Domestic violence — also known as domestic abuse, intimate partner violence or abuse — may start when one partner feels the need to control and dominate the other.
Abusers may feel this need to control their partner because of low self-esteem, extreme jealousy, difficulties in regulating anger and other strong emotions, or when they feel inferior to the other partner in education and socioeconomic background.
Some people with very traditional beliefs may think they have the right to control their partner, and that women aren’t equal to men. Others may have an undiagnosed personality disorder or psychological disorder. Still others may have learned this behavior from growing up in a household where domestic violence was accepted as a normal part of being raised in their family.
A partner’s domination may take the form of emotional, physical or sexual abuse. Studies suggest that violent behavior often is caused by an interaction of situational and individual factors. That means that abusers learn violent behavior from their family, people in their community and other cultural influences as they grow up. They may have seen violence often or they may have been victims themselves. Some abusers acknowledge growing up having been abused as a child.
Children who witness or are the victims of violence may learn to believe that violence is a reasonable way to resolve conflict between people. Boys who learn that women are not to be valued or respected and who see violence directed against women are more likely to abuse women when they grow up. Girls who witness domestic violence in their families of origin are more likely to be victimized by their own husbands. Although women are most often the victim of domestic violence, the gender roles can and are reversed sometimes.
Alcohol and drugs may contribute to violent behavior. A drunk or high person will be less likely to control his or her violent impulses toward their partner, so keeping such drinking or drug use episodes to a minimum may be valuable for a person living in a domestic violence situation.
No cause of domestic violence, however, justifies the actions of the abuser, nor should it be used as a rationale for their behavior. These possible causes are only to better understand why an abuser believes it is acceptable to abuse their partner physically, sexually, psychologically or emotionally. Ultimately an abuser needs to get help for their unhealthy and destructive behavior, or find themselves living a solitary and lonely life.