DOMESTIC VIOLENCE: ASSESSMENT OF ATTRIBUTES, TYPES AND REACTIONS
Domestic violence is common in all cultures across the world. Because of various cultural differences and values and the fact that most of the research findings pertain to western European countries and sets of rules of behavior vary from culture to culture, the exact nature of domestic violence, e.g., its causes and types and reactions exhibited by each spouse towards its occurrence remains unknown. Yet, there is a common agreement among experts that domestic violence can take at least two forms, physical and psychological (Coker et al., 2002), ranging from severe physical abuse, e.g., kicking, hitting, biting, beating up, threatening with a gun or knife, using a gun or knife, throwing things and pushing (Benedictis et al., 2006) to mild verbal abuse, insulting, ridiculing, accusing, degrading, humiliating, threatening to abandon and threatening violence (Garbarino et al., 1986; Hart and Brassard, 1987, 1991; Benedictis et al., 2006).
Due to the complicated nature of domestic violence and the fact that a number of factors play a role in its occurrence, the exact determination of causes of domestic violence is a major challenge for researchers and people working in this field. The literature identifies a number of causes for domestic violence that encompass various factors including cultural (Homel et al., 1999) social, individual and familial (Gelles and Cornell, 1990). A summary of the literature by Hotaling and Sugarman (1986) has shown that broad cultural and social factors such as low income, low educational achievement and low occupational status (Jewkes, 2002), family and relational factors such as frequent arguing, poor marital adjustments and incompatible religious beliefs (Berkel et al., 2004), individual and individual and personality factors such as history of witnessing domestic violence as a child, unemployment, low self-esteem and abuse of alcohol can contribute to the occurrence of domestic violence.
Straus and Gelles (1986), in a study conducted from 1975 to 1985, have reported that wives hit husbands as frequently as husbands hit wives. They showed that the overall rate of marital violence including minor acts of violence such as throwing objects, pushing and slapping and severe acts of violence such as kicking, hitting, beating, threatening with or using a gun or knife and using a gun or knife, was higher for wives as perpetrators than for their husbands.
Domestic violence occurs most of the time between husbands and wives and the
attributions, the types and the reactions towards violence exhibited by each
spouse can, potentially, vary depending on many factors, including the culture
(setting) in which it occurs. As indicated before, due to the complicated nature
of domestic violence and the fact that such study has not been carried out in
Tehran before, therefore, the purpose of the current study is to identify the
causes, the reactions and the types of violence between couples in Tehran. This
will be done by utilizing questionnaires designed specifically for the Iranian
MATERIALS AND METHODS
Participants: In order to determine and rate responses regarding domestic violence, a pilot study was conducted with 100 couples who were randomly drawn from couples referred to family courts by marriage councilors in Tehran seeking divorce due to family violence. Accordingly, questionnaires were constructed to assess the types of violence, the causes of violence and the reactions of each spouse exhibited against violence received. The average age of the wives was 29 years (SD = 0.64) and the average age of the husbands was 35 years (SD = 0.70). Couples had been married an average of 4 years (SD = 0.77). Sixty percent of the man had less than a high school diploma, 35% had a high school diploma and 5% had education above a high school diploma. Sixty five percent of the women had less than high school, 28% had a high school diploma and 7% had above high school diploma. All couples were informed of the purpose of the study and were told that they were free to discontinue their participation at any time during the study, should they decide to do so. Also, they were told that their information would be kept confidential.
Materials:The questionnaire pertaining to the attributions of violence
included 15 items assessing the attribution of violence on a 5-item Likert-type
scale with anchors of 5 = Always and 1 = Never. The validity of this questionnaire
was assessed by co-administering it with the Conflict Tactic Scale (Straus,
1979) in 100 couples and the correlation obtained between the two tests was
r = +0.85, which is indicative of high validity of the self-constructed questionnaire.
Consistency of the self-constructed questionnaire measured by Cronbachs
Alpha was +0.82.
The questionnaire pertaining to the reactions each spouse exhibited against
violence included 15 items assessing the types of reactions against spouses
violence on a 5-item Likert-type scale with anchors of 5 = Always and 1 = Never.
The validity of this questionnaire was assessed by co administering it with
the Conflict Tactic Scale (Straus, 1979) in 100 couples and the correlation
obtained between the two tests was r = +0.91, which is an indicative of high
validity of the self-constructed questionnaire. Consistency of the self-constructed
questionnaire measured by Cronbachs Alpha was +0.87.
The questionnaire pertaining to the types of violence included 10 items the
content of which was drawn from the available literature (Schechter and Ganley,
1995) assessing the types of violence on a 5-item Likert-type scale with anchors
of 5 = Always and 1 = Never. The validity of this questionnaire was assessed
by co-administering it with the Conflict Tactic Scale (Straus, 1979) in a group
of 100 couples and the obtained correlation between the two tests was r = +0.89
which is an indicative of high validity of the self-constructed questionnaire.
Consistency of the self-constructed questionnaire measured by Cronbachs
Alpha was +0.81.
The study was conducted in four family courts in Tehran, in 2004-2005. Each spouse was asked to voluntarily participate in the study and to fill out the questionnaires alone and away from the presence of the other spouse.
To analyze present results, t-tests were performed on the means of scores obtained
for both, women and men, in order compare the perceived causes of disagreement,
the types of violence and the types of reactions against spouses violence.
The t-tests were statistically significant (p<0.05) and indicated that men
and women differed in terms of factors causing disagreements between them. These
factors included: Spouses' Indifference, Spouses' Complaint About Food, Spouses'
Lack of Verbal Communication, Spouses' Lack of Cooperation in Doing House Chores,
Spouses' Lack of Cooperation in Caring for Children and Spouses' Drug Dependency.
Specifically, among the largest causes of husband-wife disagreements were Spouses'
Indifference and Spouses' Complaint about Food. On the other hand, the largest
causes of wife-husband disagreement were Spouses' Lack of Verbal Communication
Spouses' Lack of Cooperation in Doing House Chores, Spouses' Drug Dependency
and Lack of Cooperation in Caring for Children with the latter cause being the
largest one (Table 1).
Results showed that among the types of violence exhibited by women such as Kicking (Hitting, Slapping), Cursing, Using a Knife to threaten and Choking. Kicking was the most common type of violence used by women (Table 2). There was no significant difference between men and women in other types of violence.
Similar to the type of violence, the reactions toward spouses' violence were different in men and women. Specifically, our results showed that women's reactions towards husbands' violence such as pulling hair, tolerance and cutting off relations were significantly higher than men, respectively (Table 3).
||Comparison of the causes of disagreement in men and women
|* p<0.05, ** p<0.01
||Types of violence in men and women toward their spouse, when
stress levels are high
|* p<0.05, ** p<0.01
||Types of reactions against spouses violence
|* p<0.05, ** p<0.01
Previous findings negate sets of rules about behaviors taking place in other countries and cultural settings and ignore cultural traditions which potentially contribute to the development and occurrence of domestic violence. Very few studies have been conducted regarding the assessment of the causes of domestic violence (Nayak et al., 2003). Findings of Nayak et al. (2003) from India, Japan, Kuwait and the United States suggest points out the importance of examining differences within the larger sociocultural context of political, historical, religious and economic influences on attitudes toward gender roles and violence against women.
Up to now, no studies have been conducted to assess various aspects of domestic
violence, e.g., its attributions, types and reactions in Tehran. Therefore,
given the scarcity of research in the area of domestic violence in Tehran, the
present study attempted to investigate the causes, types and the reactions towards
domestic violence between couples in Tehran. My results revealed that men believe
spouses indifference and spouses complaints about food were two
factors which caused disagreement between them and their wives. These factors
fall into the category of family and relational factors, identified by Hotaling
and Sugarman (1986) and Feiring and Furman (2000) which makes our results consistent
with their results. Women, on the other hand, believed that factors such as
spouses' lack of verbal communication, spouses' lack of cooperation in doing
household chores, spouses' lack of cooperation in caring for children and spouses'
drug dependency were the main causes of their differences with their husbands.
Similar to mens belief of the cause of disagreement, these factors also
fall into familial and relational category. One possible explanation for why
women believed that the above-mentioned reasons were causing disagreement between
them and their husbands is that family is considered the cornerstone of Iranian
culture and that one of the major roles and responsibilities of women (mothers)
is to maintain and preserve the integrity and cohesion of the family. So, anything
that might somehow threaten this responsibility could be considered problematic.
Furthermore, women might interpret their husbands lack of participation
in home-related matters as a lack of emotional intimacy with them. This may,
in turn, affect their ability to manage their family and therefore might result
in the disintegration of their family. So, they may consider these factors a
source of tension between them and their husbands. This explanation is consistent
with those of Nayak et al. (2003) who reported that, when attempting
to assess the causes of domestic violence, the role of larger sociocultural
factors which influence attitudes towards domestic violence, must be emphasized.
One interesting finding of the present study was that in terms of the types
of violence taking place between spouses, women more than men reported resorting
to physical violence (kicking, using a knife to threaten and choking) in times
of trouble. These results are consistent with the findings of Gelles (1995)
who report that the rate of serious husband-to-wife violence was 38 per 1000
while the rate of serious wife-to-husband violence was 46 per 1000, indicating
that women can be equally as violent as men and perhaps even more. Also, present
findings are consistent with that of Straus (2005) who reported women
initiate and perform physical assaults on their partners as often as do men
(Straus and Gelles, 1986). One possible explanation of our findings could be
due to the fact that women are trying to protect their children against the
violence occurring between them and their husbands (Kay et al., 2003).
From the viewpoint of the Western culture, the present findings with respect
to the types of violence might seem unusual for a traditionally-oriented society
such as Iran and to a certain extent it may contradict Western views about womens
behaviors in this type of culture. Such similar results might indicate an overall
change in cultural atmosphere within some families in Tehran which has, in turn,
altered womens views and attitudes towards violence. Specifically, it
might have made them aware that they too can act just as aggressively as their
In terms of reactions exhibited by husbands and wives towards their spouses
violence, the results indicated that except for one reaction (pulling hair)
women adopted mostly psychological strategies in response to their husbands
violence, i.e., they tolerated the violence and cut off their relationship with
their husbands which is contrary to the findings of Straus (2005) that reported
women commit physical assaults just as often as do men.
One possible explanation for such reactions could be that, again, women are
inclined to preserve the unity of the family and protect it from falling apart
a situation that might otherwise occur if they resorted to physical reactions.
Hence, they may be more apt to resort to psychological means against their husbands
violence thereby preventing the situation from escalating to a more critical
level. A second possible explanation could be that in order to protect their
children from being physically harmed, women prefer to adopt psychological rather
than physical means in response to their husbands violence and not run
the risk of physical injury to their children. This is consistent with author's
previous findings that when stress levels are high, women tend to resort to
psychological reactions than physical ones (Pournaghash, 2005).
Although the current results are only preliminary and may not be generalized to all cases of domestic violence, it is a first step towards exploring the nature of this phenomenon. Furthermore, given the diversities among cultures and that every country has its own cultural settings and practice different ways of life, makes the task of identifying various aspects of domestic violence, investigating and classifying various causes of domestic violence, an important challenge.