Cycle of violence

This article is about broader pattern of violence and intergenerational cycle of violence. For the social cycle theory within one couple's pattern of abuse, see Cycle of abuse.

The term cycle of violence refers to repeated and dangerous acts of violence as a cyclical pattern,[1] associated with high emotions and doctrines of retribution or revenge. The pattern, or cycle, repeats and can happen many times during a relationship.[1] Each phase may last a different length of time, and over time the level of violence may increase.

It often refers to violent behavior learned as a child, and then repeated as an adult, therefore continuing on in a perceived cycle.[2]

Within a relationship

A cycle of abuse generally follows the following pattern:[1]

A cyclical nature of domestic violence is most prevalent in intimate terrorism (IT), which involve a pattern of ongoing control using emotional, physical and other forms of domestic violence and is what generally leads victims, who are most often women, to women's shelters. It is what was traditionally the definition of domestic violence and is generally illustrated with the "Power and Control Wheel"[3] to illustrate the different and inter-related forms of abuse. Intimate terrorism is different from situational couple violence, which are isolated incidents of varying degrees of intensity.[4]

A general, intricate and complicated cycle of traumatic violence and healing map was developed by Olga Botcharova when she worked at the Center for International Studies.[5]


Intergenerational cycle of violence violence that is passed from parent to child, or sibling to sibling.[6]

Children exposed to domestic violence are likely to develop behavioral problems, such as regressing, exhibiting out of control behavior,[7] and imitating behaviors. Children may think that violence is an acceptable behavior of intimate relationships and become either the abused or the abuser.[8] Recent research has questioned whether certain effects of domestic violence exposure on children are moderated and/or mediated by maternal psychological response such as maternal post-traumatic stress disorder, dissociation, and related biological markers.[9][10]

An estimated 1/5 to 1/3 of teenagers subject to viewing domestic violence situations experience teen dating violence, regularly abusing or being abused by their partners verbally, mentally, emotionally, sexually and/or physically. Thirty to 50% of dating relationships can exhibit the same cycle of escalating violence in their marital relationships.[11]

Physical punishment of children has also been linked to later domestic violence.[12] Family violence researcher Murray A. Straus believes that disciplinary spanking forms "the most prevalent and important form of violence in American families", whose effects contribute to several major societal problems, including later assaults on spouses.[13]

See also


  1. 1 2 3 The cycle of violence. Domestic Violence and Abuse, Signs of Abuse and Abusive Relationships. Retrieved November 21, 2011.
  2. Fagan, A. A. (2005). The Relationship Between Adolescent Physical Abuse and Criminal Offending: Support for an Enduring and Generalized Cycle of Violence. Journal of Family Violence. 20(5):279-290.
  3. Power and Control Wheel, National Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence. Retrieved November 20, 2011.
  4. A Sociologist’s Perspective on Domestic Violence, A Conversation with Michael Johnson, Ph.D. Theodora Ooms, interviewer following May 2006 conference. Center for Law and Social Policty (CLASP). Pages 2-4. Retrieved November 20, 2011.
  5. Nancy Good Sider, MSW. At The Fork in the Road: Trauma Healing: Trauma Healing Map. Journey Toward Forgiveness. Retrieved November 21, 2011.
  6. Intergenerational Cycle Of Abuse Retrieved November 21, 2011.
  7. The Effects of Domestic Violence on Children. Alabama Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
  8. Reiss, Albert J.; Roth, Jeffrey A.; Miczek, Klaus A. (1993). Understanding and Preventing Violence: Social influences. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press. Pages 194-195 (as viewed in ISBN 0-309-05080-4.
  9. Schechter DS, Willheim E, McCaw J, Turner JB, Myers MM, Zeanah CH (2011). The relationship of violent fathers, posttraumatically stressed mothers, and symptomatic children in a preschool-age inner-city pediatrics clinic sample. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 26(18), 3699-3719.
  10. Schechter DS, Moser DA, Paoloni-Giacobino A, Stenz A, Gex-Fabry M, Aue T, Adouan W, Cordero MI, Suardi F, Manini A, Sancho Rossignol A, Merminod G, Ansermet F, Dayer AG, Rusconi Serpa S (epub May 29, 2015). Methylation of NR3C1 is related to maternal PTSD, parenting stress and maternal medial prefrontal cortical activity in response to child separation among mothers with histories of violence exposure. Frontiers in Psychology. To view the online publication, please click here:
  11. Sexual Assault Survivor Services (SASS) Facts about domestic violence. (1996)]
  12. Gershoff, E.T. (2008). Report on Physical Punishment in the United States: What Research Tells Us About Its Effects on Children (PDF). Columbus, OH: Center for Effective Discipline. p. 16.
  13. Straus, Murray A. (2000). "Corporal punishment by parents: The cradle of violence in the family and society" (PDF). Virginia Journal of Social Policy and the Law.

Further reading


Academic journals

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