The good, the bad, and the ugly: domestic violence survivors' experiences with their informal social networks

Am J Community Psychol. 2009 Jun;43(3-4):221-31. doi: 10.1007/s10464-009-9232-1.


Informal social networks play a critical role in buffering the negative effects of stressful life events. For women experiencing the stress of a violent relationship, family and friends are among the first sources of support sought; however, reactions to the abuse by family and friends are not uniformly perceived as helpful by survivors. The current study takes a qualitative approach to examining the range of possible reactions survivors may encounter from their social networks regarding the abuse. Special attention is given to negative and mixed reactions, as they have previously been under-examined in the literature. Findings suggest that survivors (N = 45) regularly experience negative and mixed reactions. Emergent themes suggest that both positive and negative reactions to abuse could be understood in four broad arenas: safety, emotional availability, input, and aid. However, positive and negative reactions emerged as distinct constructs within each arena; mixed reactions took multiple forms including being within person and within network.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Attitude*
  • Battered Women / psychology
  • Battered Women / statistics & numerical data
  • Domestic Violence / psychology*
  • Domestic Violence / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Social Behavior*
  • Social Support*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Survivors / psychology*
  • Survivors / statistics & numerical data*
  • Young Adult