Families and Domestic Violence

Module Sections:

Transtheoretical Model
(Stages of Change Theory)

The Stage of Change Theory was developed by Prochaska and DiClemente (1982) to conceptualize a variety of problem behaviors. The five stages of change include:

  • Precontemplation
  • Contemplation
  • Decision
  • Action
  • Maintenance

These five stages can be applied to domestic violence. Studies show that most women in abusive relationships are at different stage of change with respect to the abuse (Zink, Elder, Jacobson & Klostermann, 2004). The different stages require different techniques for working with each stage (Zink, Elder, Jacobson & Klostermann, 2004).

Domestic Violence Five Stages of Change

*Adapted from Prochaska & DiClemente's Transtheoretical Model

HBFTs should remember that the victim may sometimes be unwilling or unable to take immediate action although they are experiencing abuse. Unlike other behavior changes such as quitting smoking, which may be an individual struggle to change, the process with domestic abuse is influenced by a variety of internal and external factors which may affect the victims’ choices. Zink, Elder, Jacobson and Klostermann (2004) found that factors including finances and education, the abuser and the victim’s attachment versus perceived threat or degree of harm, and the children, appeared to have either helped or hindered participants’ prior efforts to create safety. However, understanding the stages of change will provide you with additional tools to assist victims and their families to take important steps toward needed action. The stages of change model shows that for most victims, the conviction to take action may occur gradually, with the victim moving from disinterest, fear, or unwillingness to taking action to seeking help and taking action.

Audio Companion: Families and Domestic Violence