Violence against Women: Methodological and Ethical Issues


Research on violence against women has improved and provides important information on patterns, prevalence, risk and consequences of this major threat to female well-being. Since the identification of violence against women as a problem worthy of study in 1970, evident progress has been made in understanding physical, psychological and sexual violence against women. However, while methodological improvements appear in later studies, the literature review shows many limitations and restrictions when conducting research on violence against women. The objective of this paper is to review the methodological issues that arise when studying violence against women. The paper focuses first on the history of research on violence against women, by elaborating on each perspective. Second, the paper identifies and describes methodological difficulties when researching violence against women such as methodology, operational definitions of violence, sampling frame and risk factors related to violence. The paper also elaborates on major ethical principles that should be considered and respected when researching violence against women. Finally, the paper recommends certain changes that should be made in order to improve future research on the subject.

Share and Cite:

Kelmendi, K. (2013). Violence against Women: Methodological and Ethical Issues. Psychology, 4, 559-565. doi: 10.4236/psych.2013.47080.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


[1] Abramsky, T., Watts, Ch. H., Garcia-Moreno, C., Devries, K., Kiss, L., Ellsberg, M., Jansen, H., & Heise, L. (2011). What factors are associate with recent intimate partner violence? Findings from the WHO multi-country study on women’s health and domestic violence. BMC Public Health, 11, 109. doi:10.1186/1471-2458-11-109
[2] Bogard, M. (1984). Family systems approaches to wife battering: A feminist critique. Americal Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 54, 559-568.
[3] Carlson, B. E., Worden, A. P., Ryn, M., & Bachman, R. (2000). Violence against women: Synthesis of research for practitioners. Final Report submitted to the National Justice, grant number 98-WTVX-K011. Washington, DC: US Department of Justice.
[4] Crowell, N. A., & Burgess, A. W. (1996). Understanding violence against women. Washington, DC: National Academies Press. doi:10.1037/10204-000
[5] Dobash, R. E., & Dobash, R. P. (1977, 1978). Wives: The “appropriate” victims of martial violence. Victimology: An International Journal, 2, 426-442.
[6] Dobash, R. E., Dobash, R. P., Wilson, M., & Daly, M. (1992). The myth of sexual symmetry in marital violence. Social Problems, 39, 71-91. doi:10.2307/3096914
[7] Dietz, T. L., & Jasinski, J. L. (2007). The evect of item order on partner violence reporting: An examination of four versions of the revised Conflict Tactics Scales. Social Science Research, 36, 353-373. doi:10.1016/j.ssresearch.2006.04.006
[8] Ellsberg, M., & Heise, L. (2002). Bearing witness: Ethics in domestic violence research. Violence against Women, 359, 1599-1604.
[9] Ellsberg, M., & Heise, L. (2005). Researching violence against women: A practical guide for researchers and activists. Washington, DC: World Health Organization.
[10] Ellsberg, M. (2006). Violence against women: A global public health crisis. Scandinavian Journal of Public Health, 34, 1403-4948. doi:10.1080/14034940500494941
[11] Garcia-Moreno, C., Jansen, H. A., Ellsberg, M., Heise, L., & Watts, C. H. (2006). Prevalence of intimate partner violence: Findings from the WHO multi country study on women’s health and domestic violence. Geneva: World Health Organization, Department of Gender, Women and Health.
[12] Garcia-Moreno, C., & Watts, Ch. (2011). Violence against women: An urgent public health priority. /1/10-085217.pdf
[13] Gelles, R. J. (1980). Violence in the family: A review of research in the seventies. Journal of Marriage and Family, 42, 873-885. doi:10.2307/351830
[14] Heise, L., Ellsberg, M., & Gottemoeller, M. (1999). Ending violence against women. Population Information Programme, 27.
[15] Heise, L. (2012). Determinants of partner violence in low and middle income countries: Exploring variation in individual and population —Level risk. PhD Thesis, London: London School of Hygiene Tropical Medicine.
[16] Hegarty, K., Bush, R., & Sheehan, M. (2005). The composite abuse scale: Further development and assessment of reliability and validity of a multidimensional partner abuse measure in clinical settings. Violence and Victims, 20, 529-547.
[17] Hotaling , G. T., Straus, M. A., & Lincoln, J. (1990). Intrafamily violence, and crime and violence outside the family. Family Violence, 11.
[18] Johnson, M. (1995). Patriarchal terrorism and common couple violence: Two forms of violence against women. Journal of Marriage and Family, 57, 283-294. doi:10.2307/353683
[19] Johnson, M. (2006). Conflict and control: Gender symmetry and asymmetry in domestic violence. Violence against Women, 12, 1003. doi:10.1177/1077801206293328
[20] Johnson, M., & Ferraro, K. J. (2000). Research on domestic violence in the 1990s: Making distinctions. Journal of Marriage and Family, 62, 948-963. doi:10.1111/j.1741-3737.2000.00948.x
[21] Johnson, M., & Leone, J. M. (2005). The differential effects of intimate terrorism and situational couple violence: Findings from the national violence against women survey. Journal of Family Issues, 26, 322. doi:10.1177/0192513X04270345
[22] Johnson, H., Ollsun, N., & Nevala, S. (2008). Violence against women: An international perspective. Berlin: Springer.
[23] Johnson, M. P. (2011). Gender and types of intimate partner violence: A response to an anti-feminist literature review. Aggression and Violent Behaviour, 16, 289-296. doi:10.1016/j.avb.2011.04.006
[24] Kilpatrick, D. G. (2004). What is violence against women: Defining and measuring the problem. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 19, 1209. doi:10.1177/0886260504269679
[25] Kelly, J. B., & Johnson, M. P. (2008). Differentiation among types of intimate partner violence: Research update and implications for interventions. Family Court Review, 46, 476-499. doi:10.1111/j.1744-1617.2008.00215.x
[26] Krug, E. G., Dahelberg, L. L., Mercy, J. A., Zwi, A., & Lozano, R. (2002). World report on violence and health. Geneva: World Health Organization.
[27] Riggs, D. S., & O’Leary, K. D. (1996). Aggression between heterosexual dating partners: An examination of a courtship model of courtship aggression. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 11, 519-540. doi:10.1177/088626096011004005
[28] Ruiz-Perez, I., Plazaola-Castano, J., & Vives-Cases, C. (2007). Methodological issues in the study of violence against women. Journal of Epidemiol Community Health, 61, ii26-ii31. doi:10.1136/jech.2007.059907
[29] Saltzman, L. E. (2004). Issues related to defining and measuring violence against women response to Kilpatrick. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 19, 1235. doi:10.1177/0886260504269680
[30] Schwartz, M. D. (2000). Methodological issues in the use of survey data for measuring and characterizing violence against women. Violence against Women, 6, 815-838. doi:10.1177/10778010022182164
[31] Steinmetz, S. K. (1977, 1978). The battered husband syndrome. Victimology, 2, 499-509.
[32] Straus, M. A. (1977, 1978). Wife beating: How common and why? Victimology, 2, 443-458.
[33] Straus, M. A., Gelles, R. J., & Steinmetz, S. K. (1980). Behind the closed doors: Violence in the American family. Garden City, NY: Doubleday.
[34] Sorenson, S. B., Stein, J. A., Siegel, J. M., Golding, J. M., & Burnham, M. A. (1978). The prevalence of adult sexual assault: The Los Angelos epidemologic center catchment area project. America Journal of Epidemiology, 125, 1154-1164.
[35] Tjaden, P. (2005). Violence against women: A statistical overview, challenges and gaps in data collection and methodology and approaches for overcoming them. Geneva: World Health Organization, UN Division for the Advancement of Women.
[36] Tjaden, P., & Thoennes, N. (1998). Prevalence, incidence, and consequences of violence against women: Findings from the national violence against women survey. Research in Brief. Washington, DC: US Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice, and US Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
[37] Tolan, P., Gorman-Smith, D., & Henry, D. (2006). Family violence. Annual Review of Psychology, 57, 557-583. doi:10.1146/annurev.psych.57.102904.190110
[38] UN Study on Violence against Women (2005). In-depth study on all forms of violence against women. 61st Session of the General Assembly Item 60(a) on Advancement of women.
[39] United Nations General Assembly (1993). UN declaration on the elimination of violence against women. New York: United Nations General Assembly.
[40] Walby, S. (2001). Improving the statistics on violence against women. Statistical Journal of the United Nations, 22, 193-216.
[41] Walby, S., & Myhill, A. (2001). New survey methodologies in researching violence against women. British Journal of Criminology, 41, 502-522. doi:10.1093/bjc/41.3.502
[42] World Health Organization (2002). Reducing risks promoting health life. Geneva: World Health Organization.

Copyright © 2023 by authors and Scientific Research Publishing Inc.

Creative Commons License

This work and the related PDF file are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.