Tuesday, April 19, 2005

The Economist on domestic violence

Domestic violence in Britain has fallen by half in the past decade. The Economist has an interesting article on the phenomenon:


The most obvious change is that there are fewer wives to beat. The number of married couples in England and Wales fell by 900,000 between 1991 and 2001, according to the census. Cohabiting couples increased in number by the same amount, from 1.1m to 2m. Couples are delaying marriage—the average first-time bride is two and a half years older than a decade ago—and living together for longer beforehand. That matters because, in about half of all cases, domestic violence takes longer than a year to emerge. When it does, women find it easier to dissolve a cohabiting relationship than to divorce.

Although open-minded police officers insist that every woman is a potential victim of violence, some are at greater risk than others. Home Office statistics show that women under 30 are most in danger—largely, it seems, because young men are more violent than middle-aged men. The poor also face higher risks, as do mothers of young children. Emma Williamson of Women's Aid says that abuse often begins or worsens during pregnancy, when a man's sense of control is jolted.

Youth and pregnancy used to coincide. But the average age at maternity has risen along with the average age of marriage. In the ten years prior to 2003, the number of births to women under 30 fell by 27%. Many women are embarking on motherhood at a less dangerous time.

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