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Risk Factors for Domestic Violence

Discover the risk factors for domestic violence and abuse.
© Coventry University. CC BY-NC 4.0
Certain factors are associated with increased or decreased risk of domestic violence and abuse. However, it is vital for health providers to recognise that DVA knows no boundaries and can affect any individual irrespective of gender, sexual identity, ethnicity, socio-economic status or cultural heritage.
In this section, we consider risk factors associated with lifetime DVA (not just during pregnancy). Understanding what puts a person at risk of experiencing DVA or using it against another person is helpful for planning and designing prevention programmes and other interventions. However, risk needs to be interpreted with caution, as demonstrated in the exercise in the previous step, as a person may experience (or perpetrate) DVA in the absence of risk factors – for example, the victim who is educated and ‘successful’; a perpetrator who is female or an upstanding member of the community.
Unplanned pregnancy is one of the most important risk factors for domestic violence and abuse.
In a systematic review of 35 studies using a prospective, longitudinal design, the strongest evidence for modifiable risk factors for DVA against women were unplanned pregnancy (OR 1.66; 95% CI 1.2-1.31) and having parents with less than a high-school education (OR 1.55; 95% CI 1.10-2.17). Being older (OR 0.96; 95% CI 0.93-0.98) or married (OR 0.93; 95% CI 0.87, 0.99) were protective against DVA (Yakubovich et al., 2018).


Let’s consider risk for DVA in terms of a range of factors spanning the personal to the socio-cultural levels.
On the Risk factors padlet wall, list factors under each heading that you believe are associated with DVA victimisation. The headings are:
  • Individual
  • Interpersonal
  • Community
  • Socio-cultural

When you have finished, review the CDC’s list of risk factors.

We’ll look at environmental risk factors in the next step.


Yakubovich, A. R., Stöckl, H., Murray, J., Melendez-Torres, G. J., Steinert, J. I., Glavin, C. E. Y., & Humphreys, D. K. (2018). Risk and protective factors for intimate partner violence against women: Systematic review and meta-analyses of prospective-longitudinal studies. American Journal of Public Health. 108(7), e1-e11. DOI link

© Coventry University. CC BY-NC 4.0
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Identifying and Responding to Domestic Violence and Abuse (DVA) in Pregnancy

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