Risk factors are linked to a greater likelihood of intimate partner violence (IPV) perpetration. They are contributing factors, but might not be direct causes. A combination of individual, relational, community, and societal factors contribute to the risk of becoming a perpetrator of IPV. Understanding these multilevel factors can help identify various opportunities for prevention.

Watch Moving Forward to learn more about how increasing what protects people from violence and reducing what puts people at risk for it benefits everyone.

Individual Risk Factors
  • Low self-esteem
  • Low education or income
  • Young age
  • Aggressive or delinquent behavior as a youth
  • Heavy alcohol and drug use
  • Depression and suicide attempts
  • Anger and hostility
  • Lack of nonviolent social problem-solving skills
  • Antisocial personality traits and conduct problems
  • Poor behavioral control and impulsiveness
  • Traits associated with borderline personality disorder
  • History of being physically abusive
  • Having few friends and being isolated from other people
  • Economic stress (e.g., unemployment)
  • Emotional dependence and insecurity
  • Belief in strict gender roles (e.g., male dominance and aggression in relationships)
  • Desire for power and control in relationships
  • Hostility towards women
  • Attitudes accepting or justifying violence and aggression
  • History of physical or emotional abuse in childhood
Relationship Factors
  • Relationship conflicts including jealousy, possessiveness, tension, divorce, or separations
  • Dominance and control of the relationship by one partner over the other
  • Families experiencing economic stress
  • Unhealthy family relationships and interactions
  • Association with antisocial and aggressive peers
  • Parents with less than a high-school education
  • Witnessing violence between parents as a child
  • History of experiencing poor parenting as a child
  • History of experiencing physical discipline as a child
Community Factors
  • Communities with high rates of poverty and limited educational and economic opportunities
  • Communities with high unemployment rates
  • Communities with high rates of violence and crime
  • Communities where neighbors don’t know or look out for each other and there is low community involvement among residents
  • Communities with easy access to drugs and alcohol
  • Weak community sanctions against IPV (for example, unwillingness of neighbors to intervene in situations where they witness violence)
Societal Factors
  • Traditional gender norms and gender inequality (for example, the idea women should stay at home, not enter the workforce, and be submissive; men should support the family and make the decisions)
  • Cultural norms that support aggression toward others
  • Societal income inequality
  • Weak health, educational, economic, and social policies or laws

Protective Factors for Intimate Partner Violence Perpetration

Relationship Factors
  • Strong social support networks and stable, positive relationships with other
Community Factors
  • Neighborhood collective efficacy, meaning residents feel connected to each other and are involved in the community
  • Coordination of resources and services among community agencies
  • Communities with access to safe, stable housing
  • Communities with access to medical care and mental health services
  • Communities with access to economic and financial help
See Intimate Partner Violence Resources for more publications and resources about preventing intimate partner violence.