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Link to Animal Cruelty and Domestic ViolenceResearch Paper

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Criminal Justice: The Effect of Demographic Factors on the Link Between Animal Cruelty and Human Violence

The Effect of Demographic Factors on the Link between Animal Cruelty and Human Violence

Domestic violence has, over the last few decades, emerged as a serious social issue in the American society. Studies have shown that more than half of American adults have experienced at least one instance of violence perpetrated by their intimate partners, and at least 75% of these have occurred in the presence of a child or children aged between 3 and 17 (Levinthal, 2010; Mooney, 2000). Researchers have established strong links between this high incidence of family violence and the risk of teenage crime and delinquency, drug and substance abuse, and teenage pregnancy. These worrying trends have prompted contemporary researchers to focus on devising strategies and measures that people could use to predict their partner's or potential partner's violent behaviors, and to take action before it is too late. One growing area of research in this regard is the link between animal cruelty and domestic violence.

Background and Purpose

Studies have established strong links between how one treats domestic animals, and their predisposition to commit acts of violence against members of their family (Levinthal, 2010; Mooney, 2000). As a result, animal maltreatment is increasingly being used as a predictor of human violence, and vice versa. According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), people who abuse pets tend to display more cruel and controlling behaviors towards their partners than those who show more sensitivity to animals (ASPCA, 2015). A study by the Chicago Police Department, for instance, found 30% of arrestees with counts of animal abuse and dog fighting to have past histories of domestic violence (ASPCA, 2015). A separate study found that children who have been exposed to family violence are three times more likely to display animosity towards pets (ASPCA, 2015). The same study also established that women in violent shelters are 10 times more likely to have witnessed their partner kill or hurt their animals than their counterparts who have not been exposed to violence; and that between 11 and 48% of women with violent partners choose to stay in their abusive situations for fear of what may happen to their pets should they leave (ASPCA, 2015).

Well, there obviously is a link between animal cruelty and domestic violence; however, this link is, in my view, not as simple as it seems. There are numerous factors that influence the relative strength of this link. These include the varying definitions of animal cruelty, the fact that norms governing animal cruelty differ from society to society, and iii) one's surroundings. Based on this background, this study purposes to determine the effect of demographic factors on the cruelty- violence link. More specifically, it seeks to determine whether one's surroundings influence how they treat animals in their care, and consequently, whether such environmental influences indeed have any effect on the cruelty-violence link.

Goal of Research

In order to properly understand the link between animal cruelty and domestic violence, we will need to assume a holistic approach that will enable us to understand the former from an ecological perspective as we have done the latter. This study seeks to identify whether incidences of animal neglect or abuse occur randomly across all geographical locations, or whether some neighborhoods are more predisposed to report such incidences than others. If the latter is found to be the case, then the unique factors that contribute to the high likelihood of animal abuse in these neighborhoods will be identified. The primary goal of the study is to give workers in the criminal justice and domestic violence fields insight into how the ecological or neighborhood context influences one's predisposition to display violent tendencies against animals, and consequently, humans. Only then will we be able to develop effective outreach, prevention, and detection programs for addressing the issue of animal violence.

Research Question and Hypothesis

The research questions guiding the study, and their corresponding hypotheses, are as stated below:

RQ1: are there significant differences between the incidence of animal neglect and abuse in low-income neighborhoods and in affluent neighborhoods?

RQ2: are there significant differences between the incidence of animal neglect and abuse in white neighborhoods and black neighborhoods?

H0: there are no significant differences between the incidence of animal neglect in the two neighborhoods

H1: there are significant differences between the incidences of animal neglect in the two neighborhoods

Limitations and Delimitations of Study

The study will be based on Ohio; and data on the rates of animal neglect and abuse between 1999 and 2013 will be obtained from the Ohio Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Ohio SPCA). Data from 2 selected neighborhoods that are predominantly white will be compared with those from two neighborhoods dominated by minorities; and the same procedure will be repeated for affluent and low-income neighborhoods. ANOVA tests will then be conducted on gathered data to test the hypotheses. The findings of the study will be crucial in showing how demographic factors influence the risk of animal abuse, and consequently, how they affect the occurrence of violence in general. The study, therefore, provides crucial insight to policymakers on how to structure and develop effective violence-prevention and outreach policies.

Despite its inherent significance, nonetheless, the proposed study faces one major limitation that threatens the validity and generalizability of its results. Data obtained from the society represents only those cases that are reported. Towards this end, there is a substantial risk that such data may be an understatement or overstatement of the actual situation on the ground. In areas, for instance, where abuse is less visible because houses are far apart and backyards are surrounded by fences, understatements are highly likely.

Literature Review

This review is divided into two sections. The first section reviews literature touching on the causes of violence between couples, whereas the second covers literature on the theoretical structure of societal violence, particularly the environmental and ecological factors influencing the occurrence of such violence.

Causes of Violence among Couples

Traditionally, studies have focused on identifying the causes of violence between heterosexual couples; however, more and more researchers are expanding their scope to cover same-sex relationships. Rohrbaugh (2006) identifies two fundamental causes of violence in same-sex relationships - threats to expose the other partner's sexual orientation, and stress associated with isolation. Firestone (2001) partly agrees with this, arguing that the emotional dynamics involved in this case are also responsible for most of the violence encountered in heterosexual relationships. According to her, violence is a direct result of either i) a destructive thought process experienced by abusers, and which drives such negative thoughts as 'your partner is making a fool out of you' or 'you are not a man unless you are able to control her'; or ii) a harmful illusion of attachment - what psychologists refer to as a 'fantasy bond' (Firestone, 2001). The former arouses fear, anger, or frustration, and the more the provocations grow, the higher the likelihood of the subject wanting to retaliate against their partner. Other studies have moved away from studying the effect of psychological impulses, choosing instead to develop their views from an economic angle. Firestone (2001), for instance, showed that financial difficulties could trigger episodes of violence between couples -- 58% of battered women in her study reported experiencing more violence from their partners after the economic recession, compared to before the recession.

Factors Influencing the Occurrence of Domestic Violence

Researchers have established links between one's external environment and their predispositions to exhibit negative tendencies (Firestone, 2001; Levinthal, 2010; Mooney, 2000). Levinthal (2010), for instance, showed that people living in low-income neighborhoods were more likely to exhibit violent tendencies than those in affluent neighborhoods. According to the author, this risk is even higher if the subject is black because then, the anger and frustration leading up to the actual act of violence is driven by the perception that their partner (particularly if white) sees them as inferior or is trying to control them. Tight links have also been established between the risk of violence and the culture of the community within which a couple lives, the subculture to which the abuser and those that he associates with subscribe, and drug and substance use, with most studies showing that unfavorable and disorganized surroundings make one more likely to commit acts of violence (Mooney, 2000; Levinthal, 2010).

Theoretical Framework

Based on the factors identified in the preceding section, the proposed study will be guided by the social disorganization theory, which postulates that the disruption or disorganization of a society's structural characteristics makes it impossible for the community to maintain effective control over its people, and opens up avenues for conflict, violence, and antisocial tendencies (Siegel, 2008). Social disorganization is symbolized by, among other things, high prevalence of single-parent families, low-income levels, deteriorated housing, high school drop-out rates, and large numbers of law-violating groups and gangs (Siegel, 2008). With this, the control function of… [END OF PREVIEW]

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