Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Socioeconomic Resources, Gender Traditionalism, and Wife Abuse in Urban Russian Couples

Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Socioeconomic Resources, Gender Traditionalism, and Wife Abuse in Urban Russian Couples

Article excerpt

Until recently, Soviet data restrictions led to limited knowledge about wife abuse in Russia. This study adds to emerging research on Russian domestic violence by testing hypotheses derived from resource theory on the effects on wife abuse of husband's absolute resources versus spouses' relative resources. Analysis of data from the 1996 National Survey of Russian Marriages (N = 664) shows support only for the influence of husband's absolute socioeconomic resources (education, employment status, and occupational rank). As in U.S. studies, intergenerational patterns of wife abuse and husband's alcohol use have notable effects on wife abuse. The findings suggest that although resource theory may partly explain wife abuse in urban Russia, spouses' relative resources and husband's gender traditionalism currently have little influence.

Key Words: domestic violence, family violence, resource theory, Russian family spousal abuse, wife abuse.

Until the 1990s, wife abuse was a relatively new area of study in the United States (Gelles & Conte, 1990; Hotaling & Sugarman, 1986). The research of that decade, however, has helped clarify concepts and contexts for domestic violence (Johnson & Ferraro, 2000). In the emerging democracies of the post-Soviet Union, wife abuse is a very new topic of study. In this research, we draw on the developing theories of wife abuse in the United States to examine wife abuse in urban Russia using a 1996 sample of Moscow couples, and address the special case of abuse in dual-earner couples. Our study applies resource theory to the Russian case by analyzing the effects of husband's socioeconomic resources and spouses' relative resources on wife abuse, as well as the moderating influence of husband's gender traditionalism. To our knowledge, this is the first systematic, theory-based investigation of spousal violence in Russia.


In its focus on the consequences of resource disparities in relationships, resource theory provides a model of how dependency on socioeconomic resources and patriarchal beliefs may influence wife abuse. Resource theory was developed from the early theory of marital power posited by Blood and Wolfe (1960). Safilios-Rothschild (1969, 1970, 1982) extended this research to cross-cultural comparisons and further developed the argument that men's control over a range of valued resources (e.g., wealth, income, knowledge, health) increases men's power and decision making in intimate relations with women. Along with others (e.g., Collins, 1975), she recognized how legal and cultural forces at the societal level legitimize and justify gender inequalities in resources and power in marriage and other personal relationships (Safilios-Rothschild, 1985). More recently, the approach has been applied to domestic violence as a specific middle range theory. In considering the absolute level of men's resources, resource theory assumes that men who have many resources do not have to use physical force to establish their power because they are already economically powerful in society. Consistent with this argument, researchers have found that husbands with lower levels of income, prestige, and education are more likely to abuse their wives than are other husbands (Anderson, 1997; Hoffman, Demo, & Edwards, 1994; Hotaling & Sugarman, 1986).

A variation of resource theory, relative resources, argues that it is not simply a lack of resources but a husband's lesser resources compared with those of his wife that generates a husband's violent behaviors. Some research has shown wives with higher education (Gelles, 1974), higher occupational prestige (Gelles), or greater earnings (Anderson, 1997; Lambert & Firestone, 2000) than their husbands to be at higher risk of spouse abuse. In direct contrast, Kalmuss and Straus (1982) found that the fewer the wife's economic resources, the more likely she is to be abused. In a study by Fox, Benson, DeMaris, and Van Wyk (2002), however, neither the husband's nor the wife's share of the family income significantly affected domestic violence. …

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