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23/26 Effectiveness of interventions aimed at preventing domestic abuse


Published: 07 March 2023

Version: 1.0 Feb 2023

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This commissioning brief was first advertised in Autumn 2021. We are still interested in receiving applications in this research area as it remains a priority in our portfolio. Figures in this commissioning brief have been updated to reflect the most recent data from the Crime Survey for England and Wales.

Research question(s)

  • What interventions are effective in preventing domestic abuse and its health impacts?

Domestic abuse is described as an incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive, threatening, degrading and violent behaviour, including sexual violence. In the majority of cases, these crimes are committed by a partner or an ex-partner, but the perpetrator may alternatively be a family member or carer. Domestic abuse is a common and largely hidden crime with long-lasting physical and mental health impacts for the people who experience it, and their families.

Estimates from the Crime Survey for England and Wales (year ending March 2022) show that 5% of adults aged 16 years and over (2.4 million adults) experienced domestic abuse in the previous 12 months; such abuse usually occurring in the home. However, these figures are very likely to be an underestimate; domestic abuse is under-reported to the police and in surveys. It has been reported that at least one in seven children and young people under the age of 18 years will have lived with domestic abuse at some point in their childhood.

Domestic abuse is a crime that disproportionately affects women, who are more likely to experience multiple incidents of abuse and sexual violence. Domestic abuse is rooted in inequitable social and cultural attitudes, roles, values and norms which enable abuse and violence against women and girls to be perpetrated. Society’s understanding and response to domestic abuse therefore needs to be located in the wider context of male violence against women and girls.  

Research has highlighted the urgency of implementing and evaluating early preventative actions with young people that focus on the deconstruction of current gender patterns and breaking cycles of abuse. Research is needed on interventions for specific population groups for whom there are gaps in the evidence base. There is also a need for research on specific types of approaches, for example technology-based approaches. Evaluations of interventions aimed at people who perpetrate domestic abuse is also lacking.

The Public Health Research (PHR) Programme is predominantly interested in the evaluation of interventions operating at a population level rather than at an individual level, which should address health inequalities and the wider determinants of health. Researchers should clearly describe the target population in their application. The PHR Programme recognises that interventions are likely to impact different (sub)populations in different ways, and encourages researchers to explore such disparities in their study design. Interventions may be aimed at people who experience domestic abuse or people who perpetrate domestic abuse.

We recognise that this call is broad and that there are many research areas of interest listed below. We invite researchers to be targeted in their research application.

The research areas of interest include (but are not limited to):

  • Research into the effectiveness of interventions aimed at preventing (recurrence of) domestic abuse:
  • Interventions aimed at victims/survivors or perpetrators.
  • Evaluations that consider effectiveness from the perspective of people who have experienced domestic abuse.
  • Preventative interventions aimed at children and/or adolescent populations.
  • School-based preventative interventions involving families and local communities.
  • By-stander interventions.
  • Primary and/or secondary prevention programmes.
  • Evaluations of interventions that challenge the norms/myths/stereotypes that perpetuate abuse.
  • Evaluations of interventions that take a whole-systems approach to prevent domestic abuse.
  • Evaluations of multi-level interventions.
  • Evaluations of interventions focused on population groups for whom there are gaps in the evidence base, for example: migrants, LGBTQ+ groups, deaf and disabled people, older people (including older people living in care settings or sheltered accommodation), and people from ethnic minority groups.
  • Evaluations of interventions focused on preventing domestic violence during pregnancy.
  • Evaluations of interventions focused on preventing adolescent-to-parent violence.
  • Evaluations of interventions focused on men who experience domestic abuse.
  • Research of interventions that are delivered by multi-agency partnerships.
  • Research into the effectiveness of different types of interventions in the short, medium and long term and their effectiveness at meeting different needs of people who have experienced domestic abuse.
  • Evaluations of preventative interventions delivered digitally.
  • Evaluations of interventions designed to prevent or reduce technology-facilitated domestic abuse such as digital coercive control.
  • Research examining the effectiveness of public awareness campaigns and social marketing programmes (research shows that campaigns could be appropriate but multiple methods need to be employed to get the messages across - digitally, but also through other methods via local support services).
  • Evaluations of interventions that focus on support for/from family and friends and the local community.
  • Research of interventions that also target issues that may co-occur with domestic abuse (and which may represent modifiable risk factors), such as substance use or mental

Of particular importance to the PHR Programme is an understanding of inequalities in access to, and engagement with, services by different ethnic minority groups in the UK. Evaluations of interventions seeking to reduce health inequalities experienced by ethnic minority groups are also of specific interest to the PHR Programme.

The PHR Programme is also interested in evaluations of community-level interventions that seek to improve health and wellbeing by acting to increase the degree of choice and agency for the population that is the focus of the research.

A range of study designs and outcome measures can be used. Researchers will need to identify and justify their chosen methodological approach. Researchers will also need to specify key outcomes and how these will be measured in the short, medium, and long term. Primary outcomes must be health related. As part of this, the PHR Programme would also be interested in explorations of factors that support or hinder access to non-NHS support services.

Understanding the value of public health interventions – whether the outcomes justify their use of resources – is integral to the PHR Programme, where resources relating to different economic sectors and budgets are potentially relevant. The main outcomes for economic evaluation are expected to include health (including health-related quality of life) and the impact on health inequalities as a minimum, with consideration of broader outcomes welcomed. Different approaches to economic evaluation are encouraged as long as they assess the value and distributive impact of interventions. Applications that do not include an economic component should provide appropriate justification.

Researchers should ensure that there is involvement from people with lived experience of domestic abuse in the design of the research and in the research team. Applicants will need to assure the PHR Programme that the research team includes, or has access to, either representatives from organisations working in the domestic abuse field or researchers with prior expertise within this field. We will consider inclusion of experts as costed members of the study team if appropriately justified. The PHR Programme expects applicants to be familiar with the Research Integrity Framework on Domestic Violence and Abuse which has been developed by the four UK Women’s Aid federations in collaboration with academic researchers.

Researchers should demonstrate the relevance of their proposed research to people who have experienced domestic abuse (and their families, carers and support networks); to charities dedicated to working in the domestic abuse field and/or working to support women and girls who have experienced male violence; and to local decision-makers and other relevant national and third sector organisations. Researchers are expected to be aware of other studies in this area and ensure their proposed research is complementary. This is a rapidly evolving policy field and applicants need to be aware of relevant strategies and developments.

For further information on submitting an application to the PHR Programme, please refer to the Stage 1 guidance notes and PHR supporting information. These can be found by clicking on the relevant commissioned call on the main funding opportunities page. This also includes closing dates and details about how to apply.