The core question in domestic violence studies is, of course: what causes domestic violence? It’s a hugely important question, and one that connects to some of the most fundamental questions in the social sciences. In its most basic asking, the question boils down to: What shapes human behavior? Is it culture? Is it society (material conditions, social structure)? Is it psychology? Or is it all genetic? A class debate on domestic violence can cover some of these deep questions, and at the same time draw on the academic literature to offer conflicting opinions on the role of patriarchal cultural values versus sociological and psychological causation.
Domestic violence studies offer a range of interesting topics for research papers. In the policy area, students can research the effectiveness of key domestic violence policies, including mandatory arrest, no drop prosecution and batterer intervention programs. Pros and cons exists on both sides, putting students in a position of having to decide which policies they would favor. The battered women’s movement offers an excellent opportunity of historical research — it’s a social movement that has been explored far less than the civil rights movement, for example, and one where many of the key players are still available for interviews or oral histories.