Date of Award

Spring 1990

Project Type


Program or Major


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

First Advisor

Sally K Ward


This research examined the relationship between state characteristics and six kinds of state level wife abuse policy. In addition two composite measures were used. A model was developed and tested that explained the state to state variability for protection order legislation, domestic relations legislation, police reform, criminal law reform, informational legislation, distributive legislation and two composites. Regional variation was also examined. Logistic and OLS regression were used to analyze the data.

Traditional sociological and political science research use socioeconomic development characteristics of the state and measures of political ideology and competitiveness in explaining why states vary in their policies. This research included these indicators but went beyond previous research by including additional feminist indicators. These indicators included the legal status of women, measures of women's political participation and feminist activism. The last group of indicators examined were state level family privacy policy including abortion restrictiveness, anti sodomy statutes and gay rights legislation.

Some Regional variation was noted. States in the Northeast have the most comprehensive policies. Southern States have the least comprehensive policies.

This research found little support for the utility of traditional socioeconomic development and political indicators in explaining the state to state variation for wife abuse policies. The relative influence of the predictor variables however varied by the policy areas. However, many of the results were not statistically significant indicating that modeling policy adoption is more complex than the model developed here.

The major finding of this research was the strength of the women in the political system variables. The number of NOW members in a state and the percentage of women in state legislatures were among the strongest predictors of almost all of the legislative areas. This indicates that women do influence wife abuse policy. Interestingly the family privacy indicators were also relatively strong predictors of several of the legislative areas.

This research suggests that when analyzing social policy that developed in response to a social movement, indicators of that movement should be included. The model developed in this research should also prove useful in future research that examines women's rights policies.