Study will document daily patterns of domestic violence

SAN ANTONIO (Nov. 25, 2008) — Two hundred women in abusive intimate relationships will offer researchers from The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio daily glimpses into their lives as they take part in a study funded by the National Science Foundation.

The study, which received a three-year, $750,000 grant from the foundation in September, will document daily patterns of abuse and compare them against three longstanding theories on how domestic violence unfolds.

Those theories are based mostly on retrospective interviews. In the new study, women will phone in every day from a secure site and talk about the past day: whether they had experienced violence, what significant events took place, whether their husbands were drinking, and more.

“There have been very few studies that have tried to do something like this,” said David Katerndahl, M.D., the study’s principal investigator and a professor in the Health Science Center’s Department of Family & Community Medicine.

Results of a pilot study indicate that the phone surveys can be conducted without putting victims of domestic violence at further risk.

Data collected through the phone surveys will be used to evaluate the following theories:

• The Cycle of Violence Theory asserts that violence occurs in a cyclical pattern that starts with growing tension and explodes into violence, followed by a period of respite.

• The Family Systems Theory is a chaotic pattern where the violence initially surprises both the victim and the abuser, but eventually the abuser, when the victim does not leave, begins to see it as acceptable.

• The Power and Control Wheel is a random pattern where violence is one of many strategies the abuser uses to control his victim. He always exerts some form of control, and she is always under stress but never knows when violence will erupt.

Women will be recruited for the study from six primary care clinics. Researchers are looking for adult women who report being abused within the past month but do not intend to leave the relationship. After an intake interview, the women will complete a telephone survey each day for 90 days. The study will get under way within the next two months.


The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio is the leading research institution in South Texas and one of the major health sciences universities in the world. With an operating budget of $668 million, the Health Science Center is the chief catalyst for the $16.3 billion biosciences and health care sector in San Antonio’s economy. The Health Science Center has had an estimated $36 billion impact on the region since inception and has expanded to six campuses in San Antonio, Laredo, Harlingen and Edinburg. More than 24,000 graduates (physicians, dentists, nurses, scientists and other health professionals) serve in their fields, including many in Texas. Health Science Center faculty are international leaders in cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, aging, stroke prevention, kidney disease, orthopedics, research imaging, transplant surgery, psychiatry and clinical neurosciences, pain management, genetics, nursing, dentistry and many other fields. For more information, visit

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