Neighborhood environment and intimate partner violence: a systematic review

Trauma Violence Abuse. 2015 Jan;16(1):16-47. doi: 10.1177/1524838013515758. Epub 2013 Dec 26.


Intimate partner violence (IPV) is an important global public health problem, affecting women across the life span and increasing risk for a number of unfavorable health outcomes. Typically conceptualized as a private form of violence, most research has focused on individual-level risk markers. Recently, more scholarly attention has been paid to the role that the residential neighborhood environment may play in influencing the occurrence of IPV. With research accumulating since the 1990s, increasing prominence of the topic, and no comprehensive literature reviews yet undertaken, it is time to take stock of what is known, what remains unknown, and the methods and concepts investigators have considered. In this article, we undertake a comprehensive, systematic review of the literature to date on the relationship between neighborhood environment and IPV, asking, "what is the status of scholarship related to the association between neighborhood environment and IPV occurrence?" Although the literature is young, it is receiving increasing attention from researchers in sociology, public health, criminology, and other fields. Obvious gaps in the literature include limited consideration of nonurban areas, limited theoretical motivation, and limited consideration of the range of potential contributors to environmental effects on IPV--such as built environmental factors or access to services. In addition, explanations of the pathways by which place influences the occurrence of IPV draw mainly from social disorganization theory that was developed in urban settings in the United States and may need to be adapted, especially to be useful in explaining residential environmental correlates of IPV in rural or non-U.S. settings. A more complete theoretical understanding of the relationship between neighborhood environment and IPV, especially considering differences among urban, semiurban, and rural settings and developed and developing country settings, will be necessary to advance research questions and improve policy and intervention responses to reduce the burden of IPV.

Keywords: community violence; cultural contexts; domestic violence.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Poverty / statistics & numerical data
  • Residence Characteristics / statistics & numerical data*
  • Sexual Partners*
  • Social Perception*
  • Social Problems
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Spouse Abuse / statistics & numerical data*
  • United States
  • Violence / statistics & numerical data