Путеводитель по миру психологии
для клиентов и профессионалов
  • Поиск психолога по критериям:

Карта сайта

Gender and cross-cultural differences in manifestations of psychological abuse in marital relations

Подписка

Подписаться, чтобы узнавать о появлении новых статей .

Кликните на изображение конверта. В открывшемся окне введите свой email и символы на картинке. К вам на почту придет письмо со ссылкой - перейдите по ней для подтверждения подписки.

Igor Furmanov & Diana Dmitrjieva

University of Belorussia

The notion and diagnostical criteria of psychological abuse are being discussed. Attention is paid to two different points of view on explaining the phenomenon of psychological abuse – socialpolitical and psychological ones. Gender and cross-cultural differences in manifestations of psychological abuse in marital relations in Latvian and Belorussian families are being studied. The problem and consequences of using psychological abuse in marital relations are analyzed.

Key words: violence, psychological abuse, marital relations, gender and cross-cultural differences in marital relations, risk of psychological trauma, criminal, intimidating, dysfunctional behaviour.

Introduction

The emotional state of spouses is one of the basic indicators of microclimate in the family, of its psychological health. It is thought to depend on a number of factors, including conflictness of spouses, tolerance of the partners to each other, respect of individuality, their degree of independence and openness in communication, these factors providing authenticity of the partners’ behaviour in marital relations. Besides, there exist non-authentic relations, to which many authors refer the spouses’ orientation towards usage of abusive communication forms. The phenomenon, mechanisms and consequences of using sexual and physical abuse are described most often, less attention is paid to the problem of psychological abuse.

Despite of the fact that the first publications on family abuse appeared more than 20 years ago, there are still disputes on defining what abuse is. Though most psychologists agree that abuse is most often manifested in three general forms (physical, sexual and psychological abuse), there is still no common opinion about which qualifying parameters (actions) precisely define this or that phenomenon of abuse (Фурманов, 2001, 2003).

In general, abuse can be defined as a sample of aggressive offensive behaviour that includes usage or threat of violence and intimidation with the aim of getting the power or control over another person. Proceeding from it, the very general definitions are the following:

  • Physical abuse is any actions that cause intentional physical (corporal) damage.
  • Sexual abuse is any actions that make the partner perform sexual activities against their wish.
  • Psychological abuse is any actions that are aimed at humiliation, offence and / or breaking mental balance.

Psychological abuse is the most widespread form of abuse. Despite of that, in comparison with the other forms of abuse, it is least discussed. Partly the reason of such concealing is that many other forms of communication estimated as normal and acceptable actually damage. Many people may even not know that they are victims of psychological abuse. Besides, psychological abuse is not that cruel and traumatizing, though its results also are visible.

Literature analysis (Follingstad, Dehart, 2000; Hoffman,1984; Loring, 1994; Marshall, 1994; Rodenburg & Fantuzzo,1993; Sonkin, 1985, 2003; Tolman, 1989) showed that there is no standard definition of psychological abuse. Unlike physical or sexual violence where individual incident constitutes abuse, psychological abuse is defined by series of incidents – or a pattern of behaviour shown during some time. Available data state that psychological abuse is a series of repeating incidents (intentional or not) in which the person gets offended, isolated, belittled, humiliated, controlled or threatened.

Like many other forms of abuse manifested in relationships, psychological abuse is based on power and control (Фурманов, 2004). Nevertheless such understanding of the phenomenon is rather too general and too broad. Most often, psychological abuse relates to all behaviour models than can be qualified as desadaptive and dysfunctional, though not violent as such.

There are at least two points of view on explaining the phenomenon of psychological abuse. The first is social-political, which seems not to be very successful from our and also scientific point of view, as it sees the problem of psychological abuse as the problem of a person exploiting another person and disbalance of power between the interacting partners. In this approach, the main goal of psychological abuse is interpreted as the drive to obtaining and supporting the possibility of power and control, not as the result of psychological disorders in the personality and the system of interaction. In particular, exempli gratia from the position of organizations defending human rights, any educational influence of the parent to the child can be seen as psychological abuse. Or the same can be said of pro-feminists who concentrate on sexist, women-phobic attitudes of men- rapers, on their wish to devaluate the woman and establish the privilege for the man’s position in the society.

Psychological approach means shifting the emphasis, firstly, to psychological consequences of abuse, in particular on the presence of deep negative emotional experiences and psychological trauma, which is caused by deprivation or frustration of the safety need, secondly, to clearer differentiation of traits of the abuser and non-abuser, the abuser and their victim, based on certain psychological personality traits, and, thirdly, to differentiating of factors of the social milieu. Besides that, the psychological approach also assumes a broader spectrum of explanation of causes of psychological abuse, both from the point of view of influence of personal and situational determinants.

Literature analysis on the discussed issue shows that most authors (Follingstad, Dehart, 2000; NiCarthy, 1986; Rodenburg & Fantuzzo,1993; Sonkin, 1985; Tolman, 1989; Walker,1984) agree that psychological abuse includes at least twelve categories of interaction between the abuser and the victim:

  • threats to physical health;
  • intentional distortion of reality perception;
  • isolation, limitation or monopolization of information, physical and social activity;
  • treating (attitude to) the partner as a lower being, offending / degrading;
  • verbal aggression / criticism;
  • jealousy / suspicion;
  • intimidation and / or stalking;
  • usage of male / female privileged position in the family;
  • financial abuse;
  • control of behaviour and personal development;
  • emotional and / or sexual restrictions / blackmail;
  • restrictions of gender expectations.

Generalising all the above-stated, the pattern of psychological abuse can be described as terror and intimidation of a person; making them do something; putting the person under lifethreatening conditions or threats to do so, rejecting to notice their presence, to acknowledge their value and dignity; communication with the aim to demonstrate their uselessness, devaluing their thoughts, feelings and actions; offence, humiliation, name-calling, teasing, infantilisation, physical imprisonment; banning of regular contacts with others, restriction of their freedom; seduction; emotional distancing.

Psychological abuse often accompanies other forms of abuse, though it can also be a separate form. Research shows that as a rule these are children and women, as well as the most vulnerable groups of society that become victims of psychological abuse. Regarding marital relations or partnership, the man (husband) most often acts as the abuser, and the woman (wife) – as the victim. However, taking into account complexity and multi-sided nature of family relations, we can suppose that not only women are victims of psychological abuse, but also men. But it is necessary to recognise that this phenomenon might be less widespread as it contradicts cultural traditions of many families.

Мethod

To test the hypotheses, we studied prevalence and structure of psychological abuse in marital relations.

Sample

The study sample included 110 men (age 20-60) and 127 women (age 18-62) living in Belorussia and 110 men (age 20-60) and 127 women (age 18-63) from Latvia of different ethnic origin, educational level, length of marital life, number of children. These people were tested between 2003 and 2004.

Procedures and Materials

To diagnose the level of psychological abuse, we used the Psychological Violence Inventory by D. J. Sonkin (Sonkin, 1985) that includes description of the given phenomenon, dividing diagnostical criteria into 3 big categories:

  • Category А. High risk of psychological trauma – Criminal behaviour.
  • Category В. Moderate risk of psychological trauma – Intimidating behaviour.
  • Category С. Lower risk of psychological trauma – Dysfunctional behaviour.

The respondents were offered the following instruction, «Like in any other family, spouses can disagree. And every family solve their disagreement their own way. Please, answer the question, «How often does your wife’s (husband’s) behaviour manifest the following actions and acts?» The inventory was administered anonymously. 17 forms of psychological violence were assessed using 5-point scale.

Results and discussion

The study resulted in data on prevalence of psychological abuse in the family, when either of spouses is the victim (Таble 1). Table analysis shows that there is psychological abuse in marital relations; however, the prevalence is not as catastrophic as one could assume.

In particular, 72,2% of men and 61,7% of women have never experienced psychological abuse. At the same time, victims of the above-mentioned violence that is those, who has experienced it occasionally or frequently are 1,4% of husbands and 5,7% of wives. Therefore, wives in the family experience psychological abuse approximately four times more often than husbands. To tell the truth, it is important to note that these data were mainly received within the urban sample. In small towns and villages this correlation may be different.

More detailed analysis of data and their generalisation allows us to state correlation of different forms of psychological abuse in men and women in marital relations.

As it was expected, the total index of psychological abuse and indices in categories are higher in women than in men (р ≤ 0,05).

Table 1

It reflects the fact that wives more often experience psychological violence from their husbands than husbands from their wives. It is also characteristic that husbands use psychological abuse in their relations with spouses to a greater extent than wives. The same rule is observed in every category of psychological abuse.

Analysis of the general structure of psychological violence in marital relations shows, that the most widely spread forms of psychological abuse irrespective of the spouses’ gender are threatening non-physical punishment for non-compliance with demands, distancing, verbal humiliation, offence, name-calling, rejecting rights and denial of the spouse’s authority and value; withholding positive reinforces, occasional indulgences.

Therefore, the present communication pattern is characterised by either emotional distancing, refusal of praise, compliments, tender words, sexual intimacy, or the behaviour with occasional expression of love, sensuality, tolerance, as well as short-term actions like “giving a present”, performing the role of the “giver”.

At the same time, we found that men more often suffer excessive controlling of their wives, which is manifested by jealousy, the necessity to be informed where and with whom the husbands is all the time, accusations that he spends time with his friends, the urge to see these people or to meet them; following him; financial management in order to make the spouse fully dependant et cetera. Wives, in their turn, more often suffer from their husbands’ taking advantage of their privileged status, manifested in their demands for servility, attitude to the spouse as to a maid, leaving the “last” – “male” – word to self, following traditional gender role model within their family, strong distinction of the man’s and the woman’s roles.

Besides, wives are more often exposed by their husbands to the threats to hurt or to batter, intimidation, devaluing, ignoring, accusations. They more often experience their husbands’ using children in arguments.

Together with general tendencies, there were found differences in manifestation of psychological abuse in marital relations in families depending on the region of residence.

Thus, in Latvian families wives are subject to husbands’ psychological abuse to a greater extent, especially in the following categories: taking advantage of their privileged status; occasional indulgences; threats to hurt or batter; threats to kill the spouse, family members, other people or self and terrorising with it; devaluing, ignoring, refuses and accusations.

In Belorussian families women experience husbands’ violence in many more categories of psychological abuse. These are mostly actions inducing debility-producing exhaustion, excessive controlling, using intimidation; taking advantage of their privileged status; using children in arguments; devaluing, ignoring, refuses and accusations; withholding positive reinforces; threatening non-physical punishment for non-compliance with demands, distancing; occasional indulgences et cetera.

Thus, study of gender and „territorial” aspects of psychological abuse showed that women are more likely to use psychological violence in order to get in control and power, whereas men are more likely to use physical intimidation, aggression and cruelty.

Cross-cultural study of prevalence of psychological abuse in marital relations in Latvian and Belorussian families also revealed a number of interesting tendencies.

In particular, it was stated that husbands in Latvian families more often than husbands in Belorussian families become victims of their wives’ intimidating behaviour (p ≤ 0,001). Significant differences were found in such categories of psychological abuse as excessive controlling (p ≤ 0,001), isolation threats; actions inducing debility-producing exhaustion; verbal humiliation, offences, name-calling, rejecting rights and denial of the spouse’s authority and value (p ≤ 0,05). At the same time, in the men’s opinion, wives in Belorussian families more often use children in arguments with their husbands (p ≤ 0,05).

Thus, Latvian husbands suffer from such manifestations of psychological abuse as pathological jealousy of the spouse, excessive necessity to know where and with whom the husband is; accusations that he spends time with other people, the urge to see these people or to meet them; following him; the urge to make the spouse fully dependant; banning his communication with friends or members of parental family, forcing him to stay at home or banning to leave the house without his wife, preventing sleep, getting him up for quarrelling, making him do housework, preventing normal rest and personal time, verbal aggression et cetera.

Latvian and Belorussian women have a little different view on psychological abuse in marital relations. Thus it was found that in general the index of psychological abuse in Belorussian women is significantly higher than in Latvian families (p ≤ 0,05), especially in the category of dysfunctional behaviour (p ≤ 0,001).

The most significant differences were found in such categories as using children in arguments; devaluing, ignoring, refuses and accusations; withholding positive reinforcers; threatening non-physical punishment for non-compliance with demands, distancing (p ≤ 0,001); using intimidation; taking advantage of privileged status; occasional indulgences (p ≤ 0,05).

Thus, Belorussian women to a greater extent than Latvian women become victims of manipulation of their husbands using children, of their not taking it seriously and justification of violence, emotional distancing, refusal of praise, compliments, tender words and sexual intimacy, as well as of aggressive behaviour, attitude towards the spouse as towards the maid, emphasising that the man is dominant at home, unstable behaviour of the type “love – hate”.

Using psychological abuse can bring its victim very serious consequences. In fact, many survivors of physical or sexual violence noted that psychological violence was often more destroying and had longer influence on them. The reason is that the climate of disrespect to human feelings, when the person is under constant or frequent criticizing, is being shouted at or ignored, affects the person in a strong and deep manner, attacking the person’s “Self” and self-esteem.

Psychological abuse, if realized quite often, is usually internalized by the victim and makes him / her feel fear, insignificancy, lack of value and worth, distrust, emotional dependence and unattractiveness, as if the person is so bad that he / she only deserves punishment and criticism. In future it can result in formation of “victim psychology” in the person who constantly suffers psychological abuse.

References

  1. Follingstad D. R., Dehart D. D. (2000). Defining Psychological Abuse of Husbands Toward Wives Contexts, Behaviors, and Typologies. Journal of interpersonal violence. Vol. 15, 9, рр. 891–920.
  2. Hoffman P. (1984). Psychological abuse of women by spouses and live-in lovers. Women and Therapy. 3, рр. 37–49.
  3. Loring M. T. (1994). Emotional abuse. New York: Lexington.
  4. Marshall L. L. (1994). Physical and psychological abuse. In W. R. Cupach & B. H. Spitzberg The dark side of interpersonal communication. NJ: Hillsdale.
  5. NiCarthy G. (1986). Getting free: A handbook for women in abusive relationships. Seattle, WA: Seal Press.
  6. Rodenburg F. A. & Fantuzzo J. W. (1993). The Measure of Wife Abuse: Steps toward the development of a comprehensive assessment technique. Journal of Family Violence. 8, рр. 203–228.
  7. Sonkin D. J. (2003). Difining psychological maltreatment in Domestic Violence Perpetration Treatment Programm: Multiple Perspectives/ www.daniel–sonkin.com.
  8. Sonkin D. J., Martin D. & Walker L. E. (1985). The male batterer: A treatment approach. New York: Springer.
  9. Tolman R. M. (1989). The development of a measure of psychological maltreatment of women by their male partners. Violence and Victims. 4, рр. 159–177.
  10. Walker L. E. (1984). The battered woman syndrome. New York: Springer.
  11. Фурманов И. А. (2001). Насилие над детьми: сходство и различия психологических последствий. Теоретические и прикладные аспекты кризисной психологии. Сб. науч. трудов. Мн.: НИО, С. 150–158.
  12. Фурманов И. А. (2003). Индикаторы и диагностические критерии физического и эмоционального насилия. Социально-психологическая реабилитация населения, пострадавшего от экологических и техногенных катастроф. Мат. IX Междунар. конф. Мн: НИО, С. 122.
  13. Фурманов И. А. (2003). Особенности поведения родителей, допускающих сексуальное, физическое и эмоциональное насилие. Социально-психологическая реабилитация населения, пострадавшего от экологических и техногенных катастроф. Мат. IX Междунар. конф. Мн: НИО, С. 123–124.
  14. Фурманов И. А. (2003). Индикаторы и диагностические критерии сексуального насилия. Социально-психологическая реабилитация населения, пострадавшего от экологических и техногенных катастроф / Мат. IX Междунар. конф. Мн: НИО, С. 124–125.
  15. Фурманов И. А. (2003). Дезадаптирующее влияние эмоционального насилия. Психосоциальная адаптация в трансформирующемся обществе: проблемы и перспективы. Материалы междунар. науч. конф. Мн.: УП “Гама-5”, С. 189.
  16. Фурманов И. А. (2004). Стратегии коммуникативного контроля в межличностном взаимодействии. Белорусский психологический журнал. 1, 14.
 
Подписка

Подписаться на рассылку портала, чтобы узнавать о появлении новых статей одним из первых.

Кликните на изображение конверта. В открывшемся окне введите свой email и символы на картинке.
К вам на почту придет письмо со ссылкой - перейдите по ней для подтверждения подписки.

Все статьиДругие статьи



Портал рекомендует
  • Игорь Александрович Фурманов

    Игорь Александрович Фурманов

    Практикующий консультант и психотерапевт.

    Доктор психологических наук, профессор. Ведущий специалист по работе с агрессивностью, последствиями физического, психологического и сексуального насилия в отношении детей и взрослых.

  • Олег Силявский

    Олег Силявский

    Коучинг: бизнес- проф- лайф-

    Опыт коучинга, психологической, консультационной и тренерской работы — более 20 лет.

  • Надежда Агеева

    Надежда Агеева

    Психолог, гештальт-терапевт, групповой терапевт

    Основные направления психологической практики:индивидуальное психологическое консультирование, долгосрочная психологическая помощь, групповая работа, работа с семьями и супружескими парами, работа в реабилитационной программе для зависимых людей.

    Психологическая практика — более 10 лет.