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"The leading scholars of family violence have produced the leading
book for a wide audience. The lucid style and the general sociological
observations are based on the most solid, methodologically sound
research in the field."
-Marvin E. Wolfgang
Professor of Criminology and Law
Wharton School of
Finance and Commerce
"Powerful insights into the essential and close relationships within
families that allow this pervasive form of violence, which has thrived
in privacy and secrecy. The authors' pioneering work is the foundation for this important book."
-Robert W. ten Bensel, M.D.
Professor, Public Health and Pediatrics
University of Minnesota
"The findings of over fifteen years of research..
bution to this field."
"Illuminates the roots of domestic violence and sex abuse. Interweaving case histories and survey results, this study will challenge
parents, professionals and care-givers."
OTHER BOOKS BY RICHARD J. GELLES AND MURRAY A. STRAUS
Behind Closed Doors: Violence in the American Family, with
Suzanne K. Steinmetz
The Dark Side of Families: Current Family Violence Research,
edited with David Finkelhor and Gerald T. Hotaling
BY RICHARD J. GELLES
The Violent Home
Intimate Violence in Families, with Claire Pedrick Cornell
BY MURRAY A. STRAUS
Social Stress in the United States: Links to Regional Patterns in
Crime and Illness, with Arnold S. Linsky
The Social Causes o f Husband-Wife Violence, edited with Gerald T.
Violence in the Family, edited with Suzanne K. Steinmetz
Richard J. Gelles, Ph.D.
Murray A. Straus, Ph.D.
A TOUCHSTONE BOOK
Published by Simon & Schuster Inc
New York London Toronto Sydney Tokyo Singapore
Simon 81. Schuster Building
1230 Avenue of the Americas
New York, New York 10020
Copyright 0 1988 by Richard J. Gelles and
Murray A. Straus
All rights reserved
including the right of reproduction
in whole or in part in any form.
First Touchstone Edition, 1989
TOUCHSTONE and colophon are registered trademarks
of Simon & Schuster Inc.
Manufactured in the United States of America
1 3 5 7 9 1 0 8 6 4 2
3 5 7 9 1 0 8 6 4 2Pbk.
Library of Congress Cataloging in Puhlicarion Data
Gelies, Richard J.
1. Family violence-United States-Case studies.
2. Family violence-United States-Prevention.
I. Straus, Murray Arnold, date. 11. Title.
ISBN 0-671-68296-2 Pbk.
This book represents the results of more than fifteen years of research and study of family violence. Our two national surveys of
family violence were supported by grants from the National Institute
of Mental Health ( M H 27557 and M H 40027). Dr. Saleem Shah,
former Chief of the NIMH Center For Studies On Anti-Social and
Violent Behavior and Thomas Lalley, former deputy chief of the
center provided us support and guidance from our first tentative
studies of family violence through our most recent investigation.
They both had the foresight to see the importance of research on
violent families long before child abuse and wife abuse were identified as national social problems.
The design of the sample and the 6,002 interviews were conducted
by Louis Harris and Associates. Dr. David Neft, a friend, valued
colleague, and statistical expert, guided the formative stages of the
study design. David was and remains always available, at work, at
home, and at Larkin's Pond, to solve the trickiest sampling or statistical problems. Dr. John Boyle supervised the development of the
complex interview schedule and kept the data'collection on schedule.
We are indebted to Dr. John Harrop for coding the many complicated indexes and for getting our large and complicated data set to
run. John's exceptional attention to detail not only identified problems before they occurred but solved them with extraordinary investments of time and patience.
Ms. Jennifer Guckel provided able and constructive editorial comments and served as the prime research assistant on the initial stages
of the data analysis. Ms. Diane Hanscom helped us complete this
book by diligently tracking down the various reference sources and
statistics used in the book. She taught us the value of hiring a trained
The field of family violence research and treatment has grown
tremendously during the last decade. Those who have studied family
violence and attempted to unravel the complexities of this social
problem have had their endurance and faith tested by pain, suffering,
adversity, and tragedy. We have been fortunate to be able to draw
strength from many caring and compassionate colleagues as we have
had our own commitment challenged. The late C. Henry Kempe,
Bud Bolton, Eli and Carolyn Newberger, Robert Hampton, and
many other dedicated friends and colleagues inspired and motivated
Our literary agent Robert Lescher helped us to move beyond our
traditional academic concerns and questions and conceptualize a
book that would help the public and policy makers understand family violence. Our editor, Bob Asahina and his assistant Rhonda Johnson let us write our book, and gently, but firmly, helped polish the
We have interviewed more than 10,000 individuals in the last
fifteen years. The specific cases which are described in this book have
been altered to protect the anonymity of our subjects. Names and
identifiable social descriptions have been altered. Many cases are
actually composites of a number of families. Thc persons we interviewed were kind enough to give us time and share some of their
lives. The victims of abuse and violence shared their suffering and
pain to help us provide insight into family violence so that others
would not have to suffer.
Finally, our families, Judy, Jason, and David Geiles and Jackie
Straus have always been beacons of light when we emerged from
studying and writing about the dark side of family life.
In memory of our fathers,
who gave us the gifts of
inspiration and compassion