Monash academic retracts erroneous claim that DV is major cause of divorce

July 11, 2011

The following statement seeks to correct the public record with respect to some minor and inadvertent inaccuracies that were contained in the book  “Child Abuse and Family Law” that was published in 2007 by Allen and Unwin and co-authored with Professor Thea Brown.  The following material statement also seeks to correct the media release that was issued by Monash University’s Media and Communications Unit in August 2009.

Incorrect statements in the Book

On page 20 of the book, there is a statement which reads as follows:

“Domestic violence is increasingly reported as a cause of partnership
breakdown, with two thirds of couples in Australia attributing the
separation to domestic violence and one third to severe domestic
violence, (FLPAG, 2001).”

The statement is incorrect.

The book cites a 2001 FLPAG Report as the source of this data.  However,
the material relied on was not taken from the FLPAG Report itself, but
rather was drawn from a verbal presentation to the FLPAG Committee on
which Professor Brown served.

Professor Brown is aware that the presented data was drawn from another
AIFS study, the "Spousal Violence and Post Separation Financial Outcomes
Study", which itself used the data base of an earlier study, the
"Divorce Transitions Project" to identify suitable families to

The presentation to the FLPAG Committee suggested that figures for
family violence accompanying or as a cause of divorce identified in the
earlier Divorce Transitions Project study (Wolcott and Hughes 1999
Towards understanding the reasons for divorce, Working Paper 20,
Australian Institute of Family Studies) were an underestimation of the
true situation showing that some 65% of women and 55% of men stated
domestic violence was part of their former failed relationship, however
the couples did not attribute their separation to domestic violence, the
presenters to the FLPAG Committee did.  Professor Brown failed to make
this important distinction in the book.

The statement in the book states (and again references the 2001 FLPAG
Report) that one third of couples in Australia attribute their
separation to severe domestic violence.  This statement is incorrect. 
The presenters to the FLPAG Committee (not the couples themselves)
assessed one-third of the domestic violence experienced by 65% of women
and 55% of men in failed relationships as severe.  Thus, it is at most
33% of 65% of couples whose separation could be attributed to severe
domestic violence, and not "one-third" of such couples as stated in the

Secondly, on page 111 of the book there is a statement which reads "some
30% of all marriages in Australia fail because of domestic violence". 
This statement is also incorrect and the figures that have been relied
upon in making this statement are incorrect.

Incorrect statements in the 2009 media release

The 2009 media release is incorrect for the same reasons as noted above.

In particular the media release is incorrect in so far as it states that:

(a) "earlier studies suggest that domestic violence is the major cause
of parental separation in 66% of parental relationship breakdown"; and

(b) it is the couples themselves who nominated violence as the reason
for their separation.  As noted above, it is the researchers/ presenters
to the FLPAG Committee who made this assumption, not the couples.

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