8 J. Soc. & Soc. Welfare 404 (1981)
A Cross-Cultural Comparison of Marital Abuse

handle is hein.journals/jrlsasw8 and id is 414 raw text is: -404-

Suzanne K. Steinmetz, Ph.D., Associate Professor*
Individual and Family Studies
University of Delaware
A brief history of marital violence and statistics from recent studies are presented.
Marital abuse data from six societies: United States; Canada; Finland; Israel, with city
and Kibbutz sub-samples; Puerto Rico; and Belize (British Honduras) with sub-samples of
Spanish speaking, Creoles and Caribs are compared. In general, similarities were found
between political/civil profiles of violence and marital violence score within each society.
The percentage of husbands and wives using abuse was also similar for each society.
The major exception was Puerto Rico, where almost twice as many husbands were re-
ported to have been violent. The percentage of husbands and wives who used violence
did not necessarily predict the frequency of violence. Finland, with the highest per-
centage of violent spouses, had the lowest scores for severity and frequency. Israel,
with the lowest percentage of husbands and wives using violence, produced the highest
severity and frequency scores for those couples who were violent. This analysis is pre-
liminary and questions for future examination are raised.
Early Accounts of Family Violence
Although marital violence has been portrayed as a major concern in the media, it
is important to note that as an area for academic research, it has only been since the
early 1960's that interest has been shown in this topic. This does not mean, however,
that family violence is a recent phenomenon - a product of contemporary society. In
fact, examination of some of the first written laws suggests that not only did violence
between family members exist, but it was an institutionalized, acceptable way for those
in a dominant or superior position to control those in a weaker, subordinate position.
For example, some of the first written laws dating to approximately 2500 B.C. decreed
that a woman who was verbally abusive to her husband was to have her name engraved
in a brick which would then be used to knock her teeth out. In Greek literature, Euri-
pedes argued that women should be silent, not argue with men, and should not speak
first. Roman law justified the killing of a wife by her husband for reasons such as
adultery, drinking wine or other inappropriate behavior.
In our own country, colonial law seemed to anticipate the need to protect women
from batterings by their spouse. For example, an early Massachusetts law decreed that
men and women must cohabit peacefully. It was recognized that at this early period
of settlement, women represented a very valuable resource that must be protected.

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