Published on:

Domestic Violence in Nontraditional Families – Part 1

One keynontradtional-families-violence-300x200 characteristic of domestic violence is that it doesn’t play favorites. In other words, there is no particular family type, age bracket, income bracket, or geographic location that cannot be touched by it. Domestic violence is an epidemic, and it can impact families of any race or ethnicity, rich, poor, or middle-class, living in rural communities or large cities, etc.

As the definition of what constitutes a family unit has expanded over the past few decades, many nontraditional families are discovering that they, too, are not exempt from the ravages of domestic violence. Let’s take a closer look at various types of nontraditional families to see the ways in which they may be susceptible to domestic violence.

Nontraditional Families Defined

Let’s begin by establishing the benchmark for what constitutes a “traditional” family versus a “nontraditional” one. Setting aside for a moment the many political ideologies and religious backgrounds that often influence how people view the idea of “family,” from a purely demographic standpoint, most sociologists still identify the traditional family unit as either a) a married heterosexual couple or b) a family with one mother and one father living at home. By definition, any family that falls outside these parameters constitutes a nontraditional family unit. Within these households themselves, their configuration may feel as normal as it gets—but purely for the sake of our discussion, we will follow this accepted convention when discussing domestic violence risks within these households.

Single-Parent Households

Single-parent families are so common nowadays that some might argue that they should no longer be considered nontraditional. That said, there can be a wide range of diversity within these families. Some single-parent families are the product of divorce; some parents are single by choice; and a growing number of single parents have planned their families to be single-parent.

Risk factors

In a single-parent household, the one parent bears the weight of responsibility that is normally shared by two people, which can often add undue stress. If the parent chooses to date, it may introduce a non-live-in partner to the mix, or several. Some studies have also suggested that children of single-parent homes are more likely to witness acts of domestic violence than children living with both biological parents.

Common examples of how domestic violence may affect these families:

  • Violence within a dating relationship (where the single parent is either the perpetrator or the victim)
  • Violence against the child by a dating partner
  • Violence against the child by the single parent (this scenario can be especially dangerous because the child may have no opportunity to get help)

Blended Families

When parents divorce and remarry—or an intentionally single parent decides to marry—it forms a blended family, one in which the children don’t share both biological parents. Blended families can take a variety of forms. For example:

  • Two single parents marry, and the children of both parents now live in the same home as stepsiblings.
  • One or more parents has joint custody of children from a previous union, which causes one or more stepchildren to live in the home part-time.
  • A single parent marries a spouse with no children, creating a stepparent scenario. If the new union produces more children, there are now half-siblings living together.

Risk factors

Blended families may have to juggle a wide range of emotional dynamics. Adult partners must effectively become parents to children they don’t always know that well; children of different unions are thrown together and expected to learn to get along as family; and the children themselves must now get used to a stepparent. All of these dynamics can add to the stress of a blended family, especially during the initial adjustment period, and not everyone may handle the transition well—children or adults.

Common examples of how domestic violence may affect these families:

  • One parent may commit violence against the other
  • A stepparent may abuse one or more of the children
  • Domestic violence between teen or pre-adult stepchildren can also be common

Divorced-Couple Families

On occasion—and perhaps more commonly now than in years past—couples who have been divorced continue to cohabitate, either temporarily or permanently. This may be for financial reasons (i.e., one or both ex-spouses can’t afford to set up a new household, so they live in the same home to share expenses. Occasionally, amicably divorced parents agree to continue living together so the children can continue to have access to both parents. In the latter situation, one or both divorced spouses may even date other people while their ex continues to live at home.

Risk factors

When divorced couples continue living together, the tensions that initially prompted them to split may continue to fester, increasing the possibility that domestic violence may occur. If either ex-spouse brings a dating relationship into the mix—especially if the new partner moves in—it can generate feelings of confusion and jealousy, as well as divided loyalties among the children.

Common examples of how domestic violence may affect these families:

  • Violence between ex-spouses
  • Dating violence between an ex and their dating partner
  • Violence between an ex-spouse and a new love interest (considered domestic violence if both the ex and the new partner live in the same home)
  • Violence against the children by any of the adults

Within any of these nontraditional families—and others we will soon discuss—California law is very strict regarding domestic violence and covers almost all scenarios among dating and live-in relationships. Regardless of what your own family looks like, if you’ve been arrested and charged with domestic violence, you could face serious penalties plus a wide range of additional complications. If you need compassionate legal counsel to help you navigate what’s ahead, we are here to help. Call our office today for a free case evaluation.


Contact Information