Analyzing Domestic Violence Behaviors in their Contexts: Violence as a Continuation of Social Strategies by other Means

Bernard Guerin, Marcela de Oliveira Ortolan


Behaviors occurring in situations of domestic violence were collated from varied sources and analyzed in several ways, using a sort of backwards engineering of contexts.  The many behaviors found in domestic violence (Table 1) suggested five common functional patterns which allow a better understanding of the context (Table 2): direct physical actions and threats against the woman; manipulating the context to control the woman’s behavior; strategies to keep secrets within the relationships; strategies to monitor or find out about the woman and her activities and social contacts; and verbal constructions to threaten or to persuade the woman of the man’s view for the world.  In Table 3 we explored how the functional groupings from Table 2 might be used strategically by the men against the women, while Table 4 explored how these patterns of behaviors might start out innocuous but over time become more violent.  Training women to recognize these functions rather than topographical behaviors could be useful for interventions.  Finally, it was argued that the functional strategies of the men which appear in our analyses can only succeed if broader social and political contexts are in place. This means that to analyze the behaviors of domestic violence it is necessary to use broader contexts, such as those found in the political and feminist analyses—the analysis of domestic violence must involve more than just the two individuals behaving.  Even what are considered ‘private’ or ‘intimate’ contingent relations within social relationships are only made possible by the patriarchal and capitalist bases of modernity.  It is demonstrated how these can be included in behavioral analyses.


domestic violence; contextual analysis; social relationship strategies; feminism and domestic violence; development of domestic violence; societal effects on behavior

Full Text:



Published by the University of Illinois at Chicago Library

And Behaviorists for Social Responsibility