Interpreting Family Violence Data

Document Type



Comments on an article by Richard J. Gelles. The methodology, findings, and conclusions of Gelles's widely publicized survey are subject to challenge on several grounds. Gelles recognizes that his data do not allow for a "reliable" extrapolation, but then goes on to make that extrapolation. Under a federal grant, Gelles had subcontracted with a private survey research company, to do the study. Given such potential for response ambiguity, commentator was surprised to learn that Gelles had declined the company's offer to compile the comments that some of the interviewers had written on the questionnaires. Although Gelles claims to have spent seven years of careful testing and development of the questionnaire, the same company representative informed that the "knife-gun" items were added by the research company itself at the last minute, and not to be statistically analyzed. In his article, Gelles does not reveal the economic data he collected on his respondents. The most accurate conclusion that can be drawn from Gelles's study is that a very large proportion of parents admit to having ever slapped, spanked, pushed, grabbed, or shoved their children, and a substantial minority to having ever hit them with something.


Child abuse; Family violence--Research; Social sciences--Methodology


Social Work

Publisher Citation

Pelton, L.H. (1979). Interpreting family violence data. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 49, 194, 372.

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