Behind Closed Doors: Violence in the American Family

By Murray A. Straus; Richard J. Gelles et al. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 8
Violent Families: Children, Stress, and Power

It's 5 P.M., and Mary frantically tosses potatoes and onions into a pot of stew. Frank, her construction-worker husband, is due home in half an hour and likes dinner on the, table when he walks in. No food and he starts yelling at the kids and sometimes at Mary. The new baby (the family's third) screams in her crib, hungry and colicky, while the two-year-old beats repetitiously on the floor with his blocks. The four-year-old adds to the din by turning on the TV full blast, and comes whining to his mother that there are no cartoons.

Mary turns to talk to him, and as she does, the stew boils over down the front of the stove. Frustrated, she lashes out at the nearest object at band--her son--slapping and screaming at him in fury.

The above situation, although hypothetical, is repeated with minor variations in hundreds of American homes every day. TV comedies and movies often resort to such scenes as the center of some supposedly humorous episode. Commercials for headache tablets would have one believe that such behavior is often the norm without their "tension-relieving" pills.

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