Family violence is not a new phenomenon, as it has essentially existed since the beginning of time. Only in modern times, however have societies begun to recognize violence and family members as a social problem (Barnett, Miller-Perrin & Perrin, 2005). For many years, the social problem of family violence had not only been heavily ignored, but for a number of years, had not been fully understood. For example, family violence takes many forms and has a number of different names. Family violence, also known as domestic violence, spousal abuse, battering, family violence, and intimate partner violence (IPV), is defined as a pattern of abusive behaviors by one partner against another in an intimate relationship such as marriage, dating, family, or cohabitation (Barnett et al., 2005). Moreover, family violence includes but is not limited to physical abuse such as kicking and punching, but also includes sexual and emotional abuse. Emotional abuse includes controlling or domineering; intimidation; stalking; passive/covert abuse (neglect) and economic deprivation and in many cases is more severe than physical abuse. The changing visibility of family violence is the leading indicator of the necessity of an historical approach to understanding it (Gordon, 2002).
Over the past few years, the general public in the US has become familiar with family violence through news coverage of highly publicizes cases, TV programs and movies. At the same time, researchers have made great strides in recognizing the scope of family violence and the context in which it occurs (Barnett et al., 2005).
As sociologists know of it today, family violence is politically, historically and socially constructed (Gordon, 2002). In terms of power relations and functionalism, family violence arises out of power struggles in which members of the family are contesting for resources and benefits (Gordon, 2002). Furthermore, these contests arise from both personal aspirations and change social norms and conditions (Gordon, 2002). It is therefore important to know that family violence cannot be understood outside the context of the overall politics of the family. Historical developments that continue to influence family violence include prominent changes in the situation of women and children (Gordon, 2002). It is imperative therefore for a historical analysis of family violence to include a view of the changing power relations among classes, sexes, and generations (Gordon, 2002).
Political attitudes have also affected research “findings” about family violence. Both psychological and sociological interpretations in the debate often ignore the gender politics of family violence issues, and the gender implications of policy recommendations, not only when women or girls were the victims, but also when women were the abusers (Gordon, 2002). Over the past 80 years, four major types of family violence have be studied and examined; child abuse, child neglect, sexual abuse of children and wife beating. In later years, there have been other forms of family violence, which include sibling abuse (which is the most common form of family violence), and elder abuse (Gordon, 2002).
Family violence has had many different faces historically, and has been classified in five different stages with different focuses periodically. The first was the 19th century and child saving era, which was from 1876-1910. During this era, there was anti-cruelty to children movement that was influenced by the temperance movement. Emphasis on the cruelty done to kids was placed on the immigrant poor and never the respectable classes (Gordon, 2002). The progressive era was followed by a child saving era which lasted from 1910 -1930 which lead to an emphasis on child neglect. During this era, there was a decrease emphasis on alcohol and identified other forms of stress such as poverty, unemployment and illness (Gordon, 2002). The depressed followed the progressive era where there was an increased...
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