Examining the Relationship between Latinas' Perceptions about What Constitutes Domestic Violence and Domestic Violence Victimization

By Kulkarni, Shanti J.; Racine, Elizabeth F. et al. | Violence and Victims, March 1, 2012 | Go to article overview

Examining the Relationship between Latinas' Perceptions about What Constitutes Domestic Violence and Domestic Violence Victimization


Kulkarni, Shanti J., Racine, Elizabeth F., Ramos, Blanca, Violence and Victims


Domestic violence is a serious issue for U.S. Latinas. Better understanding of the potential risk or protection that cultural perceptions about what constitutes domestic violence may convey can help strengthen interventions. Therefore, a convenience sample of 93 Latinas was surveyed about their current levels of domestic violence victimization, acculturation, and demographics, as well as about whether 5 behavioral scenarios constituted domestic violence. Hierarchical multiple regressions were performed to examine the relationships between the 5 perception items and domestic violence victimization. After adjusting for established risk factors, only viewing male partner stalking and female verbal aggression as domestic violence were significantly associated with decreased domestic violence victimization. Findings can be integrated into the development and implementation of culturally competent interventions targeting Latinas.

Keywords: domestic violence; victimization; Latinas; risk factors

Domestic violence is a growing concern in the Latino community. Several studies have suggested that domestic violence rates for Latinas living in the United States are higher than non-Latinos, particularly white Americans (Caetano, Ramisetty-Mikler, & Harris, 2008; Kantor, Jasinski, & Aldarondo, 1994; Sorenson & Telles, 1991).The most recent National Violence Against Women Survey (NVAWS) found that nearly one in four Latinas experienced domestic violence victimization at some point during their lifetime (Tjaden & Thoennes, 2000). Domestic violence is associated with a wide range of negative physical and emotional consequences. In addition to heightened risk for physical trauma and death, domestic violence survivors have higher rates of chronic health concerns, including gynecological, central nervous system, and gastrointestinal problems (Campbell et al., 2002). Domestic violence also appears to increase the likelihood of depression, substance abuse, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and suicidality (Dutton et al., 2006). Indeed, some research indicates that abused Latinas are more vulnerable to developing lower social and personal self-esteem, depression, and trauma-related symptoms than abused women who are not Latina (Edelson, Hokoda, & Ramos-Lira, 2007). Finally, domestic violence has both economic and social costs for individuals, families, communities, and society at large, resulting from lost wages, health care, and criminal justice system expenses. The cost of domestic violence in the United States has been estimated at $5.8 billion annually (Max, Rice, Finkelstein, Bardwell, & Leadbetter, 2004)

Although our understanding of domestic violence in the Latino community is still limited (Klevens et al., 2007), several risk factors have been identified. Latinas experiencing domestic violence tend to be younger than those who do not report domestic violence (Ingram, 2007; Lown & Vega, 2001; Strauss & Smith, 1995), and living in poverty is also a significant risk factor (Cunradi, Caetano, & Schafer, 2002; Lown & Vega, 2001; Strauss & Smith, 1995), as is having more children in the household (Denham et al., 2007; Lown & Vega, 2001). These factors not only increase the risk that Latinas will become domestic violence victims but also make it more difficult for them to extricate themselves from abusive relationships (Klevens et al., 2007; Zarza & Adler, 2008). Although several of these risk factors are shared with non-Latinas, the ways in which risk and protective factors are expressed within a Latino cultural context may be unique (Klevens et al., 2007). For example, acculturation, or the process by which members of one cultural group adopt the beliefs and behaviors of another group, has been identified as a unique risk factor for domestic violence in the Latino community (Caetano, et al., 2008; Kantor et al., 1994). The acculturative process may heighten stress in family relationships in ways that make domestic violence more likely, especially when partners have disparate levels of acculturation (e. …

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