SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY    10 SOCIALPSYCHOLOGY
SocialPsychology and Domestic ViolenceDebateon human behavior has been the centre of intrigue to the socialscientist for ages how individuals behaviors are influenced byimagined or presence of others remains a debatable issue. Accordingto Social psychologists, individual’s behavior is influenced byimagined, internalized norms and mental interactions with theprevailing situations in the society. Human behavior is, therefore,the resultant effect of social interactions and the psychologicalreactions to such interactions. Human interactions are characterizedby action and reaction interplay in which the presence of otherindividuals’ actions and behaviors influences the overallattitudes, social cognition, social concept and the social importanceof interactions. Towards this end, individual’s behaviors are,therefore, seen as by- product of social influence which leads tocompliance, conformity and obedience. In this light, the socialpsychologists have for long sought to understand why people behave ina pro-social way (loving, caring and helping others) while at othertimes behave in antisocial way (aggression, hostility and prejudicefor others)(Bandura et al, 1961). Nothingexemplifies this dogma of social psychology than domestic violence.The reason and circumstances that results in disintegration of familyrelationships to brutal aggressions leaves many unanswered questionswhich could only be accessed through the lens of social psychologicaltheory. Domestic violence has become an epidemic catastropheaffecting families and the community in general across all societies(Erez, 2002).It is an intentional physical, sexual and abusive assults aimed atintimidating, controlling and emotionally destabilizing one partnerin a family. Domestic violence is one of the major and rampantmisdemeanor criminal acts in the United States. This paper presentsan analysis of domestic violence in the perspectives of socialpsychological concepts as a way of understanding the basis of theissue.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 court orderedthat domestic issues be best left within the confines of domesticfamily walls unless grievous or excess violence was used. The courtsruled for marriage contract in which the women become part and parcelof husbands’ property and power’ and, therefore, the husbandswere legally justified controlling their wives (Johnson et al. 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. 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).SocialPsychology Concepts in domestic violence.Social learning and socialinfluence on domestic violenceAccordingto the social psychological theory, family violence could be assessedon the basis of internal and external factors that affect the familysuch factors as family structure, stress, family interactions andintergenerational transmission of domestic violence. Traditionally,the family was set up in a patriarchal basis where males had powerand control over their spouses. Men therefore, perpetrated domesticviolence to conform to self identity in the prevailing groupdynamics. Individuals are influenced into antisocial behaviors suchas aggression, prejudice and hostility due to environmental factorslike social learning. Individuals who learn aggressiveness fromothers tend to affect that antisocial behavior on other individuals(Banduraet al. 1961).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 (Banduraet al. 1961).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 (Banduraet al. 1961).Social exchange theoryAccordingto 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 (Banduraet al. 1961).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. Legal agents view domestic violence as asymmetrical, andtherefore, find no strong basis for taking appropriate interventions.When this happens, legal agents’ fails to interpret cases ofdomestic violence correctly in the light of prosecution and arrest asintended in divorce courts. Evidence from research indicates that,even when the law is clear for arrest, police still use discretion ininvestigating cases of domestic violence. Police officersinterpretation of domestic laws, the amount of investigative workrequired, ideological factors the officers hold in regard to batteredwomen and political interference has significantly influenceddecision to arrest batters (Johnson et al. 1994). 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 (Erez, 2002).Addressing the issue ofdomestic violenceInthe attempt to address the issue of domestic, there is need for acoordinated community as a way of addressing domestic violence. Thecriminal justice needs to be integrated in community to respond tocases of women battering. The police departments need to cooperatewith social service centers such as the hospitals and shelters inorder to respond to cases of battered women in an effective andefficient way. This concerted effort helps to pull resources andcoordinate efforts of addressing domestic violence (Johnson et al.1994). Thereis a need for more reforms in the criminal justice system to improveon offenders sanctions, arrests and prosecution which would act as astrong deterrent to recidivism acts of domestic violence suchreforms should not only be directed at the victims but also thebatterers. At individual level, women should strive for financialindependence, early reporting and seeking intervention measuresbefore the issue of domestic violence worsens. It is true that ‘fearof reprisal’ influence women victims from reporting cases ofdomestic violence and as such fail to ‘cooperate’ with thecriminal justice system (Erez, 2002).In addition, asJohnsonet al. 1994 observes, women victims reluctance to seek legalintervention is influenced by their perception that their situationis ‘under control’.Summary and ConclusionsDomesticviolence 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. In thepast, criminal justice intervention on domestic violence was based onnon-intervention, arrests and mediation but towards the 1960s thecriminal justice system approach on domestic violence took aprofessional course in arresting, prosecuting and charging domesticviolence offenders. Accordingto the social psychological theory, family violence could be assessedon the basis of internal and external factors which affect thefamily 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(Banduraet al. 1961).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 (Erez, 2002).Reference
Erez,Edna, (January 31, 2002). "DomesticViolence and the Criminal Justice System: An Overview."OnlineJournal of Issues in Nursing.Vol. 7 No. 1, Manuscript 3. Available:www.nursingworld.org/ojin/MainMenuCategories/ANAMarketplace/ANAPeriodicals/OJIN/TableofContents/Volume72002/No1Jan2002/DomesticViolenceandCriminalJustice.aspx
Bandura,Albert Ross, D Ross, S.A (1961). "Transmissionof aggression through imitation of aggressive models".Journalof Abnormal and Social Psychology63(3): 575–582. doi:10.1037/h0045925.PMID 13864605
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 Justice22(3), 237-248.