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Interactionist Interpretation of Sex Differences in Violence

NCJ Number
Deviant Behavior Volume: 1 Issue: 3-4 Dated: (April-September 1980) Pages: 245-260
S Norland
Date Published
16 pages
An interactionist analysis of violence processes is used as a framework to study the sex differences in parameters of violent behavior.
In order to account for the higher rates of violence for men than for women, an interactionist analysis assesses the meanings of male and female identities and other identities associated with them. No doubt stereotyped images of males as aggressive and females as passive account for part of the variance by providing differing degrees of cultural support for violent solutions to identity threats. Women are less likely than men to occupy superordinate (as opposed to subordinate) positions, and their areas of authority are more restricted than those of men. In addition, men are much more likely than women to use intoxicants, which increase the probability of violence. Compared with males, females tend to disproportionately become involved in violence with spouses and lovers. Some studies suggest that, along with the emphasis on the responsibility for children, women's value in American society has been largely determined by their sexuality. Women are more likely than men to direct violence toward their children because females' social identities are more firmly rooted in the parental relationship, the asymmetrical family relationship in which they occupy the superordinate positions. In addition, relationships with spouses and lovers are seen traditionally as more important to females than to males. Perhaps those identities associated with the relationships are also relatively more important to females. If so, females are less likely than males to accept or withdraw from threats to those identities. Yet retaliations in the form of counterthreats are the females' more likely options. And although character contests are more likely to be generated around such identities for women than for men, the first violent action is likely to be taken by the superordinate, more often the male. Footnotes and 51 references are provided.


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