Interventions for domestic violence

The following is a sample Paper 3 that looks at a case study. Below you will first find the stimulus piece, followed by the static questions.  A copy of the mock paper is included to give students as an in-class assessment.

Potential answers are included in the hidden boxes below.

Student copy


Stimulus piece

A group of researchers conducted a case study to help counsellors develop effective interventions to assist female victims of domestic violence in developing countries. To carry out the study, a hospital in a small local community in a West African country was asked to identify women who had suffered from or were suspected of suffering from domestic violence. Counsellors were sent to discuss the research the research goals with the women and in the end, 20 women agreed to participate in the study. Most of these women lived in arranged marriages and had children. The researchers used focus group interviews to collect data. The interviews were videotaped and later transcribed for analysis.

About two-thirds of the women reported that their husband abused them almost daily. The violence was physical, verbal, emotional and sexual. The violence was sometimes encouraged by the husband’s family. All the women found that the violence was unacceptable but few of them had ever talked about it before. They suffered from the violence and abuse but nearly all wanted to maintain their marriage. The reasons for this were for example economic, or fear of social stigma, fear for their lives or for fear of losing their children.

The researchers suggested a number of possible strategies to avoid violence in the families based on this study. The best way to help and support the victims would be to target the abusive partners for individual therapy and counselling to stop the violence, but family therapy involving the extended family and couples counselling were also suggested as strategies.

Generally, the perpetrators of violence refused to talk about the violence or receive counselling. They were supported in their decision by family and friends. Couples counselling proved somewhat successful for the upper-class families, who were afraid of the social stigma of a legal solution and did not want to involve the extended family. During counselling, the couples were told to follow a code of conduct prohibiting violence, and they were taught how to better communicate. They also got the opportunity to discuss gender role expectations and possible ways of resolving conflict without violence. However, for most women, the solution of individual therapy was the only option. The individual therapy helped them to solve one problem at a time.

A follow-up of home visits was conducted to find out if violence had stopped and if attitudes about domestic violence had changed. Only a small percentage of the women reported violence after the intervention had begun. Half of the women were no longer living with their husbands at the end of the intervention but the separations were reported to be friendly in nearly half of the cases.


1a. Identify the method used and outline two characteristics of the method.

The study was a case study. A case study uses method, data and/or researcher triangulation.  More than one research method is used with the goal of confirming the results and establishing credibility. In addition, case studies are usually holistic.  They look at many aspects of the lives and behaviour of the participants and not simply on a single variable. Case studies are also naturalistic; they do not manipulate variables under controlled conditions to establish cause and effect relationships, but instead collect qualitative and quantitative data in an uncontrolled, natural environment.  Finally, case studies are often longitudinal so that researchers can observe changes in behaviour over time.

1b. Describe the sampling method used in the study.

An opportunity sample was used. The women were selected through the local hospital's records.  They were then approached in order to obtain consent.

1c. Suggest an alternative or additional research method giving one reason for your choice.

Structured interviews could be given in which the women would discuss the effectiveness of the intervention.  These interviews would be standardized, asking the same questions to all participants.  This would allow for easier comparison and analysis than more unstructured interviews. 

2. Describe the ethical considerations that were applied in the study and explain if further ethical considerations could be applied.

Consent was obtained from the participants.  It is assumed that they were told the goals of the research and what their rights would be.  They should have had the right to withdraw at any time. As with all research, the confidentiality of the participants is an important consideration. This becomes more difficult when the data is collected via focus group interviews. In writing the report, it is important not only that the individuals' names are not used, but that there is no information in the report that could "give away" their identities. As the interviews were videotaped, it is important that these films are not made public - and that the identities of the individuals are protected.

It is also important that the psychologist keep a professional relationship with the women in the group. Although it is often difficult, the psychologist should not allow his/her personal feelings about the cases to influence behaviour which could complicate the situation for the women. In spite of the supportive relationship that can result between an interviewer and interviewee, the researcher should not force the respondent to reveal more than she is comfortable with.  This could result in undue stress or harm.  Finally, the women should have been debriefed at the end of the research, allowing them to withdraw their data but also to be presented with the findings of the study.

3. To what extent could you generalize the findings of this study?

It would be difficult to generalize the findings to the population as the population is not really clear.  It is difficult to know how many women are actually in abusive relationships in the community; since the women were obtained through hospital records, it is possible that there are other women that are not represented in the sample since they did not go to the hospital or were not identified as being abused in the community.  This could be because of the nature of the abuse or because of specific personality traits of the women.

As with any case study, one has to establish the transferability of the findings. This can be accomplished by a full description of both the participants and the situation. The findings from this group would be most transferable to a group of women who also were in arranged marriages. Although there could be some relevance to romance-based marriages, it is questionable if the motives for staying in the marriage would be the same. In addition, the fact that this is a non-Western country could very well mean that cultural dimensions - such as collectivism and power-distance - could play a significant role in the findings. The more similar a situation to which this study would be compared, the more likely the results may be generalized.

Finally, if there are other case studies that have similar findings in different populations, then the researchers could generalize the findings with more confidence.

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