SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY    10
Social Psychology and DomesticViolenceIntroductionHumanbehavior and why individuals result into antisocial behaviors againstother individuals is one of the most studies issues in the modernsociety. Social scientists have over the years linked human behaviorsto imagined, internalized norms and mental interactions within asociety. The social interactions as well as psychological reactionsas a result of interactions define the way an individual is likely tobehave. Nothing exemplifies this dogma of social psychology thandomestic violence. The reason and circumstances that results indisintegration of family and intimate relationships to brutalaggressions leaves many unanswered questions which could only beaccessed through the lens of social psychological theory. Domesticviolence has become an epidemic catastrophe affecting families andthe community in general across all societies (Erez, 2002). Domesticviolence describes a pattern of abusive behavior perpetrated by amember of a family or among individuals in an intimate relationship.It is an intentional physical, sexual and abusive assaults aimed atintimidating, controlling and emotionally destabilizing one partnerin a family. It can take the form of emotional, physical, economicalor sexual abuse. Domestic violence is one of the major and rampantmisdemeanor criminal acts in the United States. Social scientistshave argued that the high statistics of domestic violence, especiallyamong women, is as a result of the perception among perpetrators thatit is acceptable. Additionally, the fact that majority of domesticabuses are not reported to the law enforcement authorities hascontributed to an increased cases (Wallace 2004).. This paperpresents an analysis of domestic violence by looking at keyhistorical events, social psychological concepts as a way ofunderstanding the basis of the issue and how to effectively deal withthe problem.Key historical events andLegal decisions on domestic violenceItwas not until recently that domestic violence was considered acriminal act for long men have battered and abused women withunfretted aggressiveness. Towards the end of the 20thcentury in the 1970s, domestic violence was considered by thecriminal justice system as a crime and justified for criminalinterventions. Historically an attempt for criminal intervention indomestic violence could be traced to the English common law whichallowed husbands to continue their chastity on their wives butrestrain from aggressive violence only moderate disciplinary actionwas approved as a way of disciplining women (rule of thumb) (Erez,2002). It is recorded that in 1824, in Mississippi, the states courtordered that domestic issues be best left within the confines ofdomestic family walls unless grievous or excess violence was used.The courts ruled for marriage contract in which the women become partand parcel of husbands’ property and power’ and, therefore, thehusbands were legally justified controlling their wives (Johnson etal. 1994). However,there were great legal changes towards 1970s with the growth offeminist movements that advocated for the plight of abused women andcriminal justice intervention thereby transforming the issue ofdomestic violence to a public concern. Impunity by domestic violenceperpetrators and batterers was challenged, and therefore, men couldno longer fail to take responsibility of domestic violence. Inbroader sense, domestic violence became a criminal offence (Erez,2002). Inthe past, criminal justice intervention on domestic violence wasbased on non-intervention, arrests and mediation. Towards the 1960sthe criminal justice system approach on domestic violence took aprofessional course in arresting, prosecuting and charging domesticviolence offenders. In the 1980s, demands by feminist for more policeaggressiveness in law enforcement for domestic violence than use ofthe mediation process which did not reduce recidivism. As a result,there were considerable amendments in arrests laws guiding againstnegligent by law officers in arresting perpetrators of domesticviolence. In short, towards the end of 20thcentury and the early 21stcentury many reforms on domestic violence has been made pertaininglegal changes in perpetrators identification and warrantless arrestsby the criminal justice system (Erez, 2002). Social Psychology Concepts indomestic violence.Sociallearning and social influence on domestic violenceThesocial learningpsychologytheory can be used to explain the prevalence of domestic violence inthe modern society. According to the social psychological theory,family violence could be assessed on the basis of internal andexternal factors that affect the family. These factors include familystructure, stress, family interactions and intergenerationaltransmission of domestic violence. Traditionally, the family was setup in a patriarchal basis where males had power and control overtheir spouses. Men therefore, perpetrated domestic violence toconform to self identity in the prevailing group dynamics.Individuals are influenced into antisocial behaviors such asaggression, prejudice and hostility due to environmental factors likesocial learning. Individuals who learn aggressiveness from otherstend to affect that antisocial behavior on other individuals (Wallace2004). Domesticviolence is influenced to an extent by cultural norms internalizedwhen individuals interacts with other members of the communitythereby learning certain aspects. Through social learning individualstend to conform to the expectations of society in which they live infor instance, in many societies, women are expected to besubordinates to men and therefore men are justified to disciplinethem when they misbehave. As such this norm become internalized andlearned by the male folk who in turn apply it on their wives.Similarly, as a result of observing domestic violence in the societyand media, there is a positive reinforcement which individuals’internalizes which motivates them to imitate such violent act ontheir spouses (Erez, 2002).Social stress and domesticviolenceSocialpsychologist explains the human behavior as resulting from theinteractions of social situations and the mental states ofindividuals a person’s behavior is influenced by conflict ofmental and social situations. As such, causes of domestic violencearise from situational factors like frustrations. Family situationsincreases individuals’ social stress and pressure such as limitedfinances which raises tensions and frustration that culminates todomestic violence. In this light, couples undergoing harsh economictimes are more prone to domestic conflicts and violence regardingfinances (Wallace 2004). Socialpsychologist observes that, poverty inhibits mans ‘successfulmanhood’ which instills his fears of loosing respect and honor inthe society. Therefore, the inability to financially support the wifeand maintain household control leads to substance abuse, crime andmisogyny as a way of expressing masculinity. In the same line,individuals’ attitude is influenced by the situation which in turnleads to such aspects as changed personal traits, temperament andprejudice of the other partner leading to domestic violence (Wallace2004).Socialexchange theory and domestic violence Accordingto social psychologists, relationships are based on cost benefit andrational choice analysis. In this cue, if one partner costs overweightheir benefits there arise problems. This theory is applicable inmost domestic violence especially when the wife becomes toodemanding, and the husband has a meager source of income thiscombined with social influence, work situation frustrations, generalinferiority, nagging by the wife could lead to cases of domesticviolence (Wallace 2004).Challenges individuals and lawenforcement agencies face with domestic violenceThereare many challenges that have been encountered by the criminaljustice system in the arrest and prosecution of domestic violenceoffenders. For many years, the criminal justice system has vieweddomestic violence as asymmetrical, and therefore, find no strongbasis for taking appropriate interventions. When this happens, legalagents’ fails to interpret cases of domestic violence correctly inthe light of prosecution and arrest as intended in divorce courts.Evidence from research indicates that, even when the law is clear forarrest, police still use discretion in investigating cases ofdomestic violence. Police officers interpretation of domestic laws,the amount of investigative work required, ideological factors theofficers hold in regard to battered women and political interferencehas significantly influenced decision to arrest batters (Erez, 2002).Anotherchallenge to domestic violence prosecution emanates from the diverseattitudes the society and legal practitioners hold regarding domesticviolence which has often influenced interpretation of domesticviolence law. Social activists, denounces preoccupation with arrestpolices of individuals rather than focusing on society as aperpetuating factor to domestic violence. Finally, lack ofcoordination among the judiciary, police and social services inintervening for domestic violence has been blamed among the mainchallenges affecting domestic violence. Factors such as lack offinancial resources, fear of offending partners, and fear of shameand lack of trust in the criminal justice system are factors blamedfor prevalence of domestic violence. Some of these issues haveresulted into a majority of domestic violence cases not beingreported for appropriate legal action to be taken (Erez, 2002).Critique of Articles Thearticle ‘domestic violence and the criminal justice system: anoverview’ by Edna Erez, provides a comprehensive analysis of theproblem of domestic violence on the modern society and the criminaljustice system. There are several statements in the article that areagreeable. First, domestic violence has not been a legal issue in thecriminal justice system, until recently. Secondly, both men and womenare victims as well as perpetrators of domestic violence. Thirdly,there is a need for reforms in the policing and adjudication in orderto effectively deal with emerging challenges associated with domesticviolence. Nonetheless,there are arguments and statement in the article which are notagreeable. From a psychological perspective, domestic violence ismore of a social problem rather than a criminal issue. Therefore,focusing more on the prosecution and adjudication of perpetratorsrather than the social and psychological issues is not the ultimatesolution to domestic violence. Also, although a major deterrence andincapacitation tool in other forms of violence and crime, arrest ofthe perpetrators may not be an effective solution to domestic abuse,unless the underlying issues have been addressed. Ways through which domesticviolence can be addressed Individual level Dueto the nature of domestic violence, the role of individuals isessential in dealing with the problem. Women, being the biggestvictims of domestic abuse, should strive for financial independence,early reporting and seeking intervention measures before the issue ofdomestic violence worsens. It is true that ‘fear of reprisal’influence women victims from reporting cases of domestic violence andas such fail to ‘cooperate’ with the criminal justice system.Changes in social perceptions about gender roles are essential inreducing the high number of unreported cases of abuse within thefamily setup (Erez, 2002). Criminal justice system Thecriminal justice system has faced numerous challenges in dealing withincreased cases of domestic violence. There is need for a coordinatedcommunity as a way of addressing domestic violence. The criminaljustice needs to be integrated in community to respond to cases ofviolence and abuse within a family. The police departments need tocooperate with social service centers such as the hospitals andshelters in order to respond to cases of battered women in aneffective and efficient way. This concerted effort helps to pullresources and coordinate efforts of addressing domestic violence.There is a need for more reforms in the criminal justice system toimprove on offenders’ sanctions, arrests and prosecution whichwould act as a strong deterrent to recidivism acts of domesticviolence (Johnson et al. 1994). Conclusion and Summary Domesticviolence is a major and rampant misdemeanor criminal acts in theUnited States,andcame to berecognizedas a towards the end of the 20thcentury in the 1970s where the criminal justice system defined it asa crime and justified criminal administration interventions.According to the social psychological theory, family violence couldbe assessed on the basis of internal and external factors whichaffect the family such factors are family structure, stress, familyinteractions and intergenerational transmission of domestic violence.Domestic violence is influenced to an extent by cultural normsinternalized when individuals interacts with other members of thesociety thereby learning certain aspects. Family situations increasesindividuals’ social stress and pressure such as limited financeswhich raises tensions and frustration that culminates to domesticviolence. According to social exchange theory, relationships arebased on cost benefit and rational choice analysis and as such, ifone partner costs overweigh their benefits there arise problems. Thereare many challenges that have been encountered by the criminaljustice system in the arrest and prosecution of domestic violenceoffenders. Lack of coordination among the judiciary, police andsocial services in intervening for domestic violence has been blamedamong the main challenges affecting domestic violence. At individuallevel, factors such as lack of financial resources, fear of offendingpartners, fear of shame and lack of trust in the criminal justicesystem are factors blamed for prevalence of domestic violence. Thecriminal justice needs to be integrated in community to respond tocases of women battering this is an effective way of addressing theproblem as opposed to focusing on a single approach. There is a needfor more reforms in the criminal justice system to improve onoffender’s sanctions, arrests and prosecution which would act asstrong deterrent to recidivism acts of domestic violence. Atindividual level, women should strive for financial independence,early reporting and seeking intervention measures before the issue ofdomestic violence worsens. Reference
Erez,E. (2002). “Domestic Violence and the Criminal Justice System: AnOverview”, OnlineJournalof Issues in Nursing,7 (1) available athttp://www.nursingworld.org/MainMenuCategories/ANAMarketplace/ANAPeriodicals/OJIN/TableofContents/Volume72002/No1Jan2002/DomesticViolenceandCriminalJustice.html
Graham-KevanN, Archer J (2003). "Physical aggression and control inheterosexual relationships: The effect of sampling". Violenceand victims18 (2): 181–196.
Johnson,I. M., Sigler, R. T., & Crowley, J. E. (1994). “Domesticviolence: A comparative study of perceptions and attitudes towarddomestic abuse cases among social service and criminal justiceprofessionals”. Journalof Criminal Justice 22(3), 237-248.
Wallace,H. (2004). FamilyViolence: Legal, Medical, and Social Perspectives.Allyn & Bacon.