Spousal Abuse: Vietnamese Children's Reports of Parental Violence

Article excerpt

This exploratory study used mailed questionnaires completed by 131 Vietnamese students to examine domestic violence patterns in parents' marital relationships. Research objectives included: (1) gaining an understanding of spousal abuse among Vietnamese couples; and (2) assessing which variables (demographic characteristics, decision-making power, and cultural adaptation, beliefs in traditional gender roles, and conflicts in the family) are correlated with spousal abuse. Findings suggest that although both parents used reasoning, mental abuse and physical abuse in their marital relationships, Vietnamese fathers were more likely to be physically abusive than mothers. Additional variables associated with family conflicts are also examined. Research implications and suggestions for further research are discussed.

Introduction

An estimated 6 million American women are physically abused one or more times each year and 1.8 million women are severely battered each year (Straus, 1991). This violence, moreover, cuts across class, race, ethnic, and cultural boundaries (Agtuca, 1994; Burns, 1986; Carrillo & Tello, 1998; White,1994; Zambrano, 1985). And, while academic research and official statistics support the notion that domestic violence is most often a crime against women, some researchers have found that women also perpetrate intimate violence against their husbands, boyfriends, and lesbian partners (Lobel, 1986; Renzetti & Miley, 1996; Steinmetz, 1977-1978; Straus, 1980; Straus, Gelles, & Steinmetz, 1980; Tang, 1994). Violence against intimates--that is violence against those we purport to love, honor, and cherish--is, in this light, an equal opportunity crime. Academic, community agency, and criminal justice responses to victims of domestic violence, however, are not uniform. Past research has demonstrated that violence against poor women, women of color, gay men, lesbians, and immigrant women may not receive equal academic, community agency, and criminal justice support and response as does violence against American-born, white and middle-class women (Bums, 1986; Carrillo & Tello, 1998; Lobel, 1986; Renzetti & Miley, 1996). There is a dearth of available data on the etiology of domestic violence in "minority" communities (Carrillo & Tello, 1998, p. 23), and our research seeks to expand the existing literature by examining domestic violence within the Vietnamese immigrant community in "Silicon Valley," California. Specifically, we surveyed Vietnamese college students at a local university and asked them to report on the level of violence in their homes.

Vietnamese American families were chosen as the focus of our study because of their visibility and increasing numbers in the San Francisco Bay Area. According to the 2000 Census, the number of Vietnamese Americans in San Jose was 78,842 (8.6% of the city's 909,100 population and 32.79% of 240,375 Asian population) (Department of City Planning, 2001). Vietnamese Americans are the third largest Asian group in the United States and one of the largest Asian groups in San Jose, California. This population was also chosen because of the historical legacy of America's involvement in the war in Vietnam (c.f. Do, 1999). As Wah (1998) notes in his article, "Asian Men and Violence," "The issue of racism has a tremendous impact on the Asian American community. Racism in America towards Asians is on the rise and continues to cause a great deal of anguish and pain, even death. To deal with the issue of violence and anger, one must always include racism as a major cause" (p. 140). We believe this population faces an added burden of racist hatred given the outcome of the war, and thus may experience an even greater reluctance to report domestic violence to authorities and more overt hostility when they do so.

The objectives of the proposed exploratory research are to: (1) gain an understanding of and insight into domestic violence among Vietnamese couples; and (2) assess which variables (i. …