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

nations, by contrast, centered on more extreme examples of physical violence, such as causing a child severe physical injury or even killing a child.

Child neglect, however, was rarely mentioned by U.S participants or by participants from other countries, even those participants from countries that contend with large populations of children that live or work on the streets.

For the research effort, the scientists developed a culturally appropriate survey to measure perceptions of abuse in each of the 24 countries included in the study. Each country's survey was designed to eliminate the biases that are necessarily associated with simply transplanting surveys and perspectives developed in the U.S. to other countries. Questions were open-ended, and respondents were able to discuss their definitions of severe, moderate, and mild abuse within different familial relationships -- such as husbandwife, parentchild, or siblingsibling -- in their native language.

According to Malley-Morrison, the data they collected show that "no country has a 'clean record' when it comes to abuse within the family. Efforts that aim for change in very diverse cultural settings in very different parts of the world are worthy of consideration."

The researchers point out that stemming domestic violence and abuse involves changing people's culturally based attitudes toward the abusive behaviors, which can be exceedingly difficult, especially in societies that view seeking or using outside interventions like social services as a betrayal of family. In suggesting approaches toward change that might be considered, the researchers note that "shaming," a practice already present in some cultures, offers a potentially effective way to punish individual offenders and to deter abusive behaviors on the larger social scale.

The Department of Psychology at Boston University offers programs of research in three general areas: brai

Contact: Ann Marie Menting
Boston University

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