Journal of Family Violence

, Volume 12, Issue 3, pp 293–311

If Violence Is Domestic, Does It Really Count?

  • Sharon Wofford Mihalic
  • Delbert Elliott

DOI: 10.1023/A:1022800905045

Cite this article as:
Mihalic, S.W. & Elliott, D. Journal of Family Violence (1997) 12: 293. doi:10.1023/A:1022800905045


Estimates of the prevalence of marital violence have been found to vary dramatically from survey to survey. This paper addresses one potential explanation for this difference which involves the focus and format of different surveys. We examine the extent to which survey respondents are willing to report marital violence in a context which focuses on criminal behaviors as opposed to a family violence context. In a very basic way, this answers a question as to whether individuals are willing to define acts of marital violence as criminal. Methodologically, it is a measurement issue which seriously affects the ability to compare findings across samples. National Youth Survey data are used to compare rates of generalized spousal assault and victimization reported in a crime context with rates of marital assault and victimization reported in a family violence context. Results indicate that 40 to 83% of all marital assaults and victimizations reported in the marital violence section are not reported in a format which focuses on criminal assault and victimization.

marital violence context underreporting of marital violence discrepancies in marital violence rates comparisons of marital violence studies 

Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1997

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sharon Wofford Mihalic
    • 1
  • Delbert Elliott
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute of Behavioral ScienceUniversity of Colorado at BoulderBoulder

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