Family violence: Towards a holistic approach to screening and risk assessment in family support services

Family violence: Towards a holistic approach to screening and risk assessment in family support services

Elly Robinson and Lawrie Moloney

AFRC Briefing No. 17 — September 2010

Since the 1960s, violence between intimate partners, between family members and towards children1 has been increasingly recognised as a significant problem. Seminal work on male violence towards women within families was conducted in Britain (Pizzey, 1973), Australia (Scutt, 1983) and the United States (Walker, 1984). Prior to that, Kempe, Silverman, Steele, Droeghmeuller, and Silver (1962) found convincing (and at the time shocking) evidence of the extent to which children were being physically abused by parents and carers.

While knowledge about family violence and its effects has grown considerably since this time, services still grapple with the most effective ways of identifying family violence issues with which clients present and, just as importantly, of taking appropriate actions once family violence has been accurately identified. Research such as the evaluation of the 2006 family law reforms (Kaspiew, Gray, Weston, Moloney, Hand, Qu, and the family law evaluation team, 2009) suggested that family violence is not always recognised by practitioners working in this area and that even when it is recognised, appropriate actions aimed at creating or preserving safety are not always taken.

This paper reviews the current research and literature specific to family violence screening and risk assessment. It is hoped that the paper will assist service providers and practitioners to develop and evaluate tools for use within family support services.


1 In this paper, the generic term of family violence will be used except where studies are described which use different terms.

Authors and Acknowledgements

Elly Robinson is Manager of the Australian Family Relationships Clearinghouse and Research Fellow at the Australian Institute of Family Studies.

Lawrie Moloney has had a long association with the Australian Institute of Family Studies and currently has a part-time appointment as a Senior Research Fellow. He is an Adjunct Professor at La Trobe University, where he was formerly Director of the Department of Counselling and Psychological Health in the Faculty of Health Sciences.

The authors would like to thank Margaret Anderson, Malia Dewse and Tibor Mokany for their comments and feedback.

Publication details

AFRC Briefing
No. 17
Published by the Australian Institute of Family Studies, September 2010.
18 pp.

Publication meta

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