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Is It Conflict or Abuse? A Practice Note for Furthering Differential Assessment and Response

Abstract

This practice note uses over 20 years of experience as domestic violence advocates to argue that the domestic violence field is not adequately distinguishing escalated conflict from abuse. In spite of a long-standing domestic violence paradigm based on an analysis of power and control, there is an overemphasis on violent behaviors and an underemphasis on power and control dynamics, absent physical violence. The authors contend that abuse and escalated conflict are different, but often conflated. Furthering differential assessments would allow better responses to both the needs of abuse survivors, as well as those whose relationships are in escalated conflict. This practice note overviews the limitations, proposes a shift in thinking that highlights three possible power dynamics within relationships (power-sharing, power-struggling, or power-over), and offers implications for practice and research.

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Correspondence to Annelise Mennicke.

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Hodes, C., Mennicke, A. Is It Conflict or Abuse? A Practice Note for Furthering Differential Assessment and Response. Clin Soc Work J 47, 176–184 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10615-018-0655-8

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Keywords

  • Domestic violence
  • Conflict or abuse
  • Assessment