Intimate Partner Violence Risk and Protective Factors

Risk factors are associated with a greater likelihood of intimate partner violence (IPV) victimization or perpetration. They are contributing factors and may or may not be direct causes. Not everyone who is identified as “at risk” becomes involved in violence.

Some risk factors for IPV victimization and perpetration are the same. In addition, some risk factors for victimization and perpetration are associated with one another; for example, childhood physical or sexual victimization is a risk factor for future IPV perpetration and victimization.

A combination of individual, relational, community, and societal factors contribute to the risk of becoming a victim or perpetrator of IPV. Understanding these multilevel factors can help identify various opportunities for prevention.

Risk Factors

Individual Risk Factors
  • Low self-esteem
  • Low income
  • Low academic achievement
  • Young age
  • Aggressive or delinquent behavior as a youth
  • Heavy alcohol and drug use
  • Depression
  • Anger and hostility
  • Antisocial personality traits
  • Borderline personality traits
  • Prior history of being physically abusive
  • Having few friends and being isolated from other people
  • Unemployment
  • Emotional dependence and insecurity
  • Belief in strict gender roles (e.g.  male dominance and aggression in relationships)
  • Desire for power and control in relationships
  • Perpetrating psychological aggression
  • History of experiencing poor parenting as a child
  • History of experiencing physical discipline as a child
Relationship Factors
  • Marital conflict-fights, tension and other struggles
  • Marital instability-divorces or separations
  • Dominance and control of the relationship by one partner over the other
  • Economic stress
  • Unhealthy family relationships and interactions
Community Factors
  • Poverty and associated factors (e.g. overcrowding)
  • Low social capital – lack of institutions, relationships, and norms that shape a community’s social interactions
  • Weak community sanctions against IPV (e.g. unwillingness of neighbors to intervene in situations where they witness violence)
Societal Factors
  • Traditional gender norms (e.g. woman should stay at home, not enter the workforce, and be submissive; men support the family and make the decisions).


(Source:  Center for Disease Control and Prevention – CDC)