, Volume 24, Issue 2, pp 215-232

Stay–Leave Decision Making in Battered Women: Trauma, Coping and Self-Efficacy

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Most often, for battered women, the decision to stay or leave is not made at a single point in time with finality, but instead unfolds over time, and represents the most fundamental and difficult decision women may face (Barnett & LaViolette, 1993). In order to increase our knowledge of the complex factors involved in stay–leave experiences for women in violent relationships, this study focused on explicating multiple variables relevant to battered women who were either in a violent relationship or who had left a violent relationship. Five relationship status groups were examined in order to better understand the potential differences in women's experiences at different points in time: women in violent relationships (1); women out of a violent relationship for up to 6 months (2); women out of a violent relationship from 6 months to 1 year (3); women out of a violent relationship 1 to 3 years (4); women out of a violent relationship 3 years or more. Two hundred women were recruited via advertisements and posters. Using cross-sectional analyses, the variables examined included trauma symptoms (Briere, 1989); coping (Folkman & Lazarus, 1985); self-efficacy for leaving a violent relationship (a measure developed for this study; Kennedy, 1996); and physical violence (Straus, 1979). Results indicated that dynamic psychological variables such as self-efficacy, trauma symptoms, and coping varied depending on whether women were in or out of the relationship and how long it had been since they had left the relationship. These findings support the importance of understanding and responding to process variables, relevant to battered women's experiences and the potential value in tailoring interventions that are relevant to each woman's needs at a given point in the decision-making process.