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Social Causes of Husband-Wife Violence

NCJ Number
M A Straus, G T Hotaling
Date Published
276 pages
This book, a product of the Family Violence Research Program at the University of New Hampshire, is based upon the perspective that physical violence between husbands and wives is socially patterned.
It consists of an overview; three sections concerning cultural norms and family violence, social organization and family violence, and the interplay of culture and social organization; and a final section that summarizes the text and suggests policy implications. Individual chapters emphasize in large part the ironic nature of married life and violence. The organization of the marital relationship is intended to maximize love, support, and happiness, but it can just as easily generate conflict and violence. Other ironies that are underscored include cultural norms that maintain stability and legitimate violence in families; social organizational family features that foster both intimacy and intraspousal violence; a change to a more egalitarian marriage structure that also leads to a higher rate of violence, at least in the short run; and suppression of conflict which may actually increase it. Suggested policy changes include public education concerning marital violence, limitations on violence in government (e.g., death penalty, police brutality) and in the mass media, stricter gun controls, gradual elimination of physical punishment in childrearing, and elimination of the husband as 'head of the family' in law, religion, and family life. Notes are provided for each chapter and about 150 references are included.