather about it, he put a stop to it. But my grandmother was angry that my mother would say something to her father. When my grandfather saw that my grandmother was so upset about my mother’s decision to say something about the violence, he said “If we make it ok for her brothers to beat her, we are saying it is ok for her future husband to beat her.” My mother also said that day was her Independence Day.

My mother’s decision to break away from those traditional roles influenced me. Out of 8 kids, my mom was the only one to graduate from high school and college. She had a strained relationship with my grandmother, because she refused to accept violence, and she educated herself. The attitude my family members had was that she thought she was better than everyone else (personal communication, 2016).

Mary Alice’s mother showed tremendous courage to break the cycle of violence in her family so she and her children could have a better life. She left a violent relationship, endured the consequences from an unsupportive family, and chose to live a life free of abuse. Her strength is an example to the community of overcoming abuse and thriving in the midst of violence. In her story, she faced a culture which accepted violence, but she chose to fight against it.

Digging deeper into her story, several risk factors were present. She was raised in a culture where violence was accepted as a normal part of relationships. From childhood, she witnessed several relationships where abuse was all too common. Additionally, she was taught that women were to rely on men economically for food, clothing, and shelter. Dependence is created through this system which also does not encourage people to be economically independent or seek educational opportunities. These attitudes and beliefs greatly increase the risk for domestic violence which can be connected to substance abuse, mental health issues, and many other social ills.