SNS Research Brief 102. Domestic Violence – Risk Factors and Consequences

Hanna Mühlrad Arizo Karimi Susan Niknami Anna Sandberg Petra Ornstein

Unemployment, substance abuse and crime are problems commonly found among both perpetrators and victims of domestic violence. This may be important to take into account when designing preventive measures, according to two researchers in a new SNS report.

SNS Research Brief 102. Domestic Violence – Risk Factors and Consequences 45.7 KB PDF

More than 30 percent of women over the age of 15 have experienced physical, sexual or emotional violence in a close relationship. There is a political consensus that this represents a major problem in society, and there is a national strategy to prevent and combat men subjecting women to violence. Yet, there is a lack of knowledge regarding risk factors and effective measures in cases of suspected abuse, write Arizo Karimi, Hanna Mühlrad, Susan Niknami, Petra Ornstein and Anna Sandberg in the SNS report Domestic Violence: Risk Factors and Consequences.

“We have analyzed administrative data from 1998 to 2021 on perpetrators and victims of violence in Sweden. In total, more than 31,000 men and 25,000 women are included in the study. However, there are probably also many cases hidden from law enforcement and social services,” says Arizo Karimi, associate professor of economics.

The analysis shows that the perpetrators exhibit lower levels of education, weaker links to the labor market and receive more financial assistance than a control group of men of the same age who are not perpetrators. In addition, they often have a history of violent crimes, sexual crimes and drug offenses. Substance abuse is also more common, as are mental and physical health issues. Foreign-born individuals are also highly overrepresented.

“57 percent of the perpetrators lack income for at least one year before the first reported violent event. And almost half of all perpetrators have received financial assistance from the municipality before the first incident is reported,” according to Hanna Mühlrad.

When the researchers compare the abused women with a control group of women of the same age who have not been exposed to violence, they see patterns similar to those of the perpetrators: a higher proportion with a low level of education and labor market participation, lower incomes, more financial assistance and a higher proportion of foreign-born individuals. The victims of violence also tend to come from a family background similar to that of the perpetrators.

Many victims of violence have a low or no income several years after the reported incident. This means that this type of violence leads to the victims becoming more socially and financially vulnerable. The researchers go on to argue that this indicates the importance of measures that do not exclusively focus on the actual violence. Actors ranging from health care to social services and correction and probation services may need to be involved. Labor market measures might also play an important role in terms of breaking the social exclusion of these individuals.

About the report

This study is based on administrative data from Statistics Sweden, the National Board of Health and Welfare and the Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention. The study includes individuals born between 1920 and 2014, as well as their children and parents, who are identified by means of the Total Population Register (RTB) and the Multi-Generation Register. The researchers use the Suspicion Register (Misstankeregistret) and the Register of Prosecuted Offences (Registret över lagförda brott) to identify perpetrators and match these with victims of violence via RTB. The researchers also use the National Patient Register to identify additional victims of violence as well as their partners via RTB. Various outcomes are then studied using information from the Longitudinal Integrated Database for Health Insurance and Labour Market Studies (LISA), the National Patient Register (outpatient and inpatient care) and the National Cause of Death Register.

about the authors

Arizo Karimi is an associate professor of economics at Uppsala University.

Hanna Mühlrad is a researcher in economics at the Institute for Evaluation of Labour Market and Education Policy (IFAU).

Susan Niknami is a researcher in economics at the Swedish Institute for Social Research (SOFI), Stockholm University.

Petra Ornstein is a researcher in statistics at the University of Gothenburg School of Business, Economics and Law, and a consultant at Ramboll.

Anna Sandberg is a researcher in economics at the Swedish Institute for Social Research (SOFI), Stockholm University.