Through the analysis of jailhouse phone calls, researchers were able to examine what triggers episodes of violent abuse between men and their partners.
It has been shown in previous studies that allegations of sexual infidelity by either partner may incite violence in a relationship. Julianna Nemeth, lead author of the study and a doctoral student in public health at Ohio State University, observed sexual jealousy initiates the violence.
"What we were looking for was the immediate precursor -- what was the one thing that happened right before the violence that was the catalyst," Nemeth said. "I have worked in domestic violence intervention for many years, but still the findings shocked me. We never knew that it was the accusation of infidelity that tended to trigger the violence."
The study comprised of 17 heterosexual couples, where researchers monitored direct conversations of jailhouse phone calls of couples where the male was in a detention facility in the state of Washington for felony-level intimate partner violence. Victims of the study incurred severe injuries during the attacks including head trauma requiring hospitalization, bite wounds, strangulation and loss of pregnancy. Of the 17 couples, five experienced abused during pregnancy and two women reported losing their child as a result.
With approval from the county prosecutors 'office and detention facility, researchers were allowed to obtain four hours of recorded conversations between the detainee and his partner. All recordings involved cases that had been settled.
From analyzing recordings the research team developed a conceptual model to explain what they discovered. Acute trigger for violence, along with continuing stressors in the relationships are all contributing factors that lead to abuse. Additionally, drug and alcohol were found to be a chief component in violent incidents as well.
"We found that long-term disputes regarding infidelity pervaded nearly every relationship," Nemeth said. "Even if it didn't trigger the violent event, it was an ongoing stressor in nearly all of the 17 couples we studied."
According to Amy Bonomi, co-author of the study and associate professor of human development and family science at Ohio State, another essential component of these violent relationships are the traditional heterosexual gender roles that may have been justified through religion.
"We commonly heard the couples discuss how women are supposed to marry and have children, and how men are supposed to be strong and in control," Bonomi said. "Men tended to use these traditional gender role prescriptions to justify their use of violence."
Nemeth hopes the results of this study will help implement new strategies for victim advocates and other mental health physicians. She also recommends there should be an increase in management between health care providers assisting individuals who use drug alcohol use, mental health issues, and domestic abuse.
The study was published in the Journal of Women's Health.