Moving beyond the individual: examining the effects of domestic violence policies on social norms

Am J Community Psychol. 2003 Dec;32(3-4):253-64. doi: 10.1023/b:ajcp.0000004746.31861.e7.


To be effective, criminal justice policies should affect the underlying social norms for which the policies were enacted. This study sought to determine whether public perceptions of criminal justice policies on domestic violence affected social norms. Two waves of data were collected via a telephone survey where a random probability sample of 973 residents was drawn from 4 communities. A structural equation model was tested and confirmed. Results provided strong support for the hypothesis that perceptions of criminal justice policies have direct effects on attitudes toward criminal justice response, and indirect effects on victim-blaming attitudes, both underlying social norms related to domestic violence. The enactment of criminal justice policies, therefore, may have an impact beyond victims and perpetrators and lead to a transformation of the community through the emergence of new social norms. Public awareness campaigns designed to disseminate criminal justice policies may be instrumental in provoking social change.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Attitude*
  • Crime Victims / psychology
  • Criminal Law / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Criminal Psychology*
  • Domestic Violence / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Domestic Violence / prevention & control
  • Domestic Violence / psychology
  • Female
  • Georgia
  • Humans
  • Linear Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Public Opinion
  • Public Policy*
  • Sampling Studies
  • Social Change
  • Social Conformity*
  • Social Values*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires