Understanding Elder Abuse: New Directions for Developing Theories of Elder Abuse Occurring in Domestic Settings

Research in Brief, National Institute of Justice, June 2013

40 Pages Posted: 12 Jun 2013 Last revised: 23 Jun 2013

See all articles by Shelly Jackson

Shelly Jackson

University of Virginia; Psychiatry and Neurobehavioral Sciences

Thomas L. Hafemeister

Independent

Date Written: June 11, 2013

Abstract

As of 2010, 13% of the population was age 65 and older, with this group expected to comprise 19.3% of the population by 2030. Elder abuse among this population is both a pervasive problem and a growing concern. Given that the vast majority (96.9%) of older Americans are residing in domestic settings, it is not surprising that most (89.3%) elder abuse reported to Adult Protective Services (APS) occurs in domestic settings.

And yet, although greater recognition of the occurrence of elder abuse is beginning to emerge, the field has generated few theory-based explanations of what causes elder abuse and how best to respond to it. This article reports the findings of two studies funded by the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) in an effort to begin to fill this void, and attempts to spur the critique of existing theories and facilitate the development of new theories that will enhance our understanding of elder abuse. In doing so, it addresses a subset of the various types of elder abuse, namely, physical abuse, neglect, "pure" financial exploitation, and "hybrid" financial exploitation.

This article concludes that the response to elder maltreatment needs to change from a relatively fragmented approach unguided by theory to one that embraces a systematic approach drawn from a greater understanding of the underlying phenomenon. Further, these theories should take into account the characteristics of both the elderly victims and the abusive individuals, including their cognitive statuses, the nature of their relationships, the settings in which the abuse occurs, the type of abuse involved, and protective factors; in general, the theories should employ a more dynamic approach. Researchers should then test the resulting constructs, including the tenets presented in this article, and help build a foundation that will both deepen our understanding of elder maltreatment and form a basis for crafting more effective interventions to increase the safety and well-being of elderly people.

Keywords: elder abuse & maltreatment, financial exploitation, theory & research, interventions to protect vulnerable & dependent populations, Adult Protective Services

JEL Classification: J14, K14, I3, I30, I31, I00, I10, I18, K4, K40, R2, R20, Z00, J12, J26, J28, K10, K19, K3, K32

Suggested Citation

Jackson, Shelly and Hafemeister, Thomas L., Understanding Elder Abuse: New Directions for Developing Theories of Elder Abuse Occurring in Domestic Settings (June 11, 2013). Research in Brief, National Institute of Justice, June 2013. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2277633

Shelly Jackson

University of Virginia; Psychiatry and Neurobehavioral Sciences ( email )

1400 University Ave
Charlottesville, VA 22903
United States

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