Theories of Violence against Women

There are many theories of violence against women. In this article, different theories of violence against women are explained. I have given a list of these theories that you can read step by step. These are various theories based on different natures of violence. So let’s have a look at the various theories of violence against women.

Learned Behaviour Theory

Researchers next theorized that violence was learned. They argued that men were battered because they had learned about violence in their families as children, and women sought out abusive men because they saw their mothers being abused.

This was the “learned behavior” theory of violence. Yet women who witness domestic violence are not any more likely to be battered as adults.

A recent study reported by the Family Violence Prevention Fund does indicate, however, that women who were physically or sexually abused as children may be more likely to be abused as adults.

A more consistent explanation for the relationship between witnessing and battering is that witnessing is one of many sources of information; men also receive information from the larger society that it is appropriate to control their wives and to enforce this control through violence.

This behavior is:

  • Learned through observation
  • Learned through experience and reinforcement
  • Learned in culture
  • Learned in families
  • Learned in communities, such as schools, peer groups, workplaces
  • And Domestic Violence is not caused by:
  • Illness
  • Genetics
  • Alcohol or drugs
  • Loss of control of feelings
  • Anger
  • Stress
  • Behavior of victim
  • Problems in a relationship

Psychopathology Theory

When the battered women’s movement in the United States began in the early 1970s, the prevailing theory of why men batter was based on Psychopathology.

According to this theory, men who abused their wives were mentally ill and could be cured through medication or psychiatric treatment. Researchers found, however, that the behavior of perpetrators of domestic violence did not correspond to profiles of individuals who were mentally ill.

Initial studies also characterized battered women as mentally ill. In reality, however, battered women are not mentally ill, and many of those who were institutionalized were misdiagnosed because of a failure to recognize or understand the physical and psychological effects of domestic violence.

Loss of Control Theory

Closely related to the “learned behavior” theory were the theories that described violence as the result of a loss of control.

For example, many believed that men are abusive when they drink because the alcohol causes them to lose control. Others explained men’s violence as a result of an inability to control their anger and frustration.

These theorists argued that gendered societal expectations prevented men from expressing anger and frustration; these feelings would build up until the man lost control and released his feelings through the use of violence.

Abusers also follow their own “internal rules and regulations about abusive behaviors.” They often choose to abuse their partners only in private or may take steps to ensure that they do not leave visible evidence of the abuse.

They often choose to abuse their partners only in private or may take steps to ensure that they do not leave visible evidence of the abuse.

Learned Helplessness Theory

Another theory that was advanced was the “learned helplessness” theory. Lenore Walker, a psychologist in the United States, studied the behavior of women who stay in violent relationships. Walker hypothesized that women stay in abusive relationships because constant abuse strips them of the will to leave.

The learned helplessness theory, however, did not account for the fact that there are many social, economic, and cultural reasons a woman might choose to stay in an abusive relationship.

Women often have very rational reasons for staying-they may fear retaliation against themselves or their children, or they may not be able to financially support themselves or their children.

Further, the learned helplessness theory is inconsistent with the fact that women surviving in abusive relationships attempt to leave many times and routinely act in very conscious ways to try to minimize the abuse directed at them and to protect their children.

On the contrary, they often engage in a process of “staying, leaving, and returning.” During this process, women make active and conscious decisions based on their changing circumstances: they leave for short periods in order to escape the violence and to emphasize their disaffection in the hope that this will stop the violence.

In the beginning, they are generally not attempting to end the relationship, but are negotiating to reestablish the relationship on a non-violent basis. In addition, the learned helplessness theory was based on perceived characteristics ostensibly shared by battered women, such as low self-esteem, a tendency to withdraw, or perceptions of loss of control.

Finally, the static model of “learned helplessness” is contradicted by the fact that the violence, and the woman’s reaction to the violence, often changes over time.

The Cycle of Violence Theory

The “cycle of violence” was the next theory to gain popularity in the United States. This theory was based on the belief that men did not express their frustration and anger because they had been taught not to show their feelings.

The man’s tension built until he exploded and became violent. The tension was released, and the couple enjoyed a “honeymoon” period, during which the husband was apologetic and remorseful.

This theory, however, was not consistent with women’s experiences. Many women never experienced a honeymoon period.

Others stated that there was no gradual build-up of tension, but rather unpredictable, almost random, episodes of battering. This theory also did not explain why men directed their explosions of rage only against their intimate partners.

The Power and Control Wheel Theory

What was missing from all of these theories was the recognition of batterers’ intent to gain control over their partners’ actions, thoughts, and feelings. The current understanding of abuse, represented by the “Power and Control Wheel,” evolved out of many discussions with battered women and batterers through the Domestic Abuse Intervention Project (DAIP) in Duluth.

The Power and Control Wheel describes the different tactics an abuser uses to maintain power and control over his partner.

In an abusive relationship, the batterer uses the pattern of tactics described in the Power and Control Wheel to reinforce his use of physical violence.

Violent incidents are not isolated instances of a loss of control or even cyclical expressions of anger and frustration. Rather, each instance is part of a larger pattern of behavior designed to exert and maintain power and control over the victim.

The Power and Control Wheel is based on the assumption that the purpose of violence is to exert power and control over the woman. The elements that formed the basis of earlier theories a boy witnessing abuse as a child or substance abuse may be contributing factors, but are not the “cause” of the violence.

Family, Relationship, & Conflict Model

The “cycle of violence” theory was often paired with the “family/relationship conflict” model. According to this model, “both the man and the woman contribute to violence in an intimate relationship.”

The woman’s behavior contributes to the build-up of tension in the man, until the man explodes in a violent rage, followed by a honeymoon period.

Theories based on “mutual” violence do not take into account the different ways that men and women use violence in intimate relationships.

Patriarchal Theory

Current thinking is that the Patriarchal Theory is the dominant theory explaining the cause of domestic violence and sexual assault crimes. The behaviors of the offender are parallel to the brainwashing behaviors described by Biderman.

Biderman, a German scientist, studied the patterns of brainwashing and developed the Scale of Coercion. The behaviors listed in the Scale of Coercion correspond to those listed in the Power and Control Wheel which is used to train domestic violence and sexual assault advocates. The Power and Control Wheel behaviors were gleaned from victim reports over a period of years.

Biderman’s Scale of Coercion says there are essentially five steps to gaining control by one person over another:

  • Omnipotence
  • Threats of violence and violent attacks
  • Isolation
  • Emotional abuse
  • Kindness

Culture of Violence Theory

The idea is that in large, pluralistic societies, some subcultures develop norms that permit the use of physical violence to a greater degree than the dominant culture. Thus family violence will occur more frequently in violent societies than in peaceful ones. Peer relationships that support patriarchal dominance in the family and the use of violence to support it are exemplary of this subculture.

This theory has also produced the theory that examples from pornography and violent images on TV can support a “culture of violence” against women.

Ecological Theory

This theory attempts to link violence in the family to the broader social environment. This includes the culture, the formal and informal social networks of the family, the closer family setting and circumstances, and the family history. This type of framework sets up a basis for a risk theory of domestic assault based on the given criteria.

Evolutionary Theory

This theory posits that as societies have changed from the relatively simple to the more complex, families have become smaller and nuclear in form and social relations have become more structured and thereby, more ambiguous.

These changed circumstances result in different styles of parenting for example, in tighter family networks less independence is granted to children and instead, there is a reliance on physical punishment to secure obedience.

This theory argues that obedience is valued most in highly structured hierarchical societies where a lot of activity occurs in formal social encounters outside the home.

Feminist Theory

There are many different ideas within the feminist theory of domestic violence, but M. Bograd in Feminist Perspectives on Wife Abuse has identified four common strains. These are:

  • that as the dominant class, men have differential access to material and symbolic resources, and women are devalued as secondary and inferior
  • intimate partner abuse is a predictable and common dimension of normal family life
  • women’s experiences are often defined as inferior because male domination influences all aspects of life

The feminist perspective is dedicated to advocacy for women.

Exchange Theory

People hit and abuse each other because it achieves a certain goal and the benefit outweighs the cost. For example, if a husband is likely to suffer social censure and castigation, he may be less inclined to use violence as a means of control.

Investment Theory

This theory examines the causes of commitment to relationships, which include anticipated relationship satisfaction, the negative function of perceived alternatives, and the amount that has already been invested. These investments may be emotional, social, or financial.

Resource Theory

Posts that the decision-making power within a given family derives from the value of the resources that each person brings to the relationship. This may indicate resources both financial, social, and organizational.

Social Learning Theory

Family violence arises due to many contextual and situational factors. Contextual factors include individual/couple characteristics, stress, violence in the family, or an aggressive personality.

Situational factors include substance abuse and financial difficulties. Social learning theory also extends these factors onto the influence of children growing up within a combination of these external forces.

Marital Power Theory

The hypothesis is that power falls into three realms: power bases, power processes, and power outcomes. Power bases consist of the assets and resources that provide the bases for one partner’s domination over another.

Power processes include the interactional techniques that an individual uses to gain control, such as negotiation, assertiveness, and problem-solving. Power outcome refers to who actually makes the decision. According to this theory, those partners who lack power will be more likely to physically abuse.

Traumatic Bonding Theory

This theory seeks to explain why women remain with men who beat them. Two features have been recognized: the existence of a power imbalance in the relationship so that the batterer perceives him or herself as dominating the other, and the intermittent nature of the abuse.

This theory postulates that as these power relationships polarize over time, the powerless individual in the relationship becomes increasingly dependent on the dominator. In addition, moments in between abuse are times when positive displays of love and affection cement the legitimacy of the relationship.

Various theories of Violence against Women are:

  • Learned Behaviour Theory
  • Psychopathology Theory
  • Loss of Control Theory
  • Learned Helplessness Theory
  • The Cycle of Violence Theory
  • The Power and Control Wheel Theory
  • Family, Relationship, & Conflict Model
  • Patriarchal Theory
  • Culture of Violence Theory
  • Ecological Theory
  • Evolutionary Theory
  • Feminist Theory
  • Exchange Theory
  • Investment Theory
  • Resource Theory
  • Social Learning Theory
  • Marital Power Theory
  • Traumatic Bonding Theory

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