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continuity, and to ensure that couples follow the prohibition on premarital relationships between men and women (Adler, 2001). Matchmaking in these societies occurs through both family connec­tions and personal advertisements in newspapers.

Violence in Relationships

Up to this point, we have been considering relation­ships that are healthy and positive. Sadly, this is not always the case. Sometimes relationships become violent; one person becomes aggressive toward the partner, creating an abusive relationship. Such rela­tionships have received increasing attention since the early 1980s, when the U. S. criminal justice system ruled that, under some circumstances, abu­sive relationships can be used as an explanation for one’s behavior (Walker, 1984). For example, battered woman syndrome occurs when a woman believes that she cannot leave the abusive situation and may even go so far as to kill her abuser.

Many college students report experiencing abuse in a dating relationship; one study found 7% reported physical abuse and 36% reported emo­tional abuse from their partner (Knox, Custis, & Zusman, 2000). Although overall national rates of sexual assault have been declining since the early 1990s, acquaintance rape or date rape is experienced by roughly 1 in 4 college women (Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network, 2005). Overall, the Family Violence Prevention Fund (2008) points out that between roughly 1 million and 3 million women in the United States are the victims of partner abuse each year; worldwide, at least one in every three women has been beaten, forced to have sexual relations, or otherwise abused during her lifetime. The Feminist Majority Foundation (2008) reports other key findings. Roughly 40% to 50% of women who experience physical abuse are injured during an attack. Women who are separated or divorced from their partners are most vulnerable to physical

Verbal aggression ———– ► Physical aggression ———– ► Severe aggression ———– ► Murder

Insults Pushing Beating

Yelling Slapping Punching

Name-calling Shoving Hitting with object


Need to control* ————————————————————————————————————-

Misuse of power* ————————————————————————————————————

Jealousy* ———————————————————————————————————————-

Marital discord —————————————————————————————————————

Accept violence as a means of control ——————————————–

Modeling of physical aggression ————————————————–

Abused as a child ———————————————————————

Aggressive personality styles ——————————————————

Alcohol abuse ————————————————————————-

Personality disorders ———————

Emotional lability ————————-

Poor self-esteem —————————-

Contributing factors: job stresses and unemployment

abuse. Latina women are least likely to be physically abused in all age groups.

Based on considerable research on abusive part­ners, O’Leary (1993) argues that there is a con­tinuum of aggressive behaviors toward a partner, which progresses as follows: verbally aggressive behaviors, physically aggressive behaviors, severe physically aggressive behaviors, and murder (see Figure 11.3). The causes of the abuse also vary with the type of abusive behavior being expressed. Although anger and hostility in the perpetrator are associated with various forms of physical abuse, the exact nature of this relationship remains elusive (Norlander & Eckhardt, 2005).

Women are not as violent as men in hetero­sexual relationships (e. g., Johnson, 2001), and this distinction holds across various types of offenders
(Graham-Kevan & Archer, 2003). Within this context, however, a study of New Zealand inmates revealed that both men and women showed similar patterns of violent attitudes and histories includ­ing being more hostile, holding traditional gen­dered beliefs, and lacking communication and anger management skills (Robertson & Murachver, 2007). Research on violence in gay and lesbian relationships reveals similar findings. Patterns of violence among gay and lesbian couples are roughly equivalent to those shown by heterosexual couples, and reasons for abuse include alcohol abuse and dissatisfaction with the relationship (Fisher-Borne, 2007; Roberts, 2007).

Culture is also an important contextual factor in understanding partner abuse. In particular, vio­lence against women worldwide reflects cultural

traditions, beliefs, and values of patriarchal societies, and can be seen in such acts as commonplace violent practices against women, including sexual slavery, female genital cutting, intimate partner violence, and honor killing (Parrot & Cummings, 2006). For example, cultures that emphasize honor and portray females as passive, nurturing supporters of men’s activities and that emphasize loyalty and sacrifice for the family may contribute to tolerating abuse.

International data indicate that rates of abuse are higher in cultures that emphasize female purity, male status, and family honor. For example, a com­mon cause of women’s murders in Arab countries is brothers or other male relatives killing the victim because the woman violated the family’s honor (Kulwicki, 2002). Intimate partner violence is pre­valent in China (43% lifetime risk in one study), with strong associations with male patriarchal val­ues and conflict resolutions (Xu et al., 2005).

Alarmed at the seriousness of abuse, many com­munities have established shelters for battered women and their children and programs that treat abusive men. However, the legal system in many localities is still not set up to deal with domestic violence; women in some locations cannot sue their husbands for assault, and restraining orders all too often offer little real protection from additional violence. Much remains to be done to protect women and their chil­dren from the fear and the reality of continued abuse.

Elder Abuse, Neglect, and Exploitation. Although elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation is difficult to define precisely, several different categories are commonly used (National Center on Elder Abuse, 2007a):

• Physical abuse: the use of physical force that may result in bodily injury, physical pain, or impairment

• Sexual abuse: nonconsensual sexual contact of any kind

• Emotional or psychological abuse: infliction of anguish, pain, or distress

• Financial or material exploitation: the illegal or improper use of an older adult’s funds, property, or assets

• Abandonment: the desertion of an older adult by an individual who had physical custody or otherwise had assumed responsibility for providing care for the older adult

• Neglect: refusal or failure to fulfill any part of a person’s obligation or duties to an older adult

• Self-neglect: the behaviors of an older person that threaten his or her own health or safety, excluding those conscious and voluntary decisions by a mentally competent and healthy adult

The most pressing need for cross-national research on elder abuse, neglect, or exploitation involves a common definition of such adversities against the elderly that is reflective of the values within a country (Kosberg et al., 2002). Part of the problem in agreeing on a common definition of elder abuse, neglect, or exploitation is that percep­tions differ across national and ethnic groups. These ethnic differences may result in conflicts between social service workers, who may be using one set of definitions, and clients, who may be using another, in deciding who should receive protective services. Perhaps the only firm conclusion that can be drawn is that the perception of elder abuse, neglect, or exploitation is relativistic and depends on char­acteristics of both the perceiver and the victim (Childs et al., 2000). Despite these differences, when abuse, neglect, or exploitation occurs, it tends to reflect similar patterns across cultures; for example, researchers have documented similar types of elder abuse in China and in Western countries (Yan et al., 2002).

Researchers estimate that 1 in 4 vulnerable older adults are at risk for some type of abuse, neglect, or exploitation (Cooper, Selwood, & Livingston, 2008). Unfortunately, only a small proportion of these cases are actually reported to authorities. The most commonly reported forms are neglect (roughly 60%), physical abuse (16%), and financial or material exploitation (12%).

Risk Factors and Causes of Elder Abuse, Neglect, or Exploitation. Why elder abuse, neglect, or exploita – toin occurs is a matter of debate (National Center on Elder Abuse, 2007b). Several explanations have been offered that reflect this, but it is important to remember that elder abuse, neglect, or exploitation probably results from a combination of factors.

Because many abuse, neglect, or exploitation victims are spouses or partners, some cases reflect domestic violence that has been going on for a long

Relationships 413

time. Spouses or partners who have a history of being abusive tend to remain that way in late life.

A second major cause relates to an inability of the abuser to deal with personal problems in his or her life. This is especially true of adult children who are dependent on their victims for housing or finan­cial assistance, and who have drug/alcohol, mental health, or other problems. Additionally, the stress of taking care of a spouse/partner or parent can overwhelm some caregivers, who resort to abuse, neglect, or exploitation.

In terms of exploitation, certain individuals take advantage of older adults who have diminished cognitive capacity. Unscrupulous businesspeople (e. g., repair companies, telemarketers), some adult children, and some spouses take advantage of cog­nitively disadvantaged older adults to con them out of their money through various schemes.

Clearly, elder abuse, neglect, or exploitation is an important social problem that has had insuffi­cient attention from researchers and policymakers. Increased educational efforts, better reporting and investigation, more options for placement of victims, and better mental health treatment for victims are all needed for the problem to be adequately addressed (Wilber & McNeilly, 2001). If you suspect that an older adult is a victim of elder abuse, neglect, or exploitation, the best thing to do is to contact your local adult protective services office and report it.

Concept Checks

1. What are the key characteristics of adults’ friendships?

2. How do people fall in love around the world?

3. What are the characteristics of elder abuse, neglect, or exploitation?