Resources, Family Organization, and Domestic Violence against Married Women in Minya, Egypt

Article excerpt

I evaluate the influence of household wealth, women's socioeconomic dependence, status inconsistency, and family organization on physical abuse in the prior year and attitudes about wife abuse and divorce among 2,522 married women in Minya, Egypt. Household wealth is negatively associated with physical abuse. Women who are dependent on marriage because they have sons and less schooling than their husbands are more likely to have experienced physical abuse and to report marginally more tolerance for such abuse. Women who are isolated from natal or biological kin and living with marital relatives are more likely to have experienced physical abuse. Findings underscore the role of women's dependence and social isolation in enabling physical abuse among women of all economic classes.

Key Words: domestic violence, Egypt, family organization, partner violence, resources, status inconsistency.

Despite high levels of domestic violence against women globally, scholars have developed and tested theories of such violence largely in Western, industrialized contexts. As Goode (1971) argued, force is a resource that men may use when they lack other (economic) resources to induce desired behavior. Other scholars have argued that women who depend on a partnership because they have children or few economic alternatives may be more tolerant of abuse and less willing to leave abusive relationships (Kalmuss & Straus, 1982). Still others have argued that discrepancies in the resources of partners, which challenge men's status expectations, may lead men to use force to reinstate their dominance (MacMillan & Gartner, 1999). Finally, others have proposed that cross-cultural models of domestic violence against women should account for local, family characteristics that may facilitate or impede such violence. In this paper, I test the effects of these forces on recent episodes of physical abuse, women's tolerance for wife beating, and women's perceptions about appropriate grounds for divorce in a representative sample of 2,522 married women in Minya, Egypt. A composite score for assets typically owned by men captures household economic status. Number of living sons, number of living daughters, and prior work for cash measure a wife's socioeconomic dependence on marriage. The relative education of spouses and their relative contributions to the expenses of marriage capture economic dependence as well as status inconsistency of the wife vis-à-vis her husband. Measures of family organization include residence with marital relatives, proximity of women's natal or biological kin, and endogamous marriage or marriage to a blood relative. Multivariate methods are used to assess the effects of these variables, after controls, on women's attitudes about wife beating and divorce and experience of physical abuse in the prior year.

Resources, Status Inconsistency, and Domestic Violence Against Women

Domestic violence refers to "assaultive and coercive behaviors that adults use against their intimate partners" (Holden, 2003, p. 155), and recent surveys have shown that domestic violence against women is widespread (Kishor & Johnson, 2004; Levinson, 1989; Watts & Zimmerman, 2002). Twenty-five percent of women interviewed in the 1995-1996 National Violence Against Women Survey reported that they were raped or physically assaulted at least once in their lifetime by a current or former spouse, cohabiting partner, or date (Tjaden & Thoennes, 1998). The lifetime prevalence of physical domestic violence has ranged from 17% to 48% among groups of women in Africa (Coker & Richter, 1998; Jewkes, PennKekana, Levin, Ratsaka, & Schrieber, 2001; Kishor & Johnson; Watts & Zimmerman) and from 40% to 52% among ever-married women in Colombia; Peru; and León, Nicaragua (Ellsberg, Pena, Herrera, Liljestrand, & Winkvist, 1999; Kishor & Johnson). Levels of lifetime and even recent physical domestic violence against women have been similarly high in parts of Asia (Hoffman, Demo, & Edwards, 1994; Kim & Cho, 1992; Koenig, Ahmed, Hossein, & Khorshed Alam Mozumder, 2003). …