Domestic Violence and Poverty

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Domestic Violence and Poverty


Familial violence occurs in all social classes; yet, there is a definitive connection between being poor and domestic violence and/or child abuse. Typically poor living conditions as well as the stress associated with struggling to make ends meet in a regular day to day lifestyle may trigger a great amount of stress and frustration, which in turn can be the trigger point for a violent situation. People can feel so demeaned by society and the situation in which they live in that they lash out at those who are just as vulnerable as they feel; more often than not these “people” tend to be children. These children in turn grow up to think and feel it is okay to lash out and abuse another person simply because it happened to them.

The poor tend to be confronted consistently by the wealth they do not have, and they are also often blamed for their economic situations. Americans tend to be much calloused toward those who are poor. Poor society is typically looked down upon and treated like lesser beings of the human race. Society tends to expect nothing good from poor neighborhoods and is never surprised when violence or crime makes the news for poorer neighborhoods. Often snide remarks can be heard about the situation versus sympathy and compassion. The wealthy blame the poor for not finding better alternatives to escape the crutch of poverty. The poor blame the wealthy and society for not making a better lifestyle free of crime and abuse easily obtainable.

Consequences of Poverty

There are countless consequences of poverty in America with the consequences most relevant to domestic violence are family instability and economic uncertainty. Economic uncertainty plagues the poor and most people raised in poverty have minimal education or none at all. Many of them cannot read or write prohibiting anything outside of low paying positions that are often temporary and have a very high turnover rate. The unemployment rate among the poor is considerably high. All of these conditions create feelings of inadequacy, frustration, and anger. Poverty stricken individuals tend to use their families as the outlet for these emotions. (Senter, 2007) The lower a family's economic and social status, the more likely that there is family violence; a volatile family wrought with poverty and instability permits perfect conditions for family violence.

Abuse Theories

There are many theories about why abuse happens. A psychological theory stipulates that abusive behavior stems from a need for control. A feminist theory stipulates that male abuse of women also frequently stems from ideas of masculinity as dominant, in-control and aggressive; a male abuser might exert violent control over his partner or children in order to maintain an image of himself as the patriarchal “head of his household.” The bottom-line analysis is that abuse is caused by abusers; no matter what’s going through their head or heart, the person inflicting pain makes the choice to do harm. Women especially, find it near impossible (in their mind) to leave abusive situations therefore allowing themselves to be trapped within the cycle. They truly believe their partner loves them and albeit the case, they need to understand that the abuser needs help to break away from the abusive cycle and love is not painful nor is it standing by their man’s side no matter what he does to them. Women have been killed at the hands of their abusers, and of course, no woman thinks it could ever happen to them.

Economic Stress

It is true that economic stress can cut to the core of masculinity. Losing a job, or even fearing that you might lose it, is guaranteed to make you feel exactly the opposite of in control, powerful, successful and invulnerable. Without control, there is no power, and failure sets in. Someone who already believes that violence is power, and that men have to be powerful, could very easily become more violent and would harm both himself and his partner by doing so.

Poverty comes with frustrations which tend to unleash violent behavior. There are numerous stressors that tend to unleash aggravations and frustrations into violence such as high consumption of alcohol, low schooling levels, poor living conditions, few entertainment opportunities, poor jobs and failure to improve conditions of living, large family burden and lack of adequate basic services in life. These are potential circumstances that might predispose marginalized and poor family members to result to domestic violence. On the man’s side, source of conflict is the inability to materially provide for the household while on the side of the woman; the source may be her inability to manage the little they have which is always “never enough.” In such a standpoint, domestic violence becomes the result of the poverty related stress in the household. (Morrison & Biehl, 1999)

Illicit Behavior

Drugs and crime tend to run rampant within the deep confines of the poorer neighborhoods. When many fail to rise above the poverty bestowed upon them they accept the illegal activity as their only option to rise above the confinements of poverty that have plagued their lifestyle. The tend to provide for their families by selling drugs, which tends to cause great turmoil in the family due to the uncertainty of when that person will be caught and imprisoned for their activity or worse yet, killed in a drug deal gone wrong. Many will also steal to provide for their family. This too causes a great deal of stress on the family. Sometimes it is unknown to the family what the person does to support the family. An arrest tends to take the family by shock and they struggle to comprehend the situation. The end result consists of placing blame, the criminal blames society because he/she believes there were no other alternatives and society blames the criminal for not finding better alternatives to escape the crutch of poverty.


Preventing domestic violence is not easy yet encouraging women to prioritize work and education could have a direct effect on domestic violence by making them more likely to resist economic abuse. Dismantling traditional ideas of masculinity as tied to dominance and “success” could help, too. Providing jobs and a reliable safety net for the poor and the out-of-work gives victims more power to leave and could cut down on the stress that pushes volatile relationships to the breaking point. (Doyle, 2012) Domineering programs for those in poorer societies to utilize and make a better life for themselves may also assist in breaking away from the cycle of abuse. There are far too few alternatives to aide those lacking proper resources to rising above the fate that they believe is all they have.

There are domestic violence shelters available for women and children who are ready to flee the situation, yet many continue to live their life in fear anticipating what will happen when he finds her. Many believe it is just a matter of time and they live a high stress life constantly looking over their shoulder, even after relocating several times often hundreds of miles per relocation.

There are also grants available to assist in education for those struggling in poverty, yet many barely have a minimal education and feel they cannot survive a college education or cannot justify the time to put forth the effort of an education due to already struggling with working more than one job trying to provide for their family.

Although some programs have been in effect to assist the poor, they are far from perfect or ideal enough for the poor to accept the programs assistance and make more of an attempt to break away from the poverty life style, yet they yearn to be free from such confinements.


Doyle, S. (2012, May 7). The Poverty of Domestic Violence. Retrieved February 14, 2014, from In These Times:

Morrison, A. R., & Biehl, M. L. (1999). Too Close To Home; Domestic Violence in the Americas. Washington: Inter-American Development Bank.

Senter, J. B. (2007, Oct 7). Poverty and Family Violence in America. Retrieved February 14, 2014, from

Thio, A., Taylor, J., & Schwartz, M. (2013). Deviant Behavior (Eleventh ed.). Saddle River: Pearson.