This research applies the social disorganization perspective on the neighborhood-level determinants of crime to partner violence. The social disorganization approach focuses on the role of neighborhood characteristics such as poverty, residential instability, and ethnic heterogeneity in limiting the social resources available to achieve shared community goals. Specifically, I hypothesize that trust, attachment to community, and the associated willingness of residents to intervene on behalf of one another—the combination of which has been described as collective efficacy—may help limit the prevalence of violence between intimate partners. The analysis brings data from the 1990 Decennial Census together with the 1994–95 Project on Human Development in Chicago Neighborhoods Community Survey, the 1994–95 Chicago Homicide Data, and the 1995–97 Chicago Health and Social Life Survey to study the impact of neighborhood characteristics on partner violence, above and beyond the effects of individual characteristics. Findings indicate that collective efficacy is negatively associated with both neighborhood-level intimate homicide rates and self-reports of nonlethal partner violence at the individual level. However, collective efficacy exerts a more powerful regulatory effect on nonlethal violence in neighborhoods where the tolerance of intimate violence is low. Finally, collective efficacy also increases the likelihood that women will disclose conflict in their relationships to various potential sources of support. This research points to the importance of neighborhood environment for regulating violence between intimate partners.
Findings indicate that collective efficacy is negatively associated with both neighborhood-level intimate homicide rates and self-reports of nonlethal partner violence at the individual level.