Behavior: Violent Families

Eight million victims

To the 19th century composer John Howard Payne, it was Home Sweet Home. In today's America it is all too often an arena for shoving, pushing, punching, kicking, screaming, torture and death. Says Sociologist Murray A. Straus: "For any typical American citizen, rich or poor, the most dangerous place is home—from slaps to murder." Straus reckons that as many as 8 million Americans are assaulted each year by members of their own families.

For a long time, domestic violence did not get much attention from social scientists. If there was any real expert on this almost taboo subject, it was...

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