Date of Award

Fall 1996

Project Type


Program or Major


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

First Advisor

Michael Donnelly


There is some evidence that rates of spousal assault are higher among Hispanic Americans compared to Anglo Americans, however, very little empirical research has focused extensively on Hispanic Americans and their risks for spousal violence. There is even less research that considers different Hispanic groups. This study used the 1992 National Alcohol and Family Violence Survey to examine the relationships among structural inequalities, family relations, and spousal assault among a sample of 1,768 Anglo and Hispanic Americans.

The results indicated that Hispanic Americans were more likely to use minor or severe physical violence against their spouses, however, there were also important within group differences. Among Hispanic Americans, Puerto Ricans reported the highest levels of spousal violence and Cuban Americans the lowest. Hypotheses regarding risk factors for spousal violence were also investigated. Youthfulness, normative approval of using violence against a partner, and unemployment, significantly increased the risk for spousal violence among both Hispanic and Anglo Americans. A male dominated family power structure increased the risk for spousal violence among Hispanic but not Anglo families. In addition, Hispanic group differences remained after controlling for the effects of socioeconomic status. The results suggest that elements of two theoretical models, Merton's Strain Theory and a stress model, are appropriate to understanding spousal violence among Anglo and Hispanic Americans. This research suggests that ethnic differences in family processes, including violence, are linked to the larger social system of inequality. Continuing education efforts addressing conflict resolution tactics other than violence and improvements in the social welfare of individuals living in this country will help to reduce spousal violence in all families.