Female breadwinners more likely to experience domestic violence 

31 March 2021

The chance of a woman experiencing domestic violence surges by 35 per cent when she earns more than her male partner, new Australian research reveals.

SBS News reports that female breadwinners were also 20 per cent more likely to suffer emotional abuse at the hands of their partner, suggesting men are still not comfortable with shifting traditional gender norms.

The research, based on more than a decade of de-identified Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) surveys, showed an increase in violence when women out-earned their partners was common across all ages, incomes, education levels and cultural backgrounds.

Australian National University researchers Robert Breunig and Yinjunjie Zhang found no impact from earnings on the rates of domestic violence or emotional abuse against men, SBS says.

There was also no change in the experience of physical and emotional abuse if the woman’s earnings increased, but stayed below half of the household income.

“Only when the gender norm is violated do we see an increase in the incidence of physical violence and emotional abuse,” the report reads.

In the study, yet to be published in a peer-reviewed journal, the authors said men may attempt to regain power within the household through abusive behaviour in response to what they see as the “threat” of women’s increased economic power.

“It’s quite surprising,” Professor Breunig told SBS News. “Because we would think that as a woman's economic situation improves, that their situation in the household would improve.”

The increase in reports of domestic violence and emotional abuse were not driven by education, income, or age, he added.

“It’s really that people are very comfortable with the male breadwinning norm and when that gets violated it causes disruption and one of the ways that disruption comes out is in additional violence against women.”

One-in-six Australian women have experienced some form of physical or sexual violence at the hands of a current or former partner, compared to one in 16 men, according to data from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

It is the position of the ANMF that nurses and midwives have an important role in identifying people who are victims of domestic and family violence and facilitating their access to assistance and support, while respecting their privacy. Screening should occur in conjunction with an effective system of support following disclosure of domestic and family violence.

Also, a nurse, midwife or assistant in nursing should be provided with 20 days of paid family and domestic violence leave per year in addition to all other leave.

A nurse, midwife or assistant in nursing who supports a person experiencing domestic and family violence should be entitled to access paid domestic and family violence leave in order to accompany the person to legal appointments, to court, to receive health care, to assist with relocation or other safety arrangements, or to assist with childcare.