Family Violence in a Cultural Perspective: Defining, Understanding, and Combating Abuse

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Kathleen Malley-Morrison & Denise A. Hines

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  • Part I: Family Violence in Cultural Context: Background Issues

    Part II: Native American Indian Cultures

    Part III: African American Cultures

    Part IV: Hispanic/Latino Cultures

    Part V: Asian American Cultures

    Part VI: Conclusion: Prevention and Intervention

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    Preface

    There is enormous concern in the United States today concerning family violence. Making decisions affecting the lives of family members at risk of maltreatment is an enormous responsibility. A willingness to scrutinize one's own assumptions is essential in the process, especially when making judgments about families differing from one's own on dimensions such as poverty and ethnicity. In this book, we contribute to the burgeoning literature on violence in ethnic minority communities within the United States by taking an ecological approach to its incidence, correlates, and consequences. This means we consider factors operating at the level of the macrosystem (e.g., racism and poverty), the exosystem (e.g., neighborhoods, social service agencies), the microsystem (e.g., the family), and the individual (e.g., tolerance for aggression, substance abuse). We also provide numerous cases of family violence from the four major types of ethnic communities we consider (Native American Indian, African American/Black, Hispanic/Latino, and Asian American) and ask you to make judgments concerning the cases. We hope that as you consider each case, as well as the available research, you will ask yourself how your own experiences, and your own assumptions and values, affect your judgments.

    The information and cases presented in this book are organized within a cognitive-affective-ecological conceptual framework. We believe that violence within the nuclear family, the extended family, and the global human family has many causes, but an approach considering cognitive as well as emotional/motivational factors within an ecological framework is particularly useful. To understand family violence, we need to consider not just environmental stresses but also personal, familial, and cultural values legitimizing aggression as a response. Although emotions such as rage have a strong biological component, they are also intimately tied to cognitions about the circumstances producing them. Individuals typically become enraged by a child talking back, a wife talking to another man, or an elderly parent becoming less independent only when these behaviors are viewed as attacks on oneself or one's values and deserving of punishment.

    Thus, our focus is not just on the prevalence of various forms of abusive behavior in families within the United States as a whole and several ethnic minority communities, but also on the perceptions of violence and definitions of abuse and maltreatment that appear to underlie tolerance for aggression. We also consider varying conceptions of the roles of men, women, children, and the elderly that either contribute to or serve as protective factors against interpersonal aggression. Finally, we address the broader historical and environmental forces contributing to the potential for frustration, rage, scapegoating, and displaced aggression within different communities.

    Our thanks go to the many people who were supportive and helpful as we developed this book. These include the staff at Sage, including Jim Brace-Thompson and Karen Ehrmann, Joseph Trimble for his feedback on the Native American Indian chapters, our anonymous reviewers, the authors of our four Personal Reflections boxes (Drs. Doe West, Vostina DeNovo, Soledad Vera, and Anita Raj), and our many helpful research assistants (Martha Stevens, Victor Hsuing, Olivia Tun, Robyn Bercovici, Liana Shelby, DaShanne Stokes, Melissa Hagan, Ellyn Turer, Natalia Duke, Autumn Sierra, and Kristin Burke). Kathie also wants to thank her mother, who helps endlessly in more ways than can be described, her brother Tim, who kept the computer going, her husband, Frank, who kept her going, and Dr. Eli Newberger, who provided the endlessly valuable experience of a postdoctoral fellowship in family violence at Children's Hospital in Boston. Denise would like to especially thank her parents, and her other family members and close friends, who have been a constant source of support throughout this process.

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    Author Index