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Violence Vict. 2002 Apr;17(2):255-64.

Understanding domestic violence against women: using evolutionary psychology to extend the feminist functional analysis.

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School of Social Work, University of Maine, Orono 04469, USA.


Evolutionary psychologists such as Wilson and Daly (1993b) hypothesize that one goal of male-perpetrated domestic violence is control over female sexuality, including the deterrence of infidelity. According to this hypothesis, domestic violence varies with women's reproductive value or expected future reproduction, declining steeply as women age. We tested this hypothesis with a sample of 3,969 cases of male-perpetrated partner-abuse reported to a single police precinct in a large urban area over a 14-year period. Results show that (a) rates of domestic violence decrease as women age, (b) younger men are at greatest risk for perpetrating domestic violence, (c) younger, reproductive age women incur nearly 10 times the risk of domestic violence as do older, post-reproductive age women, and (d) the greater risk of domestic violence incurred by reproductive age women is not attributable solely to mateship to younger, more violent men. Discussion addresses theoretical implications of these findings and suggests a refinement of the feminist hypothesis of domestic violence against women.

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