Course of Domestic Abuse Among Chicago's Elderly: Risk Factors, Protective Behaviors, and Police Intervention, 2006-2009 (ICPSR 29041)

Principal Investigator(s): Amendola, Karen L., Police Foundation; Slipka, Meghan G., Police Foundation; Hamilton, Edwin E., Police Foundation; Whitman, Julie L., National Center for Victims of Crime


The study was conducted to examine if and how risk factors and protective behaviors affect the course of elder abuse over time, and the role of police in intervening with elderly victims of domestic abuse and/or neglect. It also examined the prevalence rates for various types of abuse using a stratified sample of Chicago's elderly population. The study involved in-depth interviews with 328 elderly (aged 60 and over) residents of Chicago from three sample groups: (1) 159 community nonvictims; (2) 121 community victims; and (3) a police sample consisting of 48 elderly victims who had been visited by trained domestic violence/senior citizen victimization officers in the Chicago Police Department. The interviews were conducted using a survey instrument designed to assess victimization. The survey included questions about various characteristics and risk factors associated both with victims and perpetrators of abuse and/or neglect, specific types of abuse, and protective behaviors of victims. Victimization was examined twice over a 10-month period to evaluate the course of abuse over time. The efficacy of police intervention was also examined.

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Study Description


Amendola, Karen L., Meghan G. Slipka, Edwin E. Hamilton, and Julie L. Whitman. Course of Domestic Abuse Among Chicago's Elderly: Risk Factors, Protective Behaviors, and Police Intervention, 2006-2009. ICPSR29041-v1. Ann Arbor, MI: Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor], 2013-04-23.

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This study was funded by:

  • United States Department of Justice. Office of Justice Programs. National Institute of Justice (2005-WG-BX-0012)

Scope of Study

Subject Terms:    abuse, domestic violence, elder abuse, family violence, older adults, police intervention, spouse abuse, victimization

Smallest Geographic Unit:    None

Geographic Coverage:    Chicago, Illinois, United States

Time Period:   

  • 2006-04--2009-10

Date of Collection:   

  • 2007-04--2009-10

Unit of Observation:    individual

Universe:    All adults aged 60 years and older living in Chicago, Illinois between 2007 and 2009.

Data Type(s):    survey data


Study Purpose:   

The purpose of the study was to examine if and how risk factors and protective behaviors affect the course of elder abuse over time, as well as potential differences between those elderly residents who experienced at least one incident of domestic abuse (victims) and received a visit from a senior services officer or domestic violence liaison officer from the Chicago Police Department and those who did not. The study also included a sample of elderly residents who had no incidents of abuse (nonvictims) in order to establish whether there were any differences in demographic characteristics and risk factors between victims and nonvictims.

Study Design:   

In-depth interviews were conducted with 328 elderly residents from three sample groups: (1) community nonvictims (n = 159); (2) community victims (n = 121); and (3) a police sample consisting of elderly victims who had been visited by trained domestic violence/senior citizen victimization officers in the Chicago Police Department (n = 48). Participants in the three groups were all current residents of the city of Chicago, aged 60 years and older. Interviews were conducted over the phone using two survey intruments: one for victims and one for nonvictims. The surveys had questions about types of abuse (physical, psychological, financial, and neglect); dependency status of participants (dependence of the abuser on the victim and vice-versa); and questions about service use or other protective behaviors. The study used a standardized screener to assess cognitive capacity/dementia and four broad abuse screening questions. Victimization was examined twice over a 10-month period, using the same instrument, to evaluate the course of abuse over time. The efficacy of police intervention was also examined.

Interviews for the first round of data collection were conducted in April, 2007 and May, 2008 -- June, 2008 for the community sample. First round interviews for the police sample were conducted between November, 2007 and October, 2008. Follow-ups were conducted 10.5 months after the initial interview, and concluded in May, 2009 for the community sample and October, 2009 for the police sample.

For the study, elderly was defined as those 60 years of age or more, consistent with the Chicago Police Department and Illinois Criminal Code definitions. Domestic abuse incidents were defined as incidents perpetrated by either a family member or member of the victim's household (i.e. someone who lives with the victim but is not a family member). In addition, abuse was defined to include physical, psychological, or financial abuse, and neglect.

The City of Chicago was selected as the site for the study primarily because of the Chicago Police Department's (CPD) heavy emphasis on elder abuse. Specifically, the CPD has an established Senior Citizens Services Section staffed by 25 senior service officers and 25 domestic violence liaison officers who respond to crimes against the elderly, and receive referrals from patrol officers, hotlines for the aging, and other provider agencies. These 50 officers also engage in prevention and outreach. The CPD provides an in-person mandatory follow-up with elderly victims of abuse by a senior service officer generally within two weeks of an incident to which police responded.


In order to obtain the sample of victims from the police department, special service officers and domestic violence liaison officers from the Chicago Police Department who made a contact with an elder abuse victim, provided a brief description of the phone survey and provided the victim with a volunteer form in which he/she would indicate his/her willingness to be contacted and the forms were returned to the Police Foundation. The Police Foundation received a total of 421 participant forms from elder abuse victims in the city of Chicago over a two year period, for which 187 (44 percent) agreed to be contacted regarding the survey. Of the 187 respondents, 41 fully completed the survey and 7 additional individuals answered enough questions to be included in the analysis, resulting in 48 total victims in the police sample.

The community sample (victims and nonvictims) was obtained by using a databank of phone numbers in the City of Chicago, including an oversampling of census blocks with higher proportions of elderly. The total sample size was 1,795 adults aged 60 years and older. From this sample, 159 nonvictims and 121 victims completed interviews.

Time Method:    Longitudinal: Panel , Longitudinal: Panel: Interval

Weight:    None

Mode of Data Collection:    computer-assisted telephone interview (CATI), telephone interview

Data Source:

Telephone surveys of elderly residents of Chicago.

Description of Variables:    The study contains a total of 390 variables including questions about the following categories: victimization screening, ill health and mobility, social isolation, mutual dependency, perpetrator deviance and psychological history, perpetrator life stress, physical abuse, psychological abuse, neglect, financial abuse, and service use and protective behaviors. Demographic and computed variables are also included.

Response Rates:    For the initial interview, the response rate was 9.57 percent for the community sample and 35.48 percent for the police sample. For the 10 month follow-up, there was 49 percent attrition for the nonvictim community sample, 58.7 percent attrition for the victim community sample, and 34.1 percent attrition for the police sample.

Presence of Common Scales:   

Several Likert-type scales were used. In addition, the following scales were also used:

  • The Six Item Screener to Identify Cognitive Impairment (Callahan, Unverzagt, Hui, Perkins, and Hendrie, 2002)
  • Partner Abuse Scale: Non-physical (Hudson, 1990)
  • Mutual dependency, perpetrator deviance, psychological problems, and life stress (Pillemer, 1985)
  • (Adapted) Revised Conflict Tactics Scale (Straus, Hamby, Boney-McCoy, and Sugarman, 1995).
  • (Adapted) Service use and other protective behaviors (Bowker, 1984)

Extent of Processing:   ICPSR data undergo a confidentiality review and are altered when necessary to limit the risk of disclosure. ICPSR also routinely creates ready-to-go data files along with setups in the major statistical software formats as well as standard codebooks to accompany the data. In addition to these procedures, ICPSR performed the following processing steps for this data collection:

  • Created variable labels and/or value labels.
  • Standardized missing values.
  • Checked for undocumented or out-of-range codes.


Original ICPSR Release:   2013-04-23

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