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International study provides culture-by-culture clues to family violence and abuse

(Boston) -- What is abuse?

According to the vast body of research presented in the new book, International Perspectives on Family Violence and Abuse (Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2004), the term conjures quite different descriptions from individuals throughout the world.

Edited by Kathleen Malley-Morrison, a professor of psychology at Boston University, the compendium presents evidence that, among participants in the two dozen countries included in the study, a country's history and culture strongly influence what its residents consider to be unacceptable -- and acceptable -- examples of domestic violence and abuse.

The aim of the study -- and the international team of researchers involved in it -- was to collect data on people's perceptions of family violence and abuse in a manner that most closely reflected the day-by-day social and ecologic contexts in which people live.

Malley-Morrison and her team of associates found wide discrepancies between definitions of abuse used by participants from the various countries. For spousal abuse, for example, U.S. participants were on average most likely to cite physical violence as an example of extreme abuse. Among participants in other countries, however, the research team found physical violence toward a spouse to be less commonly cited. Average responses from participants in some countries, for instance, included public humiliation, especially of a husband by a wife, as an example of severe physical aggression. The research team found that in many countries around the world, husband-to-wife violence is considered a part of normal family relations.

Wide disparities in conceptions of child abuse were also shown among the international participants. Responses from U.S. participants indicated that most had conflicted opinions over the point at which parental discipline such as spanking crosses the line into child abuse. Responses from participants in other
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Contact: Ann Marie Menting
amenting@bu.edu
617-358-1240
Boston University
24-Nov-2004


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