Psychological variables in battered women's stay/leave decisions : risk-taking perceived control, and optimistic bias

UNCW Author/Contributor (non-UNCW co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Vanessa A. Handsel (Creator)
The University of North Carolina Wilmington (UNCW )
Web Site:
Caroline Clements

Abstract: An experiment was conducted to assess the roles that risk-taking behavior, perceived control, optimistic bias, and intermittent relationship reinforcement play in determining the likelihood that a victim will return to or remain with her abuser. Surveys were administered to 71 battered women receiving services at various domestic violence shelters in North Carolina. Participants were divided into two groups based on their odds of return, resulting in one group with a less than 50 percent chance of leaving (will return) and a second group with an above 50 percent chance of leaving (will not return). The return criterion was measured and analyzed in terms of the aforementioned variables. While no one variable predicted the criterion, in the group more likely to return, greater perceived risk of unsafe sexual activity and higher perceived control over future events predicted increased likelihood of return to abuser. Within the group indicating they would probably not return, higher perceived benefits of risky sexual behavior predicted an increased likelihood of return as compared to others in that group. Findings suggest that risk-taking and perceived control are significant indicators of return for women who admit they will go back to their abusive partner, while perceived risk of unsafe sexual behavior and higher perceived control can help identify those within the group of who say they are not going back. This highlights the need for a multi-pronged approach to dealing with the issue of domestic violence.

Additional Information

A Thesis Submitted to the University of North Carolina at Wilmington in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirement for the Degree of Masters of Arts
Language: English
Date: 2009
Abused women, Decision making, Family violence--Psychology, Risk assessment
Abused women
Family violence -- Psychology
Risk assessment
Decision making

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