Understanding Stay/Leave Decisions in Violent Relationships: A Behavior Analytic Approach

Kathryn M. Bell, Amy E. Naugle


Numerous theories have been developed to account for the various factors influencing victims' decisions to remain in or leave an abusive relationship. Thus far, however, these theories have failed to adequately capture the complexity of stay/leave decision-making and have had limited clinical and research utility. The purpose of the current paper is to provide a behaviorally based approach to understanding stay/leave decisions by expanding on Myers' (1995) behavioral conceptualization of partner violence. An illustration is given on how various basic and contemporary behavioral principles might be applied to stay/leave decisions, followed by a discussion of how this behavioral analysis may provide a means of incorporating the components of other stay/leave models into a more comprehensive, contextually-based behavior analytic approach. Lastly, recommendations are provided for integrating this approach into future research, and suggestions are made regarding how this analysis might be used to improve future partner violence prevention and treatment programs.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5210/bsi.v14i1.119

Published by the University of Illinois at Chicago Library

And Behaviorists for Social Responsibility