Behavioral Model Useful in Weight Loss is Applied to Domestic Abuse

Research in the field of domestic violence frequently uses indicators of physical and psychological abuse, but does not measure changes in women's attitudes or activities as they attempt to modify their lives. With a new psychological instrument to measure these changes, managers of domestic violence programs could target appropriate interventions for women who are in different stages of managing their abusive situations.

Investigators at the University of Rhode Island developed and assessed an instrument based on the Transtheoretical Model of behavioral change. The model predicts that individuals complete a predictable series of stages as they attempt to change aspects of their lives. The model tailors interventions to respondents' readiness to change. It has been successfully applied in other areas, including smoking cessation and weight loss.

Key Results

  • The investigators conducted extensive qualitative research interviews with abused women, court advocates, and staff at local agencies that serve victims of domestic violence. They then constructed a psychological survey instrument and tested it with 300 abused women seeking services from selected agencies in Rhode Island. Assessment of the instrument and its results took much longer than anticipated, and is still ongoing.

    • Preliminary analyses indicate that the Transtheoretical Model appears to be applicable to the lives of abused women.
    • It is expected that the instrument—if it is found to be reliable and valid—will be an effective tool for targeting appropriate interventions for women involved in domestic violence.
    • It could be used to give them feedback on their progress, and to inform the development of new, more effective interventions.