A pattern of cumulative disadvantage: Risk factors for violence across indigenous women’s lives

Catherine E. Burnette, Lynette M. Renner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Despite documented high rates of intimate partner violence (IPV) and child maltreatment, less is known about violence within the Indigenous American population than any other racial group. The purpose of this study was to understand the evolution of victimisation within the lives of Indigenous women and uncover various risk factors for IPV victimisation. We rely on a critical framework of historical oppression and draw results from in-depth, ethnographic interviews with twenty-nine Indigenous women who have experienced family violence (all experienced IPV and most experienced child maltreatment), along with the twenty professionals who serve women who have experienced violence. Results reveal several themes regarding violence across the life course of women, including: (i) overlapping and cumulative victimisation experiences (with connections between childhood maltreatment and involvement in high-risk relationships during adolescence); (ii) pregnancy as vulnerability for IPV; (iii) jealousy fuelled by insecurity; (iv) patriarchal gender norms disadvantaging women; and (v) substance abuse. The patterns of cumulative disadvantage apparent across the women’s life courses were in direct contrast to the respect and status afforded to Indigenous women prior to colonial historical oppression. Community-based efforts aimed at returning to the Indigenous teachings that may be liberating for all Indigenous individuals are recommended.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1166-1185
Number of pages20
JournalBritish Journal of Social Work
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jun 1 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author 2016. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of The British Association of Social Workers. All rights reserved.


  • American Indian
  • Domestic violence
  • Historical oppression
  • Historical trauma
  • Indigenous
  • Intimate partner violence
  • Native American
  • Risk factors


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