Family Violence From a Global Perspective A Strengths Based Approach

by Sylvia M. Asay

Author Sylvia M Asay Isbn 9781412999335 File size 3 5MB Year 2013 Pages 328 Language English File format PDF Category Family and Friendship Focusing on family violence worldwide Family Violence From a Global Perspective A Strengths Based Approach draws on the expertise of authors from 16 countries representing 17 cultures to tell the story of domestic violence in their respective parts of the world This one of a kind edited collection by Sylvia M Asay John DeFrain Marcee Metzger and Bo

Publisher :

Author : Sylvia M. Asay

ISBN : 9781412999335

Year : 2013

Language: English

File Size : 3.5MB

Category : Family and Friendship



Family Violence
from a Global
Perspective

We dedicate this book to all the stories we haven’t heard. To all the men,
women, and children who have been affected by family violence, we wish
you peace and safety.

Family Violence
from a Global
Perspective
A Strengths-Based Approach

Editors

Sylvia M. Asay
University of Nebraska, Kearney
John DeFrain
University of Nebraska, Lincoln
Marcee Metzger
Voices of Hope
Bob Moyer
Family Violence Council

Los Angeles London New Delhi
Singapore Washington DC

Los Angeles London New Delhi
Singapore Washington DC

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SAGE Publications Ltd.

Asay, Sylvia M.

1 Oliver’s Yard

Family violence from a global perspective : a strengths-based approach / Sylvia M. Asay,
University of Nebraska, Kearney, John DeFrain, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, Marcee
Metzger, Voices of Hope, Bob Moyer, Family Violence Council.

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13 14 15 16 17 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

Brief Contents ________
Introduction
Sylvia M. Asay, John DeFrain, Marcee Metzger, and Bob Moyer

AFRICA
1. Family Violence From a Global Perspective: Strengths-Based
Research and Case Studies—the Case of South Africa
Busisiwe Nkosi and Priscilla S. Daniels

xiv

1
2

2. Domestic Violence in Botswana: Factors That Help Women Overcome Abuse
Lois R. Mberengwa, Tapologo Maundeni, and Kgomotso K. More

15

3. Domestic Violence in Kenya: Strengths-Based Research
Jane Rose Njue, Dorothy Rombo, Laura S. Smart, Anne
N. Lutomia, and Lucy Wandiri Mbirianjau

29

ASIA

51

4. Domestic Violence in a Chinese Cultural Context: Who Gets the Blame?
Yan Xia, Cixin Wang, Shuhong Luo, Haiping Wang, and Xiaoyun Zhang

52

5. Family Violence From an Indian Perspective
Lina Kashyap and Trupti Panchal

67

6. Marital Violence in South Korea
Grace H. Chung and Sun Wha Ok

81

EUROPE
7. Domestic Violence Against Women in Greece
Theodora Kaldi-Koulikidou and Styliani Plevraki

93
94

8. Family Violence in Moldova
Sylvia M. Asay, Valentina Bodrug-Lungu, and Mihaela Robila

108

9. Violence in the Modern Russian Family
Vladimir I. Zubkov

122

LATIN AMERICA
10. Intrafamilial Violence and Social Vulnerability:
A Glimpse of the Reality in Brazil
Luisa Fernanda Habigzang, Jean Von Hohendorff, and Silvia H. Koller
11. Family Violence in Mexico
Rosario Esteinou

THE MIDDLE EAST
12. Contextualizing Oppression and Family Violence in Israel:
Israeli and Palestinian Experiences
Maha N. Younes

NORTH AMERICA
13. Family Violence in Canada
Nancy Nason-Clark, Barbara Fisher-Townsend, Steve
McMullin, and Catherine Holtmann
14. Family Violence in the United States: A Community and
a Country Respond
Marcee Metzger and Bob Moyer

OCEANIA
15. Good Things Come to Those Who Wait: Striving
to Address Domestic and Family Violence in Australia
Leanne Schubert, Penny Crofts, and Kerri Bird
16. Family Violence in Aotearoa New Zealand
E. Catherine Dickey

139

140
152

165

166

181
182

200

215

216
234

Epilogue: A Strengths-Based Conceptual Framework
for Understanding Family Violence Worldwide
Sylvia M. Asay, John DeFrain, Marcee Metzger, and Bob Moyer

249

Index

265

About the Contributors

297

Detailed Contents _____
Introduction
Sylvia M. Asay, John DeFrain, Marcee Metzger, and Bob Moyer

AFRICA
1. Family Violence From a Global Perspective: Strengths-Based
Research and Case Studies—the Case of South Africa
Busisiwe Nkosi and Priscilla S. Daniels
The “Culture of Violence” and Gender-Based Violence in South Africa
Family-Centered Violence
Intimate-Partner Violence and Spousal Abuse
Child Abuse or Maltreatment
Elder Abuse
Intervention Programs and Services
The Story of Nomusa Nkosi:
“Family Abuse and Own Place”
Conclusion
References
2. Domestic Violence in Botswana: Factors That Help Women Overcome Abuse
Lois R. Mberengwa, Tapologo Maundeni, and Kgomotso K. More
The Historical, Sociocultural, and Legal Context of Family
Violence in Botswana
Causes of Domestic Violence
Domestic Violence Theories
Society-in-Transition Explanations
Sociocultural Explanations
How Survivors in Botswana Experience Domestic Violence:
An Example
Case Study Analysis: A Practitioner’s Perspective
Legal Implications
Sociocultural Implications
Strengths and Opportunities for Victims of Domestic Abuse
Resilience and Willpower

xiv

1
2
4
5
5
8
9
10
11
12
13
15

16
18
18
18
19
19
20
21
21
21
21

Mediation
Family
Informal Social Networks
Formal Networks
Efforts to Combat Family Violence in Botswana
Legislative and Policy Measures
Awareness and Empowerment Programmes
Obstacles in Addressing Family Violence
Cultural Practices and Beliefs
Double Standard
Financial and Human Resource Constraints
Secrecy Surrounding Family Issues
Insufficient Laws
Conclusion and Implications
References
3. Domestic Violence in Kenya: Strengths-Based Research
Jane Rose Njue, Dorothy Rombo, Laura S. Smart,
Anne N. Lutomia, and Lucy Wandiri Mbirianjau
Overview of the Kenyan Context for Domestic Violence
Precolonial and Colonial Kenyan Family Structure
Contemporary Factors Associated With Domestic Violence
Prevalence of and Attitudes Toward Domestic Violence
Spousal and Quasi-Spousal Abuse
Child Abuse and Neglect
Elder Abuse
Kenyan Public Policy and Domestic Abuse
Kenya Sexual Offences Act No. 3, 2006
Child Protection
Conceptual Frameworks
Rights Theory
Feminist Theory
Cultural Explanation
Society in Transition
Culture of Violence
An Absence of Psychological and Economic Explanations
Methodology
Case Studies
Martha
Wambui
Esther
Mary
Findings
Silence and Secrecy
A Culture Condoning Domestic Violence
Higher Educatvion Allows an Exit

22
22
23
23
24
24
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25
25
25
25
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29

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31
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35
35
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38
39
39
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40
40
40
41

Reasons for Getting Married
Religiosity
Alcohol
Mistresses
Privileging of Male Children
Interethnic Marriages
Solutions Suggested by Participants
Response to Domestic Violence: Application
of the International Family Strengths Model
Individual Strengths
Family Strengths
Community Strengths
Cultural Strengths
Government Response to Domestic Violence
Conclusion
References

ASIA

42
42
42
43
43
43
44
44
45
46
46
46
46
47
48

51

4. Domestic Violence in a Chinese Cultural Context: Who Gets the Blame?
Yan Xia, Cixin Wang, Shuhong Luo, Haiping Wang, and Xiaoyun Zhang
Cultural Beliefs and Values in Domestic Violence
Prevalence of Domestic Violence
Prevalence of Intimate-Partner Violence (IPV)
Prevalence of Elder Abuse
Prevalence of Child Abuse
Risk Factors for Domestic Violence
Risk Factors for Intimate-Partner Violence (IPV)
Risk Factors for Elder Abuse
Risk Factors for Child Abuse
Prevention and Intervention
Legal Interventions
Education and Prevention
Therapeutic Interventions
A Case Study: Am I Always Wrong?
Case Study Continued: Am I Always Wrong?
What Can We Do to Help the Most Vulnerable?
Conclusion
References
5. Family Violence From an Indian Perspective
Lina Kashyap and Trupti Panchal
The Indian Context
A Field Action Project of the University
The Story of Sapna
References

52
53
54
54
55
55
56
56
56
57
57
57
58
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59
61
62
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63
67
67
71
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79

6. Marital Violence in South Korea
Grace H. Chung and Sun Wha Ok
Sociocultural Context of Marital Violence
Historical Overview of Korean Patriarchy and Families
Societal Perceptions of Marital Violence
Perceived Causes of Marital Violence
National Response to Marital Violence: Available Social Resources
Policies and Laws
Domestic Violence Consultation Offices
Women’s Crisis Hotline 1366 Centers
Shelter Facilities
Societal Consequences of Marital Violence
A Real-Life Victim Case Study
Conclusion
References

EUROPE
7. Domestic Violence Against Women in Greece
Theodora Kaldi-Koulikidou and Styliani Plevraki
Domestic Violence: Recording the Problem
Legal Framework: Legislation
Antiviolence Centers: Shelters
The Role of Institutions and Groups
Awareness of the Problem
Types of Violence
The Causes of Violence
Reasons for Not Reporting
Profile of Victims and Perpetrators
Combating Domestic Violence: Preventive Measures
The Story of Sophia
Conclusion
References
8. Family Violence in Moldova
Sylvia M. Asay, Valentina Bodrug-Lungu, and Mihaela Robila
The Moldovan Family
Family Violence in Moldova
Historical Perspectives on Family Violence
Family Violence Statistics
Perceived Causes of Family Violence
Government Responses to Family Violence
Social Response to Family Violence
Case Study: One Woman’s Story

81
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91

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106
107
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112
113
114
117

Conclusion
References
9. Violence in the Modern Russian Family
Vladimir I. Zubkov
Prevalence of Family Violence
Difficulties of Studying Family Violence
Social Determinants of Family Violence
Social-Psychological Determinants of Family Violence
Prevention of Family Violence
Conclusion
References

LATIN AMERICA
10. Intrafamilial Violence and Social Vulnerability:
A Glimpse of the Reality in Brazil
Luisa Fernanda Habigzang, Jean Von Hohendorff, and Silvia H. Koller
Violence Against Children and Adolescents
Adult Violence
Violence Against the Elderly: An Emerging Theme
Exemplifying Case of Violence
Discussion
Causes or Risk Factors of Violence
Protective Measures
Conclusions and Implications for Practice
References
11. Family Violence in Mexico
Rosario Esteinou
Efforts to Stop Domestic Violence
Overview of Domestic or Family Violence:
Women, Children, and Adolescents
Lorena’s Case of Physical and Emotional Violence
Concluding Remarks: Some Reflections on Strengths
References

THE MIDDLE EAST
12. Contextualizing Oppression and Family Violence in Israel:
Israeli and Palestinian Experiences
Maha N. Younes
Family Violence in Israel
Child Abuse
Intimate-Partner Violence

119
120
122
122
125
126
130
135
135
136

139
140
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143
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147
147
149
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158
162
163

165
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168

Elder Abuse
Legal Response to Family Violence
Family Violence in Jewish Families
Family Violence Among Arab Families in Israel
Discussion
References

NORTH AMERICA
13. Family Violence in Canada
Nancy Nason-Clark, Barbara Fisher-Townsend,
Steve McMullin, and Catherine Holtmann
Establishment of the Transition House Movement in Canada
Development of a Criminal Justice Response to Domestic Violence
Collaborative Community Response: The Issue and a Case Study
Overview of the Accomplishments and Challenges
of Intervention in Canada
Advocacy Response
Therapeutic Response
Religious Leaders’ Response
Contextualizing One Woman’s Story Within a Coordinated
Community Response
Charting the Way Forward
References
14. Family Violence in the United States: A Community and
a Country Respond
Marcee Metzger and Bob Moyer
The Story of Lynne and John
Discussion and Conclusion
References

OCEANIA
15. Good Things Come to Those Who Wait: Striving
to Address Domestic and Family Violence in Australia
Leanne Schubert, Penny Crofts, and Kerri Bird
Australian Context of Domestic and Family Violence
Issues of Language
Prevalence of Domestic and Family Violence in Australia
Elder Abuse
Domestic and Family Violence in Culturally and Linguistically
Diverse (CALD) Communities
Community Attitudes in Australia Toward Domestic and Family Violence

169
170
171
173
176
178

181
182

184
186
188
189
189
190
191
191
193
195
200
209
211
212

215

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218
221
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223

From Social Action to Social Policy
Practitioner-Researcher Perspectives
Sally: A Story of Survival and Resilience
Conclusion
References

224
226
228
230
231

16. Family Violence in Aotearoa New Zealand
E. Catherine Dickey

234

Kupu Whakatauaki/Preamble
TI-matanga ko-rero/Introduction
Elder Abuse
Child Abuse and Neglect
An Attitudinal Change Is Needed
Marama
Aroha
Family Violence Courts
Family Courts
Hayley
Kupu Whakatepe/Conclusion
Ra-rangi Pukapuka/References
Epilogue: A Strengths-Based Conceptual Framework
for Understanding Family Violence Worldwide
Sylvia M. Asay, John DeFrain, Marcee Metzger, and Bob Moyer
The Research Process
What Have We Found?
A Strengths-Based Conceptual Framework for Understanding
Family Violence Worldwide
Cultural Strengths
Community Strengths
Family Strengths
Individual Strengths
The Dynamics of Change
Summary and Conclusion
The Nature of the Challenge
Finding Solutions
Final Thoughts
References

234
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239
240
241
242
242
246
246
249
249
250
252
252
254
255
256
258
259
259
261
263
264

Index

265

About the Contributors

297

Introduction __________
Sylvia M. Asay, John DeFrain,
Marcee Metzger, and Bob Moyer

F

amily Violence From a Global Perspective: A Strengths-Based Approach is the first major
text to focus on family violence worldwide. Most studies focus on a particular community
or culture or a handful of countries. This book tells the story of family violence worldwide by
sampling 16 countries, including 17 cultures representing all seven of the world’s major geocultural areas:
Africa: South Africa, Botswana, and Kenya
Asia: China, India, and Korea
Europe: Greece, Moldova, and Russia
Latin America: Brazil and Mexico
The Middle East: Israel/Palestine
North America: Canada and the United States
Oceania: Australia and New Zealand
We designed the study in this way so that the reader for the first time can gain a broad
understanding of family violence around the world, not just from one cultural perspective but
many. And we designed the study in this way so that useful ideas—success stories, if you
will—can be shared from one place to another, from one person to another.
The reader will find that the countries and cultures represented in this study are in many
ways remarkably similar, in regard to the dynamics of family violence. The reader will also
find fascinating differences from culture to culture as people living in environments with
vastly different social, political, economic, and historical backgrounds struggle to deal with a
universal phenomenon—the physical, emotional, sexual, and economic abuse of family members by other family members.
Perhaps most important of all, because the study takes a strengths-based perspective on
family violence, the reader will see how different countries and cultures have found ways to
begin to effectively deal with family violence and help to eliminate needless suffering. We will

xiv

Introduction

xv

also see, up close and personal, how individuals escape the devastation of intimate-partner
violence by tapping into their personal strengths, the strengths of their family and close friends,
the strengths of their community, and the strengths of their society. We learn, in essence, how
by doing this countless survivors today are finding ways to rise above their misery and build a
new life.
The process is long and difficult, but the results can be powerful and certainly warm the heart.
What works in one country does not translate perfectly to another very different
country. However, what works in one country can certainly be readily adapted to other
countries. And so, we believe that many benefits from this study are likely to accrue
around the world through the simple act of sharing success stories from one country to
another.
In each chapter, eminent teachers, researchers, and practitioners share information about
family violence in their country. To breathe life into the facts and figures, the reader will also
learn directly from the survivors themselves as they tell their stories of experiencing, surviving, and in many cases rising above family violence.
A useful way to explain the interconnectedness and influence of systems is to examine the ecological systems theory developed by Bronfenbrenner (1979). The ecological
model describes how the individual, the organization, the community, and the culture
intersect and influence each other. In this study we use an ecological model emphasizing strengths around the world, which was developed by John DeFrain and Sylvia M.
Asay (2007). Adapting the model to this research, the strengths we focus on include the
following:
• Individual strengths—critical thinking, hope and optimism, good problem-solving
skills, adaptability, openness to change, the ability to see a crisis in life as an opportunity, and the courage to reach out to others
• Family strengths—strong relationships with other family members and extended family,
when possible, and connections with close friends who are willing and able to help
• Community strengths—availability of safe shelters and victim services, support of local
authorities, laws that ensure the rights of women and children
• Cultural strengths—the condemnation of violence in the family on the national level
and an emphasis on gender equity, human rights, and dignity

__________________ Historical Background and Definitions
The problem of violence between intimate partners first received significant public attention
in the early 1970s in the United States and England. Since that time, a great deal of information
has been distributed to inform the public about the problems associated with family violence.
In the United States and other Western societies, a multitude of books describe the survivors
and perpetrators, the theory behind their behaviors, the reasons why family violence persists,
the effects on those involved, and the societal response to end family violence.
This increased awareness has resulted in the understanding that family violence exists in all
countries, but the awareness and response to the problem vary widely. One major challenge is
that little is known about family violence in specific countries.

xvi

FAMILY VIOLENCE FROM A GLOBAL PERSPECTIVE

Family violence is often associated only with violence that occurs between married or
intimate partners. Indeed, the primary relationship is often the beginning of violence within
the home. Many of the chapters throughout the book focus on violence between intimate
partners. However, it should be noted that this kind of violence precipitates other forms of
violence over time, and you will notice in reading many of the stories of family violence that
child abuse and elder abuse are also natural outcomes of the original violent behavior between
partners. It is difficult to separate the reasons and causes of violence between what occurs
within the intimate relationship and violence that includes all family members, as they are
often intertwined.
You, the reader, may have a good idea about what we mean when we talk about family
violence from your previous reading and from personal experience. We felt it was useful to give
some definitions at the beginning of the text as a way for all to have a common understanding
throughout the book.
Child maltreatment/abuse/neglect includes all forms of physical and emotional illtreatment, sexual abuse, neglect, and exploitation that results in actual or potential harm
to the child’s health, development, or dignity (World Health Organization, 2010).
Domestic violence/abuse occurs between intimate partners and is an attempt to control the
behavioral, emotional, and/or intellectual life of another person and to diminish or prevent
that person’s free choice. Abuse can include physical harm such as sexual violence, arousing fear through intimidation, verbal abuse, economic abuse, isolation, coercion, and/or
threats or preventing a victim from doing what he or she wishes. Relationships in which
one intimate partner uses assault and coercion can be found among married and unmarried heterosexuals, lesbians, and gay males (Nebraska Domestic Violence Sexual Assault
Coalition, 2012).
Elder abuse is a single or repeated act, or lack of appropriate action, occurring within any
relationship where there is an expectation of trust that causes harm or distress to an older
person (World Health Organization, 2010).
Family is two or more people who are committed to each other and who share intimacy,
resources, decision-making responsibilities, and values (Olson, DeFrain, & Skogrand, 2011,
pp. 5–6). There are, of course, innumerable definitions of family. This particular definition
is inclusive and allows for diversity in family structure, family values, and ethnic groups.
Family violence includes all types of violent crime committed by an offender who is
related to the survivor either biologically or legally through marriage or adoption (Durose
et al., 2005).
Intimate partner means a spouse or former spouse, a person who shares a child in common with another person, a person who cohabits or has cohabited with another person, or
a person who has been in a social relationship of a romantic or intimate nature (Crimes
and Criminal Procedure, 2006).
Intimate-partner violence describes physical, sexual, or psychological harm by a current
or former partner or spouse. This type of violence can occur among heterosexual or
same-sex couples and does not require sexual intimacy (Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention, 2013).

Introduction

xvii

_____________________________ Family Violence Worldwide
Family violence is a serious problem in every country where it has been studied. Violence
within families includes child abuse and neglect, intimate-partner violence, and elder abuse
(Phinney & de Hovre, 2003). Intimate-partner violence is often the most recognized form of
family violence, with women most often being the survivor of abuse. Findings from the World
Health Organization’s multicountry study on domestic abuse confirm a reported prevalence of
physical or sexual violence among partners varied from 15% to 71% among 24,097 women in
10 countries (Garcia-Moreno et al., 2006). Half of the women involved in a homicide worldwide die from injuries inflicted by a current or former partner (McCue, 2008). It has only been
in the past 30 years that this kind of widespread violence against women is regarded as a
serious human rights issue internationally (Kishor & Johnson, 2004).
In addition, family violence contributes to public health concerns as many survivors have
limited access to health care, are not allowed to seek medical attention by their abuser, or may
intentionally be infected with HIV by their partner (Garcia-Moreno et al., 2006; McCue, 2008).
This risk contributes inadvertently to the health of children as well when mothers are denied
prenatal and postnatal care (Kishor & Johnson, 2004).
Because of the various definitions and the differences in the ways statistics are gathered, it
is more difficult to get an accurate picture of the scope of child maltreatment around the
world. However, it is estimated that from 25% to 50% of all children report being physically
abused (World Health Organization, 2010). This does not include emotional abuse and neglect
or intimate-partner abuse that disrupts family stability and nurturance. Other, more serious
long-term consequences can result, such as poor brain development, risk of future behavioral
or mental health problems, and chronic health issues.
With the projected rapid increase in the number of elderly over the next decade, along with
rapid social changes, the World Health Organization (2008) predicts an increase in the incidence and prevalence of elder abuse around the world. They recognize that elder abuse continues to be ignored and may not even be considered when looking at abuse within the family.
Around the world, dependence, isolation, and health problems increase the vulnerabilities of
elderly people.
While family violence is a common experience worldwide, in many countries there are
problems addressing it that include incidents never reported, police and other officials who do
not take the reports seriously, abusers who are rarely removed or prosecuted, and a lack of
legal and social services for survivors. In some countries, violence against a spouse is not
considered a crime and is often considered a private matter that should not involve the police
or the court system (Maryniak, 2000). Similarly, other types of family violence may be disregarded because they are not culturally accepted (Adams, 2004). McCue (2008) suggests that
there is a culture of silence that contributes to the widespread belief that family violence is
private and may be a factor in underreporting and lack of response from family, community,
and government.
In some areas of the world, family violence also has a connection to religious beliefs and
practices. The culture of silence continues as some religious sects perceive women as inferior,
view the marriage and other family relationships as private, refuse to allow women to leave an
abusive relationship, or offer little or no help when violence occurs. Although many turn to
religion for help, most religious leaders have had no training in responding to family violence.

xviii

FAMILY VIOLENCE FROM A GLOBAL PERSPECTIVE

Although there is great diversity among religions, most religious leaders reluctantly support
divorce or separation as the answer to family violence and view it as a private matter. Some
leaders even blame the survivor for the abuse (Levitt & Ware, 2006).
Reports of family violence vary in relation to level of economic development. More industrialized countries show lower incidence of partner violence. Some countries report higher
rates of family violence in more traditional rural areas than in urban areas (Garcia-Mereno
et al., 2006). Although patriarchal ideologies continue around the world, each setting holds a
specific set of behaviors within the sociocultural context that change the experience of violence for women (Menjivar & Salcido, 2002). McCue (2008) suggests that these patriarchal
norms and traditions affect not only the prevalence of domestic and sexual violence but the
responses to it as well.
Johnson and Ferraro (2000) advocate for caution in making assumptions about the global
context in light of the complexities that separate populations. These complexities include
cultural differences, social and economic structures, and the consequences of political conflict. They suggest that the social, cultural, and political layers of any society must be considered and not carelessly generalized in discussing violence in the home.
Finally, family violence varies by type. Most violence involves a man being violent with a
woman, but not all. Johnson (1995, 2000) argues that there are four basic patterns of partner
violence to consider. These are common couple violence, intimate terrorism, violent resistance, and
mutual violent control. Keep these types in mind when looking at the cultural context of family
violence worldwide. Common couple violence begins with an argument where one or both partners use physical violence to retaliate. This type of violence is not likely to get worse and is often
mutual between the partners. Intimate terrorism represents what most people think of when they
hear of family violence. This violence arises from a pattern of abusive behaviors by one person
against another based on that person’s belief that he or she is entitled to use these abusive behaviors to exert power and control over the other party to gain sought-after outcomes. In response to
these patterns of abusive behavior, some survivors respond violently as a matter of self-defense
as in the case of violent resistance. Mutual violent control arises between couples who have poor
coping skills or other problems, such as anger control or mental health issues. This type of violence occurs when both partners are violent and both want control.

The Importance of Studying Family Violence
From a Strengths-Based Perspective ____________________
Families in all their diversity are the basic, foundational social units in every society. So,
healthy individuals within healthy families are essential to the core of a healthy society.
Creating a positive environment for all families is in the self-interest of people in all societies.
On the other hand, unhealthy, dysfunctional relationships create serious problems that can
persist from one generation to the next.

A Historical Perspective on Family Strengths Research
Family theorists have tried to create one theory or framework that explains the family
and the place it holds within society since the beginning of the 20th century. According to

Introduction

xix

White (2005), early family theory focused on the family and how it fit within society,
creating frameworks that borrowed from other disciplines such as anthropology and economics. In the last half of the 20th century, the focus moved to the functions of the family,
using typologies to classify families. An interest in cross-cultural comparisons also led to
a new look at previous perspectives in an attempt to internationalize family theory. Since
that time, researchers have largely failed to advance any new theories about the family. It
may be possible that the reason no one theory has come to explain families around the
world in the 21st century is that the uniqueness of families and the ways they function
cannot be collected into one understanding.
The focus on family strengths brings into a more reasonable balance our understanding of
how families succeed in the face of life’s inherent difficulties. By concentrating only on a family’s problems and failings, we ignore the fact that success requires a positive approach. The
family strengths perspective is a positive and optimistic worldview or orientation toward life
and families grounded in research conducted around the world. Family problems are not
ignored but are seen as vehicles for testing our capacity as families and reaffirming our vital
human connections with each other.
Most research about families has focused primarily on the problems or weaknesses of
families or the individuals within the family. Early research on family strengths began in the
1930s with Woodhouse’s (1930) study of 250 successful families during the Great Depression,
followed by Otto’s work on strong families and family strengths in the early 1960s (Gabler &
Otto, 1964; Otto, 1962, 1963).
Not until the 1970s did family strengths research begin to gain momentum when Nick
Stinnett began his work at Oklahoma State University in 1974 and the University of Nebraska,
Lincoln, in 1977. Stinnett, John DeFrain, and colleagues then began publishing a continuous
series of articles and books (Casas, Stinnett, DeFrain, & Lee, 1984; DeFrain & Asay, 2007;
DeFrain, DeFrain, & Lepard, 1994; DeFrain & Stinnett, 2002; Olson, DeFrain, & Skogrand,
2011; Stinnett & DeFrain, 1985; Stinnett & O’Donnell, 1996; Stinnett & Sauer, 1977; Xie,
DeFrain, Meredith, & Combs, 1996). Family strengths conferences, beginning in 1978, proved
to be a catalyst for research on strong families. The International Family Strengths Network
(IFSN) began working on a series of family strengths conferences worldwide in the late 1990s
and continues today. More than 35 conferences have been held in Africa, Asia, Australia, Latin
America, and North America.
Over the past four decades researchers at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, led by John
DeFrain; the University of Alabama–Tuscaloosa, led by Nick Stinnett; the University of
Minnesota–St. Paul, led by David H. Olson; and affiliated institutions in the United States and
around the world have studied families from a strengths-based perspective. Researchers in
38 countries have found remarkable similarities from culture to culture when studying family
strengths. When family members around the world talk about what makes their family strong,
these are some traits they commonly talk about:







Appreciation and affection
Commitment
Positive communication
Enjoyable time together
Spiritual well-being and shared values
The ability to manage stress and crisis effectively

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