Having a increased income or education than your spouse could be risky, as a higher socio-economic status than ones partner boosts the chance of psychological violence and misuse. This applies to both men and women.
New research on violence and relationships does not support the particular stereotypical pattern of strong men in powerful positions who misuse their weaker, female partner.
“ Whenever power is unevenly allocated in a relationship the opportunity of physical and psychological misuse increases. And the abused partner is the one with the highest status, ” says sociologist Heidi Fischer Bjelland.
According to the sociologist this particular applies both to men and women.
Bjelland is a PhD student at The Norwegian Police University University and she has previously carried out research on intimate partner violence in Norway. In her article En voldsom maktbalanse? En studie av relativ makt og forekomst av partnervold (“ A fierce power balance? A study of relative power and intimate partner violence” ), Bjelland presents her analysis of a study carried out by Statistics Norway in 2003/2004.
Bjelland offers examined survey replies from 1640 men and 1791 women who live with their partners. The participants possess answered questions relating to whether they have experienced physical partner violence such as strangling and flat hand slapping, and psychological abuse such as threats associated with physical violence, jealous behavior and independence restriction.
Ladies more exposed
Both men and women with a higher status than their partner have an increased System.Drawing.Bitmap experiencing psychological abuse or controlling partners, but women with a increased income than their partner also have an increased risk of experiencing physical misuse:
“ Their System.Drawing.Bitmap experiencing both physical and mental violence increases with the difference in income, ” says Bjelland.
The figures from the research shows that women earning more than 67 per cent of the total household revenue have an almost seven times larger risk of experiencing psychological and physical abuse — so-called double violence — from their partner compared to ladies who earn less than 33 per cent of the total household income. Moreover, women with considerably higher education than their partner have an increased System.Drawing.Bitmap experiencing both physical and mental abuse.
The study difficulties previous research which has concluded that a higher socio-economic status decreases the risk of experiencing intimate partner violence.
“ My study shows that higher income or education works as safety against acts of violence only as far as the income and education and learning does not exceed that of the partner, ” says Bjelland.
“ There seem to be two mechanisms at play here: one concerning the individual and another to the partnership as such. ”
Men also affected
The study shows that men having a higher income or education than their partner have an increased System.Drawing.Bitmap experiencing psychological abuse and control. However , men do not face the same risk of experiencing physical abuse.
“ Previous studies have appeared primarily at physical abuse. They have got also included some types of mental violence such as control and risks of physical violence, but they have not distinguished these psychological acts of violence as a category in itself. When I separate psychological and physical acts associated with violence, the psychological factor has become much clearer and the results be a little more nuanced, ” says the researcher.
One of the finds especially surprised Bjelland:
“ The fact that men with a higher socio-economic status than their partner have an increased risk of experiencing abuse within their relationships was very surprising, as it conflicts with international studies within the same field. ”
She emphasizes the Norwegian gender equality as a possible explanation.
“ Perhaps this indicates that, in today’ s Norway, women won’ t accept being without strength as a result of having a lower socio-economic standing than their partner. ”
“ On the other hand, few studies have examined men’ s risk of misuse earlier, which may be an explanation as to why these types of finds are so new and surprising. ”
According to Bjelland, previous studies of intimate partner violence have often excluded men from the data material.
“ There has been a strikingly unbalanced focus on women and what consequences their experiences of intimate partner violence might have for them. ”
Power and contrapower
“ This implies that will intimate partner violence may be all about trying to change the power balance, ” claims the sociologist.
She believes that much of the intimate partner violence is a type of contrapower strategy towards a stronger partner.
“ Violence or even control is used as a compensation for the partner’ s weak position in the relationship, and may thus be regarded as an attempt to balance what is perceived as an uneven division of strength. ”
Such strength strategies are often referred to in sociology as conscious tactics. Bjelland is not convinced that these strategies are because premeditated as the theory implies.
“ Perhaps the abuse in some cases has to do with an unconscious fear of shedding a partner which is more attractive “ on the market” due to his or her socio-economic standing. ”
Jealousy or traditional gender roles?
The most frequent kind of psychological abuse or partner violence in the survey had to do with the partner wanting to know where the other part is, who they’ re with and when they’ re due back home. The second most common type was jealous behavior and attempts to restrict the other part’ s social interaction with friends and family.
“ It is not unusual to want to know where one’ h partner is and when he or she could be home; when does this turn out to be psychological violence? ”
“ There is no clear answer to that will. But this does not have to do with daily random questions about where somebody has been. When the interviewees describe their partners as being inquisitive regarding this stuff, it is reasonable to assume that this is a type of violation and an attempt to restrict the partner’ s freedom. It is a common way of identifying psychological violence in studies on intimate partner violence, ” says Bjelland.
Different mechanisms generate various kinds of violence. Bjelland regards jealousy, the worry of losing one’ s partner and contrapower strategies as possible details to much of the psychological strength abuse and control in relationships.
According to Bjelland, one more explanation may be stress and frustration related to society’ s views upon masculinity and femininity, and the feeling of not being able to live up to requirements related to traditional gender roles.
This has been described in previous research on violence, and Bjelland points to this as one probable explanation to the double violence which women are more exposed to if they have increased status than their partner.
“ Men with reduce status than their partner may feel that they are not living up to the traditional gender role. This may cause stress and frustration which again may lead to escalating conflicts which end in physical violence towards their partner, ” states Bjelland.
Not a conscious strategy
Bjelland believes that the physical violence in several of these cases revolves around situational conflicts and outbursts caused by anger and frustration rather than conscious power strategies.
“ In these situations We presume that men relate to traditional gender role norms, but I wish to emphasize that this analysis does not always apply to all men on an person basis. ”
“ The connection between power, gender and violence is very complex, and there are several mechanisms at play. Contrapower strategies, for instance, do not apply so much in order to relationships practicing traditional gender tasks. ”
One of the discovers in the study is that women with all the same status as their partner more often experience intimate partner violence than women with lower status. Bjelland believes this may indicate that also having the same status may be recognized by some as conflicting with traditional gender roles in relationships.
“ This find should, on the other hand, be analysed with special care, since the data material is scarce, ” Bjelland underlines.
Research young couples, not individuals
According to Bjelland the Norwegiann research on violence has focused on locating explanations to violence on an person basis, and it has particularly focused on the woman. Although this research has been necessary, Bjelland wishes to focus more on the particular relational aspects of intimate partner violence in the future.
“ I believe that one have to look at relational factors in order to understand partner violence. The violence occurs in the relation involving the two partners. One has to look at the particular couple as a unity, not just at the individual. ”
Since the relationship is a part of a culture, the sociologist is also of the viewpoint that one has to examine the violence in light of society’ s gender and power structures.
“ It is important to always keep this context in mind, ” emphasizes Bjelland.