Journal of Community & Applied Social Psychology

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Volume 12 Issue 6 (November/December 2002), Pages 377-450

Violence against women: is psychology part of the problem or the solution? A content analysis of psychological research from 1990 through 1999 (pages 410-421)


Previous critiques of traditional psychology portrayed a discipline that examines social problems from an exceptionalistic perspective and decontextualizes the subjects of its inquiries. We analysed 10 years of psychological research on domestic violence, sexual assault, and sexual harassment to determine whether this criticism applied to violence against women research. Specifically, we examined the purpose, level of analysis, sample, and context of 1396 PsychLit abstracts. We found that almost half reported an examination of causal factors. Only one quarter reported intervention studies. Most studies focused at the individual level of analysis and few included contextual factors. Investigators explored questions about domestic violence most frequently among samples of victims and perpetrators drawn from clinical settings. Sexual assault and sexual harassment researchers depended on victims and perpetrators to a lesser extent, but tended to rely upon convenience samples from college settings. Representative community samples were used in only 9% of studies. These findings support the view that psychological research on violence against women suffers from a heavy emphasis on exceptionalism at the expense of a universalistic perspective, the latter of which we contend is critical to advancing the field and reducing a major threat to women's health and wellbeing. Copyright © 2002 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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