Women and Mental Health

By Elizabeth Howell; Marjorie Bayes | Go to book overview

35
Psychosocial Aspects of
Wife Battering

BARBARA STAR

CAROL G. CLAR

KAREN M. GOETZ

LINDA O'MALIA

Since it has become the object of media attention, few people would question the fact that wife beating represents a serious social problem. However, researchers are only beginning to offer information useful to practitioners working with battered women. For instance, many researchers attribute the phenomenon of wife abuse to early exposure to parental violence (cf. Ball 1977; Gayford 1975; Gelles 1976). Histories of both the abused and the abuser often contain accounts of violence between parents or of violence directed toward themselves as children.

Susan Hanks and C. Peter Rosenbaum (1977) found striking parallels between early and adult life conditions among women married to violent men. Women raised in families characterized by a subtly controlling mother married to a bombastic, but ineffectual, man themselves married men who needed rescuing. Women from families in which the mother was submissive to a dictatorial man emulated their mothers by marrying men whom they knew had violent, alcohol-abusing tendencies like their fathers. Women raised in unstable families headed by an emotionally disturbed mother who had numerous mates tended to enter unstable relationships with a series of inadequate, abusive men.

Although earlier studies have claimed that female masochism is the

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