Is Your Culture Spreading Disease?

Generally, it appears that the degree of respect for others by a culture relates to how prevalent abusive acts are in that culture. In other words, where women and children are considered "property" to be owned and controlled, and where respect for women and children is rare, domestic abuse would be relatively frequent and commonplace. Where respect for women, children, and the innocent are high, domestic violence is not as common.

Social environments play an important role in the acceptance or rejection of abusive acts. This would explain why abusive behaviors are ingrained in one society but not in the society of a country right next door to them. In fact, domestic issues often vary in occurrence within the same country when rural areas are compared with urban areas.

Humankind is not universally abusive throughout the world, implying that abuse, unwanted behavior, and the maltreatment of others are not intrinsic human qualities. Behavioral influences seem to be tied to social customs, local examples, and learned characteristics. This means that abuse is not compulsory behavior and suggests that attributes can be both learned as well as unlearned.

Research suggests that domestic violence is:

  • Learned and not caused by genetics.
  • A choice the abuser makes and is not caused by alcohol or drugs.
  • Influenced by institutional and societal responses (whether the batterer is held responsible for misconduct or rewarded for it).
  • Found in every level of society (highly educated as well as uneducated, wealthy and impoverished, native born and immigrant).

Other influences affecting domestic abuse include behaviors that are perpetuated and transmitted from generation to generation or imprinted in neighborhoods where abuse is not only accepted but also encouraged. Some families do not condone mistreatment, while other families who may be living just next door are accustomed to yelling, fighting, arguing, battery, and spousal abuse. Some neighborhoods are rife with domestic abuse and others are nearly void of it.

The impact that culture can have on behavior when it is perpetuated by the people that we are surrounded by, can be called "social preferences." These include the local environmental influences and social settings we are accustomed to that help provide a context for thought and actions.

Abuse can also be linked to relationships between people and how they treat one another as individuals. The characteristics desired of a potential romantic partner, for example, are a result of what I call "interpersonal preferences." This describes an attraction to the initial first qualities exhibited by someone prior to and right at the start of a relationship and the traits that attract partners and keep them together, which include psychological and physical attributes.

Some choose to always find a partner who is angry, controlling, hot tempered, and self-centered. Obviously there is a greater likelihood that a partner with these qualities will be abusive. Some choose to always engage with a partner who is calm, loving, selfless, and thoughtful. With these qualities, there is a lesser likelihood that this partner will be abusive. These attractions are also considered interpersonal preferences.

The term "interpersonal conduct" is used to describe the manner in which an individual treats and respects another. These elements are different than to whom a person is attracted to, whereas interpersonal conduct is related to how they interact, behave, and attend to their partner after a relationship has been established and formalized.

How would we explain why partners, despite being in an abusive relationship with former partners, currently do not find the need or motivation to harm or disrespect each other? Perhaps there was a change in their interpersonal conduct? Or perhaps their former partners were abusers who helped mold the other person into a victim or even to be an abuser, but after these negative relationships ended, the prompts leading to playing the role of the victim or abuser disappeared.

Domestic abuse can also be a reaction to traumatic events, experiences (both good and bad), and perspectives created through the observation of others. There are those whose insecurities, traumas, and unmet emotional and personal needs frequently motivate them to abuse others (and themselves).

Internal issues that determine whether a person will act or not, are based on someone’s “personal operating system”. These operating systems include someone’s ultimate goal in life, the kind of stories or messages one tells to impress or repel another, and other deeply ingrained beliefs and views.

Due to the impact of social preferences, interaction preferences, interpersonal conduct, and personal operating systems on abusive behavior, we must take into consideration the elements that can be observed and understood, and use them to better assess individual behaviors and motivations.

When in the midst of an abusive situation, it may be difficult to think clearly and come up with a solution to remedy the abuse, while trying to implement it may feel almost impossible. However, given the right tools and the will power to create change, it most certainly is possible, even more so– it is probable. Many may feel overwhelmed and may not know where to start, but it is important to start somewhere.

Please continue to check in with us each week for a new post about abusive behavior and how it can affect your life and the lives of those around you. There is always that first action to helping someone you care about. Let this be it!

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published