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  • Print publication year: 2011
  • Online publication date: March 2011

6 - Violence, Abuse, and Postseparation Parenting

Summary

Happy families do not break up, and while every unhappy family may be unhappy in its own way, violence and various forms of abuse are common features of separated families. Indeed, research evidence from large-scale community or national surveys has established that domestic violence is a pervasive and common problem in all intimate relationships. A general population survey in Canada found that 8.6 percent of women and 7 percent of men reported some kind of physical abuse from a current or ex-partner within the last five years. Women reported much more severe abuse. Levels of abuse and violence are particularly high in intimate relationships between younger people. In one major study in New Zealand, domestic conflict was present in 70 percent of the intimate relationships of twenty-five-year-olds, with this conflict ranging from minor psychological abuse to severe assault.

It is therefore unsurprising that a history of violence and abuse should be common among families who have separated. The pervasiveness of violence and abuse among parents who have separated is evident in Australian research. Sheehan and Smyth, reporting on interviews with a general population of separated parents, found that 65 percent of women and 55 percent of men indicated that they had experienced violence against them within the criminal law definition of assault. Fifty-three percent of women and 24 percent of men reported violence or threats of violence that induced fear. Fourteen percent of women, and 3 percent of men reported injuries resulting from violence that required medical treatment.

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