Skip to 0 minutes and 4 secondsWhy are some people at higher risk of suffering from domestic violence and abuse while others are protected from it? Are there particular risk factors that can make a person more vulnerable to DVA? The social-ecological model is a useful framework which can help us to understand the range of factors that put a person at risk of experiencing or perpetrating violence. The model is organised in terms of four levels of risk. Violence is the result of the interaction of factors at all four levels. The individual level covers the biological and personal factors which influence individual behaviour.

Skip to 0 minutes and 40 secondsThese include demographic factors such as age, gender, education, and income, as well as experiencing or witnessing abuse as a child, having a psychological or personality disorder, or suffering from alcohol or substance addiction. The next level explains how personal relationships with family members, friends, and intimate partners can influence whether a person becomes a victim or perpetrator of violence. For example, growing up in a strongly patriarchal family, having violent friends, or experiencing conflict or dissatisfaction with an intimate partner. The community level explores the settings in which these social relationships occur, such as schools, neighbourhoods, and workplaces.

Skip to 1 minute and 24 secondsThese factors may include high levels of crime and unemployment, an illicit drug or gun trade, weak community sanctions against domestic violence, and inadequate care for victims. The final level of the framework is the societal level. This relates to the structures and systems of the society and culture in which a person lives that create a level of acceptance for inequality and violence. This might include poverty, male dominance over women, or a broad social acceptance of violence as a way to resolve conflict. The social-ecological model shows that there is no single factor that can explain why some people or groups are at a higher risk of perpetrating or experience violence and abuse in their relationships.

Skip to 2 minutes and 9 secondsThe overlapping rings illustrate how factors at one level influence factors at other levels. Each level can be thought of as a level of influence, and also as a key point for prevention. To recognise and respond to DVA, it is important to understand the various different factors that can contribute to it, and can therefore be a key point for prevention.

Are some people at higher risk?

Whilst there is no one factor that will make someone more susceptible to experiencing (or perpetrating) violence. There are a wide range of personal, situational and social factors that all interact to predict DVA.

In this animation, we’ll introduce the ‘socio-ecological model’ and describe how understanding the various different factors that contribute to DVA can help us to better recognise and respond to it.

What role does the family play?

One of the major criticisms of this model is that it does not give enough importance to the element of ‘family’ which is a significant element in many cultures. This is an area that our lead educator, Parveen Ali has described in her research. You can find out more by reading her article “Not Managing Expectations: A Grounded Theory of Intimate Partner Violence From the Perspective of Pakistani People”.

What do you think?

Can you think of a risk factor for each level (individual, relationship, community and society)?

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This video is from the free online course:

Supporting Victims of Domestic Violence

The University of Sheffield