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Journal of Family Violence, Vol. 21, No. 1, January 2006 ( C 2006) DOI: 10.


Fighting Families: Family Characteristics Associated with Domestic Violence in Five Latin American Countries
Dallan F. Flake1 and Renata Forste1,2
Published online: 8 April 2006

This study uses data from Demographic and Health Surveys (DHSs) to examine the relationship between familial characteristics and the likelihood of experiencing domestic violence in Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Peru. Logistic regression techniques are used to measure relationships between marital status, family size, partner alcohol use, socioeconomic status (SES), decision-making power, and education homogamy and the likelihood of experiencing partner violence. Cohabitation, female-dominant decision making, and partner alcohol are positively associated with domestic violence across datasets. Family size, SES, and education homogamy emerged as statistically significant in some, but not all of the datasets. This study helps clarify the profile of the abused Latina and also tests the applicability of current abuse research to a non-Western setting.
KEY WORDS: Latin America; spouse abuse; family violence; marital violence.

INTRODUCTION Domestic violence3 is one of Latin America’s most pressing social problems, as each year between 10 and 35% of Latina women are physically abused by their partners (Buvinic et al., 1999). Whereas the region is notorious for its high rates of political and social violence, much less understood is the violence that occurs behind closed doors—between husbands and wives. With so much attention centered on Latin America’s corruption, crime, and political instability, it is easily overlooked that the family is perhaps this region’s most violent social institution. Although domestic violence research has reached unprecedented heights, relatively little is known about how spouse abuse functions outside traditional Western regions of study such as North America and Europe. Culture is known to affect the magnitude and characteristics of inti1 Department 2 To

of Sociology, Brigham Young University, Provo, UT. whom correspondence should be addressed at Department of Sociology, Brigham Young University, 2032 JFSB, Provo, UT 84602; e-mail: renata 3 While numerous forms of aggression are incorporated into the term domestic violence, the present study focuses exclusively on domestic violence involving physical abuse between heterosexual partners.

mate violence in different societies (Holtzworth-Munroe et al., 1997), but because few studies compare these issues in different cultural contexts, it remains unclear if presentday abuse research can be applied to non-Western settings. A few foundational studies have been conducted in Latin America (Ellsberg et al., 2000; Gonzales de Olarte & Gavilano Llosa, 1999); however, they tend to focus on women in a single city or country rather than examining broader patterns of domestic violence across Latin America. This study extends the domestic violence literature by examining family characteristics associated with spouse abuse across five Latin American countries. Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Peru were selected for analysis because they reflect the rich diversity of Latin America. The purpose of this study is twofold. First, it aims to create a more comprehensive profile of the abused Latina to inform researchers, policymakers, and women themselves of potential risk markers for abuse. Second, this study investigates the applicability of Western abuse research to less-developed countries. This may potentially be its most important contribution, as it could shed light on the relevance of current theories, models, programs, and policies to Latin America. 19

2006 Springer Science+Business Media, Inc

approximately 30. Hypermasculinity is a culturally accepted response to male dependency. Nobel Prize laureate Octavio Paz (1961) observed that a woman who does not conform to the traditional female ideal is viewed as a “mala mujer” (bad woman) in Latin America. In Latin America. coupled with the attenuation of inhibitions against violence that war brings. and Nicaragua have been equally unstable. slapped. and sexually aggressive. Nicaraguans. Machismo. Marianismo refers to the expectation that women embrace the veneration of the Virgin Mary in that they are capable of enduring any suffering inflicted upon them by males (Stevens. The Dominican Republic. social scientists generally focus on two concepts: familism and machismo. tend to exacerbate already powerful contributing factors including inequality and high levels of poverty. According to cross-cultural literature. The widespread availability of weapons.000 persons have died in Peru. since women are expected to fulfill familial obligations unconditionally within an overarching patriarchal family system. political conflict has become a near permanent fixture in the lives of millions of Latinos. 1992). Children who grow up witnessing or experiencing violence can become desensitized to the deleterious effects of aggression and see it as a suitable way of obtaining what they want. 1991). Excessive political and social violence is associated with higher rates of domestic violence (Messing. 1996). Latin America has long been one of the world’s most violent regions. Latin American women are to be submissive. In Colombia. Dominicans. and yet be the place where one is most likely to be spanked. The combination of familism and machismo may make Latino families more susceptible to domestic violence. As previously noted. sexually faithful to their husbands. and includes responsibilities and obligations to one’s immediate family members and other kin (Ingoldsby. and low self-esteem (McCord & McCord. strong. Familism refers to the Latino ideal of placing one’s family ahead of individual interests. and comfort. and refers to the cultural expectation that males must show they are masculine. Male dominance is reinforced by women’s role in Latin American society. dependent. Latino patriarchy denies women individuality on the basis of gender (Rivera. In examining domestic violence in Latin America. Since the Shining Path took up arms in 1980. The myriad races. the constant war between the government and drug cartels has made the country one of the most violent places in the world. 1998). assaulted. The effects of political violence on Latin American society have been devastating: The region’s homicide rate of almost 30 murders per 100. languages. Corrupt regimes and bloody civil conflicts led to international military intervention in all three countries during the twentieth century. beat up. powerlessness. The second characteristic of Latin American society—gender-based norms—reinforces male authority and superiority over females throughout much of Latin America. Peru has a similar history of political violence and is presently battling the Shining Path. and lifestyles preclude the lumping together of Colombians. 1997)? Family violence researchers have sought . and even able to consume large amounts of alcohol without getting drunk (Giraldo. both concepts are evident in Latino families. most of the countries share two characteristics—a legacy of social violence and rigid gender scripts—that are integral to understanding spouse abuse in the Latin American context. 1973). 1972). feelings of inferiority. Haitians. Machismo is largely viewed as an expression of an inferiority complex stemming from the Spanish Conquest (Riding. or killed (Gelles. Beginning with the Spanish Conquest and extending to the present day. Haiti. 1999). against the powerful guerilla organization FARC.20 The Latin American Context Latin America is one of the most culturally heterogeneous regions in the world. The Family as an Enabling Context for Abuse In describing the Latino family. and are expected to take care of household needs and dedicate themselves entirely to their husbands and children. How can the family be a haven for love. ethnicities. Because Latinas’ identities are defined by their roles as mothers and wives. 1985). Colombia is currently engaged in one of its bloodiest conflicts to date. then. violence is the subject of casual conversation and newspaper headlines. and Peruvians as part of a uniform “Latin American” culture. machismo is the term used to describe Latino masculinity and is characterized by aggressiveness and hypersexuality (Giraldo. Although familism and machismo may appear at odds with one another. 1991).000 people is more than double the world average (Murray & Lopez. is the combination of feeling inferior and acting superior (Ingoldsby. however. Buvinic and colleagues (1999) argue that societies with long histories of wars are vulnerable to outbreaks of social violence. 1960). The term machismo is often used to describe Latino masculinity. support. two of the most enduring factors that promote violence against Flake and Forste women are rigidly defined gender roles and a cultural definition of manhood that is linked to dominance (Counts et al.. a Maoist terrorist group whose stated goal is to destroy existing Peruvian institutions and replace them with a communist peasant regime. 1972).

Understanding the relationship between alcohol and violence is particularly important in Latin America because gender scripts encourage heavy alcohol consumption among males (Giraldo. given that cohabitation rates there are increasing. including marital status and drinking. but also an acceptable one. Although per capita alcohol consumption rates are comparable in Latin America and the United States.7 children per woman). Hypothesis 2: Women with larger families are more likely to experience domestic violence than women with smaller families. Brownridge and Halli (2000) conclude that on average. cohabitors are between 2 and 4 times more likely to engage in physical violence than married couples. High fertility rates. In some countries. Marital Status Higher rates of domestic violence are consistently found among cohabitors compared to married couples. and the relationship between perpetrator and victim. 1994). Violence not only becomes a possible response to this frustration. Family size has a high potential for generating frustration because of its low probability of resolution. Ellsberg et al. The combination of problem drinking and social pressure to drink may make women in Latin America particularly susceptible to violence. 1986. Whereas cohabitation in Western countries usually serves as a trial period preceding marriage. each is included in the present analyses. Farrington. 2002). Family Size Numerous studies have found a positive linear relationship between family size and domestic violence 21 (Brinkerhoff & Lupri. there is little agreement over the exact role alcohol plays in partner violence. Understanding the relationship between marital status and partner violence in Latin America is critical. In an analysis of 14 marital violence studies. 1994). 1998). The present study examines whether family characteristics associated with abuse in Western contexts are similarly related to domestic violence in Latin America. Hypothesis 1: Cohabiting women are more likely to experience domestic violence than married women. positing that alcohol’s negative effects on people’s perceptions and judgment interact with a complex set of social and psychological factors to result in violence in certain cases. can be a major source of stress for families. 1995) might be the most promising explanation. the relationship is much more permanent in Latin America and might best be described as “surrogate marriage” (Castro Martin. Family size might be a particularly important characteristic of abuse in Latin America because of the high fertility rate. 2000. Cohabitation has been an integral component of the Latin American family system since the colonial period. it is reasonable to expect that marital status would influence domestic violence differently in this region than in Western settings. Western theoretical explanations often point to the temporary and impermanent nature of cohabitation as a primary reason cohabitors are more abusive than married couples (Nock. where low perception of problem drinking leads to social pressure to drink. 2002). 1995). however. the growing prevalence of this relationship type would be reason for great alarm. Because of the unique nature of cohabitation in Latin America. are also commonly linked to domestic violence. when the Catholic Church sanctioned informal sexual unions between Spanish colonizers and indigenous women.. Pan et al.4) (Population Reference Bureau. If marital status does not influence violence in Latin America. While most research confirms that alcohol and violence go hand-in-hand (Hotaling & Sugarman.. 1997). 1993). coupled with widespread poverty. If cohabitation has a similar effect in Latin America as in Western countries. the drinking context. 2002). 1977). it remains much higher than rates in North America (2. more than half of couples opt to cohabit rather than marry (Castro Martin. Selective disinhibition theory (Parker & Rebhun. A polarity has been established in Latin America. The general perception among family violence researchers is that large families are more prone to violence because they experience greater stress associated with the necessity to provide for several children (Hoffman et al.. Other aggravating factors.1) and Europe (1. Theory building is difficult because so many factors combine to determine the link between alcohol and violence (Stith & Farley. Although the region’s total fertility rate is gradually declining (2. 1988. Family-level explanations of violence tend to focus on issues of stress and power dynamics. Martin (1993) argues that the relationship between alcohol and violence differs depending on factors such as who has been drinking. . Partner Alcohol Use The relationship between alcohol use and domestic violence is complex (Roizen. The following factors have been linked to wife abuse in Western literature. the prevalence of problem drinking is relatively high among Latinos (Madrigal. 1972). the growing popularity of cohabitation need not be a concern for antiabuse coalitions.Domestic Violence in Latin America to resolve this paradox by examining how certain family characteristics influence the likelihood of domestic violence.

Hypothesis 5: Women in nonegalitarian relationships. The prevalence of poverty suggests that millions of Latino families experience high levels of stress and tension associated with economic frustration. 1994). female-dominant (female makes most decisions). It is likely that dominance in decision making is indicative of a man’s dominion over other aspects of the couple relationship.. regardless of who dominates the decision making. 1986. 1999. 1996). Given the rigidity of gender scripts in Latin America. 2002). poverty can significantly increase the risk of domestic violence (Gonzales de Olarte & Gavilano Llosa. decision making may have a particularly powerful effect on the likelihood of experiencing domestic violence. Violence is more likely to occur in nonhomogamous relationships. lead to higher levels of spouse abuse in Western contexts (Anderson. Decision-Making Power One of the fundamental differences in the roles enacted by men and women in relationships involves power. Men with higher levels of education than their wives are also more likely to . Poverty may be an especially salient risk marker for abuse in Latin America. regardless of whether the male or female has more education. A major part of how gender roles are identified in families is through decision-making power. When combined with other aggravating factors such as living conditions. Male-dominant decision making may also increase the risk of domestic violence for women in Latin America. female makes others). even though the man does not feel threatened by his partner. 1998. men whose partners dominate decision making might resort to violence to reassert dominance over their families. O’Brien (1971) and Gelles (1974) contend that if a husband does not possess more skills and resources than his wife to legitimate his superior status.. 1999. women who have more education than their partners have a high risk of abuse because gender roles entail that husbands have more education than their wives (Okun. overcrowding. and Thailand (Hoffman et al. They found violence to be most prevalent among nonegalitarian couples. 1984). The stress associated with poverty may have a pronounced impact on domestic violence in Latin America. Heise. Hotaling and Sugarman (1986) identified family income as a consistent marker of wife assault. In patriarchal societies.. A variety of domestic violence perspectives espouse the idea that domestic violence is more widespread among the poor because families living in impoverished conditions are subject to higher levels of stress than families not living in poverty (Martin et al. 1993). 2000). Decision-making power is an important dimension of marital power. Education Homogamy Status inconsistencies in relationships. Jewkes. Because of the cultural expectation that men should govern their families by making critical decisions. Rettig (1993) argues that decision-making processes are key to understanding Flake and Forste the dynamics of couple relationships because they reveal interaction and agency within relationships. where 44% of people live in poverty and 19% live in extreme poverty (Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean. regardless of whether the man or woman dominated the decision making. The relationship between socioeconomic status and domestic violence is also well established internationally. and lack of employment opportunities. specifically with regard to educational attainment. he may feel threatened by an educational disadvantage to his wife and may use physical force as a last resort. Studies by Yllo (1993) and Kim and Sung (2000) reveal similar patterns. a sense of hopelessness. in Cambodia (Nelson & Zimmerman. Heise.. 1997). Coleman and Straus (1990) examined how four types of decision-making relationships influence spousal violence: egalitarian (couple makes decisions together). but it is generally assumed to increase the risk of spouse abuse. Carlson’s (1984) structural theory of intrafamilial violence contends that the inequitable distribution of societal resources causes stress and tension among people with insufficient material resources. and male-dominant (male makes most decisions). 1998). Chile (Larrain. Poverty is not necessarily viewed as a causal factor. In 9 of 11 case-comparison studies from the United States. divided power (male makes some decisions. 1999). Nicaragua (Ellsberg et al. are more likely to experience domestic violence than women in egalitarian relationships. Hypothesis 4: Families with lower socioeconomic status are more likely to experience marital violence than families with higher socioeconomic status. Walker.22 Hypothesis 3: Women whose partners sometimes or frequently get drunk are more likely to experience domestic violence than women whose partners never get drunk. 2002). Socioeconomic Status It is commonly assumed that women who are poor are more likely to experience violence than women who are not poor (Ellsberg et al. and can indicate where individuals are acting out or resisting social norms. Female-dominant decision making may heighten the risk of domestic violence. as it represents how much say an individual has in the couple relationship.

275 in Haiti. Dummy variables were created for each response option: “never gets drunk.” Again. Nicaragua (1998).” “once a week.” Because response options in the Nicaragua DHS are slightly different.” the response is categorized as “never gets drunk”. or shoved by a partner. Based on US statistics. visits to family or relatives. and separated women are not included in this study.” “sometimes gets drunk. her partner. Haiti (2000).” and “frequently gets drunk. Family size is measured by how many living children the woman has. if he comes home drunk “once in a while” or “once a month. Decision-making power is determined by a series of questions that ask if the woman.728 in Nicaragua. Restricting the sample to women currently in a union. Marital status is measured as a dichotomous variable coded 1 if the respondent is married and 0 if she is cohabiting. A dichotomous variable was created to measure violence and is coded 1 if the respondent listed a reason she had been abused. 14). The Peru DHS asks respondents if they have “ever been hit. linear relationship between partner alcohol use and domestic violence. Cases with missing dependent variable data were excluded from the analyses. Goode (1971) explains this phenomenon in terms of access to resources: Men with higher levels of education possess more resources. In so doing. “yes” answers were coded 1 and “no” answers were coded 0. family size. widowed. her response was coded 1. We expect that women with larger families are more likely to experience violence than women with smaller families. too few women are cohabiting to create a meaningful measure of marital status in Haiti. The Colombia DHS asks respondents to list reasons they have been physically hit by their partners. the sample sizes are 6.” “Yes” responses were coded 1. socioeconomic status. Although the questions vary slightly across datasets. we adjusted the categories for uniformity. Physical aggression is operationalized differently in each of the datasets. a series of questions was asked based on Straus’ (1990) Conflict Tactics Scale. relationships between family characteristics and domestic violence in Latin America are examined. The percentage of cases dropped is no greater than 10% in each of the datasets. this study aims to shed light on why some Latinas are more likely than others to experience abuse.174 in Peru. if she answered “no” to all of the questions. and 0 if 23 she had not been abused. since large families have higher stress levels associated with having to provide for several children (Hoffman et al. 97% of the sample are married. we expect a positive. making large household purchases. In Haiti. The datasets do not include all factors empirically linked to differential rates of domestic violence.082 in Colombia. her response was coded 0. and education homogamy. and nutrition. health. 1994). 2. Partner alcohol use is measured by how often respondents’ partners come home drunk.. and food to be prepared each day). 588 in the Dominican Republic.” the response is categorized as “sometimes gets drunk”. In the Dominican Republic and Haiti. METHODS Sample This analysis uses Demographic and Health Surveys (DHSs) conducted in Colombia (1995).Domestic Violence in Latin America become violent. DHSs are nationally representative household surveys with large sample sizes of women ages 15–49. or somebody else has the final say in certain household decisions (such as her own health care. and 15. “no” responses were coded 0. Divorced. Measures This study focuses exclusively on physical abuse between heterosexual partners and employs Gelles’ (1997) definition of violence: “An act carried out with the intention or perceived intention of causing physical pain or injury to another person” (p. and if he comes home drunk “twice a month. If the respondent answered “yes” to any of the physical aggression questions. decision-making power. they are conceptually uniform in that they . which means they have the ability to use force. partner alcohol use. the Dominican Republic (1999). Based on this literature review. including marital status. 6. which provide data for a wide range of monitoring and impact evaluation indicators in the areas of population. Thus. thus the results should not be interpreted as definitive. Nonetheless. daily purchases. pushed.” or “almost daily. DHSs do contain measures of several significant family characteristics of violence. and Peru (2000).” Because alcohol weakens brain mechanisms that normally restrain aggression (Parker & Rebhun.” the response is categorized as “frequently gets drunk. Hypothesis 6: Women with more or less education than their partners are more likely to experience domestic violence than women whose education levels are the same as their partners’. Sample cases are weighted to adjust for oversampling of particular regions and to compensate for differences in response rates. 1995). we anticipate cohabiting women to experience more violence than married women (Brownridge & Halli. If the male “never comes home drunk. The Nicaragua DHS asks if respondents “have ever experienced any physical violence at the hands of a partner. 2000).

if the male has more schooling. Marital status and partner alcohol use are the strongest predictors of abuse. however. as some women deny. 1990). In the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua. These data suggest that while domestic violence occurs throughout Latin America. The power dynamics of couple relationships vary across countries.” “respondent and other person. two-thirds of women cohabit. approximately half of all women currently in relationships are cohabiting. and Nicaragua. if the female has more schooling. Differences in survey methodologies and variable operationalization may also help account for differential rates of violence. Nicaragua.” “partner alone.” and “other. and low socioeconomic status. In Colombia.. Logistic Regression Model Odds ratios presented in Table II provide at least partial support for the hypothesized relationships between family characteristics and the likelihood of experiencing partner violence. in the Dominican Republic. and Peru. There is also variance in education homogamy. Couple relationships in Latin America are characterized by a strong affinity to cohabit rather than marry. it is most common for females to control the decision making (female-dominant). Decision-making power. 5% of Haitians own the same number of amenities. and male-dominant (man makes most decisions) (Straus. 2001). suggesting that patriarchal norms might not be uniform across Latin America. The cultural expectation for males to have more education than their female partners persists in all five countries. RESULTS Table I presents descriptive statistics on family factors influencing partner violence. the Dominican Republic. 1993).01). partner alcohol use increases a woman’s . In some countries. Estimation Basic descriptive statistics are initially employed to provide a demographic profile of the samples. we expect women in nonhomogamous relationships to be more likely to be abused than women in homogamous relationships. most couples make decisions together (egalitarian). In comparison. The effect is strongest in the Dominican Republic. As hypothesized. this norm is challenged: In Colombia. most couples split household decision-making responsibilities (divided power) rather than make decisions together. Other characteristics of Latino families include relatively high fertility.” Based on Western data (Okun. Education homogamy is measured with three dummy variables constructed by subtracting a woman’s total years of education from her partner’s total years of education. The models’ coefficients represent the increase or decrease in the likelihood of physical abuse. associated with a unit (or category) change in an independent variable. We expect the likelihood of violence to be greater in nonegalitarian relationships because there is a higher probability of conflict when couples do not make decisions together (Rettig. the response is categorized as “female has more than male. 67% of couples own at least six (of a possible seven) household amenities included in the SES index. divided power (man or woman is dominant in making decisions in different areas). Response options include “respondent alone. In Peru. the response is categorized as “homogamous”. ranging from 16% in Haiti to 39% in Peru. Cross- Flake and Forste national variation in violence rates may be attributable to a wide array of sociodemographic and cultural factors. having emerged as statistically significant in all of the datasets. for example.24 measure decision-making power with respect to household decisions. some countries are much poorer than others. the response is categorized as “male has more than female”. The percentages could be much higher. the proportion of women who have experienced violence varies dramatically between countries. If the female and male have the same amount of schooling. where married women are half as likely to be abused as cohabitors (p < . That the Dominican Republic has the lowest percentage of married women (35%) is important. 1986). as it indicates that marital status has a pronounced effect on domestic violence in that country. The equations express the log odds of being abused (versus not) as a linear function of a set of explanatory variables. and underreport abuse (Ellsberg et al. The prevalence of spousal violence in all five countries is high.” “someone else.” Respondents are classified into one of four relationship power types based on their answers to the “final say” questions: egalitarian (both partners have an equal say in most issues). As the dependent variable is binary. each dataset is examined separately using logistic regression techniques. female-dominant (woman makes most decisions). minimize. While poverty affects families throughout Latin America. In Haiti. one-third of women in relationships have more education than their partners. In Colombia. alcohol use.” “respondent and partner. varies dramatically between countries. Married women are far less likely to be physically abused than cohabiting women.

6 32.5 44.7 9.001) and 2.9 24.01) and 2 times (p < .001) more likely to be abused than women in egalitarian relationships.4 60.2 50.2 2.6 11.1 45.5 — — — — 8. women with more education than their partners have a higher likelihood of abuse than women who have the same amount of education as their partners.7 44.6 (p < .5 8.9 27.6 65.1 15.0 33. In each country.9 24.1 9.6 5. Education homogamy was not found to be associated with spouse abuse in the Dominican Republic.6 42. Demographic and Background Factors Influencing Partner Violence (Percentages) Colombia (1995) Ever physically abused by partner Marital status Married Cohabiting Family size (living children) 0–1 2–4 5+ Partner alcohol use Never gets drunk Sometimes gets drunk Frequently gets drunk Missing SES (0–7) 0–2 3–5 6–7 Decision-making relationship Egalitarian Divided power Male-dominant Female-dominant Other Education homogamy Homogamous Male has more than female Female has more than male Missing [ N] 19.9 10.001) times more likely to be abused than women whose partners do not get drunk.2 23.7 19.4 2275 Nicaragua (1998) 26.6 35. In Colombia and Haiti. and Peru.4 6082 Dom.5 43.7 6.7 29.3 8. women in divided power relationships (she makes some decisions.01) and 2. Nicaragua. Rep.0 54. The hypothesized relationship between education homogamy and domestic violence is partially supported by these data. In Nicaragua and Peru.1 50.1 46.3 22.5 40.3 37.0 25.9 6728 Peru (2000) 38.2 24.6 1.7 8.5 11.0 9.001) more likely to experience violence than women whose partners never get drunk.8 18.8 44.6 26. The reported sample sizes are weighted.3 588 Haiti (2000) 15.3 15174 25 Note.3 25.9 55.8 (p < . In Haiti.6 29.1 13.001) and 9.4 5.2 (p < .9 25.0 54.1 32.1 9.0 67.6 3.001) more likely to experience violence than women in egalitarian relationships. .2 51. (1999) 22.5 8.0 31.0 38.7 7.6 46.0 34. Male-dominant decision making is not statistically significant in the Dominican Republic or Peru.6 25. Statistics are weighted to represent population parameters.9 12.6 79. women who do not make decisions together with their partners are at a greater risk of being abused than women who share in the decision-making process (egalitarian). Female-dominant relationships have the strongest and most consistent effect on domestic violence.Domestic Violence in Latin America Table I.8 57.1 — — — — — 26.2 1.2 62.0 23.9 28.4 4. Frequent drunkenness is associated with an even higher likelihood of violence: Women whose partners frequently get drunk are between 2.0 1.7 .8 45.5 17.7 55.7 97. Women whose partners sometimes get drunk are between 1.6 2. women who control the decision-making are much more likely to experience violence than women who share decision making with their partners.8 26.8 28.0 65. Women whose partners control decision making (male-dominant) are between 1. As hypothesized.9 .7 times (p < .9 50.7 65.7 13.3 (p < .6 45.8 40. likelihood of being assaulted.5 32.3 2.2 12.7 30.5 16.4 26.5 times (p < . he makes others) are between 1.0 19.3 (p < .6 35. women with less education than their partners are more likely to experience violence than women with the same level of education as their partners.8 47.

076 1. she is more likely to experience violence than if she is married. Nicaragua. suggesting that financial costs may deter couples from formal marriage.067 1866.311 1382.001.05. (1999) . A major contribution of this study is that it tests the applicability of Western theoretical and empirical violence models to a non-Western setting.844∗∗∗ 1. ∗∗ p < .750∗∗∗ 2. 2002) is a major concern.291 132. Much more research is needed to fully understand how the national context influences spouse abuse.01.26 Table II. Previous research has focused primarily on wife abuse in North America and Europe.000 1. indicating that several risk markers for abuse are shared between Latin American and Western countries. This study examines the magnitude and characteristics of partner abuse in Colombia.000 1. ∗∗∗ p < .820 5 6082 Dom. Of all the family factors included in the present . To at least some extent.593∗∗∗ 1.742 1.728 10 15174 Note.890∗∗∗ 8. as it suggests that current research and policies might have some relevance in parts of Latin America. Castro Martin (2002) explains that unlike in developed countries.800∗∗∗ 1. That cohabitation rates are increasing in every Latin American country (Castro Martin. the current study examines how Western risk markers for abuse influence violence in Latin America. 1991).000 1.378∗∗∗ 1.190∗ 1.013 1. Haiti.174∗∗∗ 1.000 2.704∗∗∗ 1.172∗∗∗ 1.233∗∗∗ 1. each of the variables tested emerged as an important predictor of domestic violence.232 9 2275 Nicaragua (1998) .057∗∗ 1. there is a tendency for women to cohabit rather than marry. few researchers have sought to explain partner violence in the Latino context.140 5784.484∗∗∗ 4.642 1.009 1.298∗∗∗ 2.010 1.000 1. Rep. If a woman cohabits in Latin America. This finding has significant implications for family violence researchers and policymakers.925∗∗∗ 2. This research offers several important contributions to the family violence literature and serves as a foundation for future research in Latin America.373∗∗∗ 18897.000 1. Socioeconomic conditions are likely to be part of the explanation for the high prevalence of cohabitation in Latin America. DISCUSSION Although domestic violence is a serious and widespread problem in Latin America.318∗∗∗ 1.000 1.836 75.135 1.000 1. Thus.747∗∗∗ 1. the Dominican Republic.660 10 588 Haiti (2000) – 1.158∗ 7245.210∗∗∗ 1. consensual unions in Latin America are most prevalent among the poor.065 114.436 10 6728 Flake and Forste Peru (2000) .026∗∗∗ 1.805∗∗∗ 1.000 1.082∗∗∗ 1. The reported sample sizes are weighted. Although marriage is generally regarded as more desirable than cohabitation.631∗∗∗ 1. This study helps clarify the profile of the abused Latina.441∗∗∗ 9.314∗∗ 2. and Peru. and is one of the only violence studies to test a model across multiple datasets.197∗∗ 1. little is known about the nature of partner violence in cross-cultural settings.761 478.140 1.084 1. To address this gap in the violence literature.000 1. ∗ p < .000 2.185 552.027 — — — — 1. Family Characteristics and the Likelihood of Experiencing Partner Violence (Odds Ratios) Colombia (1995) Married Family size Partner alcohol use Never gets drunk Sometimes gets drunk Frequently gets drunk Socioeconomic status (0–7) Decision-making relationship Egalitarian Divided power Male-dominant Female-dominant Education homogamy Homogamous Male has more than female Female has more than male −2 LL Chi-square Df [ N] .519∗∗ . Modifying existing marriage requirements to accommodate the poor could help reduce the incidence of domestic violence by encouraging couples to more fully commit to one another by marrying rather than cohabiting. While marriage is critical to reducing abuse among Latinas. as it signifies that more and more women are inadvertently placing themselves at risk of partner violence.004 1. Partner alcohol use also plays a critical role in partner violence.276∗∗∗ — — — 1.000 1.526 2.000 2. Statistics are weighted to represent population parameters. consensual unions are easier to initiate and are less costly (Greene.

. shares decision-making power with her partner. 1991). several family characteristics of abuse in Western cultures were not included in the DHS questionnaires. which are not designed primarily for the study of abuse. . 1998). it is not without limitations. 1998). 1974). 59: 655–669. This finding lends support to theories of patriarchy. problem drinking is more prevalent among Latinos than other groups (Madrigal. and Cuellar and colleagues’ (1995) 17-item Machismo Scale. has a partner who never gets drunk. family. Villemez and Toughey’s (1977) 28-point Macho Scale. Marriage Fam. and domestic violence: An integration of feminist and family violence approaches. however. Second. While this study makes important contributions to the understanding of domestic violence in Latin America. M. status. and the overarching institutional patterns of culture (Bronfenbrenner. Psychol. L. Bem. These factors were unable to be included in the model. While understanding the risk markers of abuse for women is critical. Decision-making power. Although alcohol consumption rates in Latin America are not extraordinarily high. it is equally essential—if not more so— that we uncover the reasons why men hit their partners. one must consider the entire ecology of the individual: 27 their home.. as numerous factors were not tested in the present study. the Hyper-Masculinity Index (Mosher. Machismo in particular may play a prominent role in explaining spouse abuse in Latin America. Canadian J. J. In addition to marital status and partner alcohol use. there is a greater likelihood of domestic violence than if they share in decision making. Gender. B. Two problems arise from the narrow focus of Demographic and Health Surveys. and attitudes toward violence may be important risk markers for abuse. and child maltreatment should be included to understand the entire scope of domestic violence. we must create a thorough and comprehensive profile of the abuser—not just the abuse victim. (1997). L. Power dynamics must also be emphasized. Other types of abuse. has a large family. (1974). and national characteristics (Heise. K. To effectively lower rates of intimate violence. 12(4): 407–434. J. which suggest that men who have less power than their partners may turn to violence to reestablish culturally prescribed dominance over women (Straus et al. S. A final recommendation is to extend research to men. when females wield more decision-making power than their partners. Findings from this study should not be interpreted as definitive. or does not have the same level of education as her partner. family and community roles. she is more likely to experience domestic violence than a woman who marries. To understand differences in abuse victims. Much more research is needed to fully understand the characteristics of domestic violence in Latin America. 1972). First.Domestic Violence in Latin America study. or has the same amount of education as her partner. Switzerland. 1995). The measurement of psychological androgyny. In particular. because the DHSs do not include measures of these variables. however. The full picture remains blurred. Soc. (1988). it is unlikely that alcohol consumption rates can be lowered. If a woman cohabits. alcohol has the strongest and most consistent effect on the likelihood of experiencing domestic violence. making cross-national comparisons somewhat difficult. they may be less likely to become violent. they are more likely to be abused than when they share decision-making power equally. and can be measured with a variety of well-established scales. 42: 155–162. so long as casual drinking does not drastically alter their perceptions and judgment (Parker & Rebhun. REFERENCES Anderson. To compare crossnational results more effectively. church. including psychological and sexual abuse. Latino families should be educated about the risk of domestic violence that accompanies drunkenness. Religiosity. Great Britain. 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