Monday, 9 November 2009
Instead, I've got side tracked with a much more light hearted topic - physical aggression between spousal partners. A cheery subject! If I were to ask you to guess who is more likely to aggress against their spouses across the whole United States, you'd probably guess men are. Unless you're suspicious of a trick question, in which you'd guess the opposite. You paranoid people would win this round.
That's probably a surprising result, but it's actually a well supported one. Surveys in 1975, 1985 and other periods found shockingly high level of wife-to-husband violence. The results became even more surprising when you found out that severe violence (Kicking, hitting, beating, threatening with a weapon, using a weapon, etc.) was consistently higher amongst females than males. According to Bhrehm et al. 2005, (p.433) " Prospective research on aggression during the first years of marriage also found higher rates of Wife-to-Husband [aggression] (O' leary et al. 1989)".
Since the initial bunches of surveys and studies, there's been more, including some as recent as 1999 and 2005, "[...] including more than eighty published articles, books and other sources [...]" Obviously, this is an under-discussed facet of the human social experience. It may be men are reluctant to talk about it for cultural reasons, but more there seems a slightly more probable explanation.
Women out aggress their spouses in all measures of violence. However, our intuitive expectations for the subject might be somewhat explained through the outcome of aggression. To quote Barbra Morse (a researcher on such issues; 1995) "Women were more often the victims of severe partner assault and injury not because men strike more often, but because men strike harder."
Any given blow by a male is more likely to result in serious injury or harm. Normally, I'd be prattling on about how humans are more or less mono-morphic, when you compare us to differences between the genders in other species. Just compare bull moose and cow moose! However, in this case, the muscular differences between males and female humans are enough to result in a very different adverse outcomes (to steal the term from medicine).
The factors that predict spousal violence are complex, and I won't pretend to understand them. I could parrot back what's in my text book on the subject, but that wouldn't be a substitute for actually understanding the interplay of factors. Needless to say, like all aggression, it's complex.
The reason I'm blogging about this is I've been on an "Aggression" kick lately. I've got a question that's bothering me - one that sounds deceptively simple. I wonder how many fights an average male is involved in, in his lifetime. How many fights an average female is engaged in within her lifetime. And within the genders, how much 'heterogeneity' is there - that is, is it either people have many/no fights, or is it that there are many intermediate of fights? If you know the answer to this, I'd be greatly interested in hearing it.