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The representation of the father within media texts: A Foucauldian Discourse Analysis.

June 30th, 2010 Comments off

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Abstract.

Since the 1970’s discursive practices have been employed when analysing issues within personal identity. This study aims to do just that by analysing the discursive constructions identified within gender differences and approaches to parenting. For this purpose a number of texts were employed and a Foucauldian approach to discourse analysis was carried out on selected articles. Several discursive constructions were identified such as the primary use of female expert opinions, the textual imagery of the father as inane and refreshingly the emergence of a non-gender specific magazine aimed at both parents.

Keywords: Foucauldian discourse analysis, parenting, father, gender.

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Introduction.

Within the subject of social psychology exists two distinct yet very different approaches, that of experimental social psychology and critical psychology. It is important to note that while experimental social psychology is indeed theoretical, essentially critical psychologists refer to this area of psychology as an approach rather than a theory (Stainton Rogers et al. 1995). While experimental social psychology is concerned with the theory as a definite science (Stainton Rogers, 2003), critical psychology is concerned with various sub-disciplines and is considered to be unable to form one solid theory or practice (Hook, 2004). One of the main approaches within critical psychology is that of social constructionism as it underpins all of the approaches within critical psychology such as post-structuralism and discourse analysis, and is the main theoretical framework for the research carried out within critical psychology (Burr, 1998).

Discourse analysis is concerned with the construction of language within society (Burr, 1998). There are two types of discourse analysis; discursive resources and discursive practices. The latter is concerned with language as a system of symbols which can be used to construct social realties to make meaning of the world and the use of language to manipulate in order to achieve a particular goal (Stainton Rogers, 2003: 81). The former is most commonly referred to as Foucauldian discourse analysis and is concerned with the construction of language and its influences over a period of time such as the rise of feminism as a challenge to patriarchy (Stainton Rogers, 2003: 313).

Foucauldian discourse analysis emerged in the latter part of the 1970’s as a response to the ideas of Michael Foucault. Its main use was to analyse the use of language as a discursive resource or essentially to underpin the relationship between the interpretation of language as suited to the interpreter and the involvement it may find within critical psychological research (Willig, 2001). At the same time it makes the assumption the world is made up of many discourses that influence the way in which one sees it (Willig, 2001).

Foucauldian discourse analysis can be a very useful tool when deconstructing gender identities within text as it allows the analyst to approach the text with several different ideas in mind such as the placement of certain pieces of information in relation to others and the ways in which the reader may respond. This form of discourse analysis indeed proved to be a useful tool when analysing articles within parenting magazines as it allowed for exploration into the discourses that emerge when studying gender roles within parenting and the impact the broader discourses may have on the reader.

Background:

The area of gender chosen was that of gender representations in parenting magazines therefore several parenting and pregnancy magazines were selected such as Prima Baby, Junior, Parenting Magazine, Practical Parenting and Mother and Baby. From these, three magazines were chosen and within these magazines two articles and two advertisements were selected. As the analytic strategy to be used was that of the Foucauldian method of discourse analysis, particular attention was paid to the construction of the texts and the way in which they may be interpreted differently dependant on the gender of the person that read them. Many discursive constructions were identified and it seemed that just as they formed an identifiable construction of their own, further material would emerge that compared closely with identified material and caused a new, broader, discursive construction to arise. It was this general area of difficulty in pinpointing only one very simple area of text that gave need for the Foucauldian approach to discourse analysis. Through being able to identify not only the discursive constructions but also the subjectivity within these articles made for a much more in depth and reliable analysis.

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The representation of the father within media texts: A Foucauldian Discourse Analysis. (Part 2)

June 30th, 2010 Comments off

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Analysing the text was interesting yet difficult at times due to contradictory discursive constructions and changing approaches throughout the magazines which will be explained later. Choosing a particular article was not so challenging as for the most part the tone of the content was similar however one particular magazine stood out for a variety of reasons which are explored in the analysis, and it was found that no particular article as such could be chosen.

Analysis:

All parents are women and only the female opinion of child rearing is valuable.

Interestingly, when analysing the articles it emerged that whenever a statement of parental experiences was made it was made by a mother.

“When Violet was 2, she started to have nightmares so I’d let her get into our bed, says mum Kelly”

From ‘Practical Parenting’

“Nothing will ever compare to our first Christmas with Molly, admits Amanda Langley, mum to Molly 12 months”

From ‘Mother and Baby’

The construction of the text in this way gives the impression that it is primarily aimed at women but more interestingly that the opinion of a mother has a greater value than the opinion of a father. This also positions the mother, rather than the father, as the main carer of the children. Furthermore it may make the reader feel that, if a mother, only their experiences and opinions are of any relevancy or if the reader is a father that their experiences are of no interest. This may also make the reader, if male; lose interest in any experiences that they associate with their children. While this view may seem extreme, the supposedly superior opinion of the female surfaces again when any experts are called upon, particularly within Mother and Baby magazine.

“Of course, if you’re happy to share your bed, then don’t lose sleep over it, suggest Helen Ball senior lecturer in anthropology”

From ‘Mother and Baby’

“If your child is ill, stay with her in her room if you feel you should, recommends Mandy Gurney”

From ‘Mother and Baby’

“Plan Christmas with your partner in advance, advises relationship expert Gladeana McMahon”

From ‘Practical Parenting’

The positioning of primarily female experts within this magazine is, in part, understandable due to the fact the magazine is entitled Mother and Baby however this may also suggest that females and in particular, mothers, are gender bias and would value the opinion only of another female or give a females opinion a higher value than that of a males. It would seem that these texts have an ‘all parents are women’ discourse and ‘only the female opinion is valuable’ discourse running throughout them. This is, however, a highly idealistic view of parenting. Although, historically, the male figure within the family has been seen as the breadwinner (Matta and Martin, 2006) that spends most of their time at work rather than at home contributing to the upbringing of the children, particularly within industrial society, presently the role of the male has changed dramatically. Increasingly, fathers are being rendered as involved in the upbringing of their children (Skevik, 2006). Fatherhood has become a central focus of social change and social attitudes portray expectancy for both parents to be equally involved in every aspect of their children’s lives (Hawkins and Amato and King, 2006). With this in mind perhaps the magazines should be aiming to include both parents rather than singling out the female as the main carer. Practical Parenting seems to address this issue though only on a very small scale (and somewhat contradictory to the almost constantly used female related terms) by sometimes using the term ‘parents’ or ‘mum and dad’;

“When there are two parents in a bed”

From ‘Practical Parenting’

“It might end up with mum or dad being relegated to the sofa”

From ‘Practical Parenting’

At the same time, surprisingly, and perhaps an attempt to include the male within the role of parenting, Mother and Baby includes the expert opinion of a male;

“It is vital to remember that you have new roles as parents, says life coach Peter Barnard”

From ‘Mother and Baby’

However the context in with this opinion is given is fairly ‘common sense’ as it will be obviously apparent to parents that they have become just that; parents which is clearly a role change from husband, wife or partner. It is from this that the next discourse arises.

When it comes to parents, best let the women get on with it as the men are inane.

The above title gives strong suggestion for the next identified discursive construction. Mother and Baby magazine, as its title suggests, is predominantly aimed at women.

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The representation of the father within media texts: A Foucauldian Discourse Analysis. (Part 4)

June 30th, 2010 Comments off

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The first advertisement was for a new buggy from the Graco range that had been specifically designed not to scratch women’s shoes and had also been made available in a variety of colours to match women’s shoes.

“Sensible shoes…with this buggy, who needs them? ”

From ‘Junior’

“Mojo. Available in a range of frivolous colours – just like your shoes! ”

From ‘Junior’

While this advertisement may indeed be suggesting that parental responsibility falls predominantly on the female when one considers the context of the rest of the magazine one may then be swayed to consider that this advertisement represents working mothers or business women who need to look respectable regardless of their parental role and indeed may give a mother the reassurance that they can look good as mothers, working or otherwise. At the same time one may feel that this advertisement is addressing the issue that not all mothers are ‘stay at home’ mums and that it reinforces the idea that a female can be a mum and a professional.

As mentioned above, within Parenting magazine, for every reference that was made to a mother, one was also made to a father. This is illustrated excellently with an advertisement for another buggy but this time aimed at men. The advertisement entitled “Daddy Cool” is for the Diablo buggy that has been designed with fathers in mind. The Diablo buggy has a masculine design making it appeal to fathers. This advertisement seems to take note of the new role of the father within contemporary society and at the same time one might consider that it also acknowledges the importance of the inclusion of the father within the upbringing of children. This advertisement may give a male the feeling that they do have an important role as fathers and are just as entitled to contribute to the upbringing of their children as mothers are, however it was here that it may have proved more fruitful to adopt a semiotic form of investigation rather than a Foucauldian discourse analysis, simply because more analysis could have been carried out on the imagery as signs.

Discussion.

It can clearly be seen from the broader discourse as outlined above that the opinion of the father is poorly represented. Moreover it suggests that when it comes to parenting, often, fathers are pushed by the wayside within media texts with mothers being the main focus of attention. Whilst the texts are predominately aimed at women this is no reason to exclude the opinion of fathers. In addition it is unfair and extremely gender bias to construct the textual image of a man as inane when it comes to parenting. In a world where the role of the father is becoming ever more important (Matta and Martin, 2006), the image of men as inept at child rearing may serve only to cause a reversal in the emergence of the father as equal to the mother as it may cause men who read it to reconsider any attempts at pro-involvement within parenting. Significantly the use of the father’s actions as anecdotal within the text could have serious implications to the confidence of a father adapting to this role. It was certainly evident that the mother being more competent at parenting was the broadest discourse, evident over both articles. Perhaps it is magazines such as Junior that may serve to compliment gender equality in parenting and furthermore by doing so, help to get the message across that parenting is as much for fathers as it is for mothers.

By adopting the Foucauldin discourse analysis as the primary tool of examination, multiple discourses could be identified and explored further. It was also found that objectivity did not exist in any if the texts as they all seemed to influence the way in which a person may react, and dependant on their sex the subjectivity they derived from it. At the same time, the Foucauldian method has been criticised for the emphasis it places on subjectivity as it has been argued that essentially discourse cannot provide a full construction of the self as a number of other factors such as socio-economic status should be taken into account when finding a sense of identity (Willig, 2001). Furthermore arguments have been made that in order to truly construct reality further theoretical frameworks within social constructionism should be consulted other than discourse analysis in order to gain a valid insight into social realities, gender specific or otherwise.

Bibliography.

Amato, P. R. Hawkins, D. N. King, V. (2006), ‘Parent-Adolescent Involvement: The Relative Influence of Parent Gender and Residence’ Journal of Marriage and Family,
Volume 68 (1): 125-136.

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The representation of the father within media texts: A Foucauldian Discourse Analysis. (Part 3)

June 30th, 2010 Comments off

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However it seems that perhaps in light of this the magazine portrays mothers as superior to fathers (as shown above) but on deep analysis it also seems that Mother and Baby also seem to portray the father as inane.

“Men aren’t telepathic, so give him clear tasks like buying the drinks and, if he complains, tell him it’s only fair that he does his share”

From ‘Mother and Baby’

This piece of text seems to position the father firmly within the role of the child. The way in which the text mentions that the father may complain serves to undermine the role of fatherhood in contemporary society. Furthermore if a male were to read this, one might suggest that subjectively, this particular discourse may make a male feel as if they need not help on the more difficult tasks and that perhaps he should stick to the mundane tasks, as that is all that is expected of him. This particular discourse of the father as an additional child surfaces again;

“My husband, Daryl, was so excited about Jake’s first Christmas, he got dressed up as Santa before hanging his stocking at the end of his cot, says Jill Preston, mum to Jake 13 months. Unfortunately, Jake woke up and started screaming when he saw this bearded man in his bedroom, now we hang all our stockings off the mantle piece! ”

From ‘Mother and Baby’

The placement of this text is immediately after a piece of advice from expert Gladeana McMahon concerned with being sensible at Christmas. The placement of the above quote, immediately after the advice from McMahon seems to highlight the story and one might consider that it serves to illustrate further the position of how inane fathers may be. It would seem that the efforts of the father to make Christmas special for his child has been dismissed and the context of the story is almost an anecdote that may make a mother laugh and possibly position them to feel superior to the father. The way in which the mother tells of the baby waking up and screaming when he saw his father dressed up as Santa may bring inferences to the readers mind of what a silly thing the father did. Perhaps one would suggest that the father had acted like a child and had caused his son to become upset. Furthermore a father may pick up on this discursive construction and feel that they may be ridiculed if they try to interact with their children in a fun way. This is illustrated further;

“We’re so used to ‘the wheels on the bus’ by now that on our last trip my husband David found himself humming a verse while filling the car up with petrol! He got some strange looks”

From ‘Mother and Baby’

Again it could be argued that the father is being made to look inane for singing ‘the wheels on the bus’ in public. The selected texts seem to give the impression that when it comes to parenting; men simply aren’t able to manage without making themselves look injudicious. In fact, this is not the case as now gender neutralisation is occurring with regards to men staying at home to care for their children as an occupation (Winter and Paules, 2006). Furthermore men are now seen as equally capable of child rearing as women (Matta and Martin, 2006). Interestingly a magazine was found, quite by accident, that recognizes the importance of the role of father and the gender equality now present within parenting.

Fathers are just as important as Mothers.

When it came to selecting an article within Junior magazine that showed a discursive construction of the female as a better parent, admittedly (and perhaps refreshingly), nothing could be found. In contrast to the other magazines for every reference to a mother, there was a reference to a father. At the same time for every female expert opinion called upon, a male was called upon also. The magazines contained stories and experiences as much from fathers as it did from mothers and every opinion was considered valuable regardless of which gender it originated from. Whilst there was plenty of text available to analyse, two advertisements stood out as they were gender specific.

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The representation of the father within media texts: A Foucauldian Discourse Analysis. (Part 5)

June 30th, 2010 Comments off

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Burr, V. (1998), ‘An Introduction to Social Constructionism’ London: Routledge.

Hook, D. (ed), (2004), ‘Critical Psychology’ South Africa: UCT Press.

Martin, C. K. Matta, D. S. (2006), ‘Father Responsivity: Couple Processes and the Coconstruction of Fatherhood’ Family Process, Volume 45 (1): 19-37.

Pauwles, A. Winter, J. (2006), ‘Men staying at home looking after their children: feminist linguistic reform and social change’ International Journal of Applied Linguistics, Volume 16 (1): 16-36.

Skevik, A. (2006), ‘Absent fathers or reorganized families? Variations in father-child contact after parental break-up in Norway’ The Sociological Review, Volume 54 (1): 114-132.

Stainton Rogers, R. Stenner, P. Gleeson, K. and Stainton Rogers, W. (1995), ‘Social psychology. A Critical Agenda’ Cambridge: Polity Press.

Stainton Rogers, W. (2003), ‘Social Psychology. Experimental and Critical Approaches’ Berkshire: Open University Press.

Willig, C. (2001), ‘Introducing Qualitative Research in Psychology:Adventures in Theory and Method’ Buckingham: Open University Press.

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Summary of Roddy Doyle’s Barrytown Trilogy

June 24th, 2010 Comments off

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Roddy Doyle’s depiction of a working class Irish family focuses on the evolution of the parental relationship between a father, Jimmy, Sr. and his eldest daughter, Sharon, as they struggle to accept the responsibilities of an unexpected pregnancy and the social implications that result. Detailing the trial and tribulations encountered by a poor working family of six children, the Barrytown Trilogy embarks on a passage into overall maturity by an entire family as Sharon must come to terms with her pregnancy by one of her girlfriends’ fathers, George Burgess. The attitudes expressed by Jimmy, Sr. particularly in response to his daughter’s pregnancy, continue to evolve as he learns more about his role as a parent and provider through Sharon’s example, manipulation, and his own guided self-discovery. In the opening pages of this novel, one will note that Jimmy seems to be unable to grasp and get a handle on his own opinions and feelings, though as the narrative progresses through confrontation and patience, Sharon will educate her father on what it means to be a parent, as she steps up to the position herself.

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At the onset of this novel, a notable and quite evident strain in the relationship between Jimmy, Sr. and his daughter, Sharon, exists, as each attempt to adjust and come to terms with their own emotions regarding the upcoming arrival of her illegitimate child. Upon finding out that Sharon may be pregnant, Sharon’s father acted much more ambivalently than the average loving father, hinting at an unforeseen distance in familial connection between his daughter and himself; Sharon appears to be anything but “daddy’s little girl” as is made obvious by his reaction. Speaking to her mother about her pregnancy first, an authentic reaction is observed through the frustrated and anxious tears of Veronica, as “She thought that Sharon’s news deserved more attention, and some sort of punishment. As far as Veronica was concerned this was the worst thing that had ever happened to the family. ” (150). Jimmy, however, is unable to embrace his feelings relating to Sharon’s pregnancy; for some unknown reason he seeks to banish his emotions and remain strong for the family. Despite any noble intentions of pushing his feelings aside, Jimmy incites more mental suffering upon himself and his daughter, as she is unable to understand why he does not feel more strongly about her pregnancy. Jimmy, Sr. cannot be true to his own feelings and cannot rationalize how his role as the father figure of the family must evolve. Perhaps it is a positive attribute that he can remain so indifferent to the opinions and rumors, which will inevitably circulate throughout his hometown, Barrytown. Nevertheless, he cannot avoid the turmoil within himself that these criticisms will later rouse. Instead of telling Sharon exactly how he feels about this situation, he swallows his disappointment and heartache to be strong for her, but instead brings about confusion, as he appears to not be a very strong patriarchal figure. Jimmy Sr. goes on so far as to say that he believes Sharon to be a modern girl, a free-thinking woman who should not have to get married because of unwanted pregnancy, an obvious dodging of how he really feels. As Sharon grows up and matures in order to raise her baby properly, so must Jimmy, Sr. as he strives to develop into a more acceptable head of the household through many trails with his daughter and his own self.

Unable to deal with his anger over harsh words spoken about his daughter in a rational way, Jimmy, Sr. becomes violent in one instance and cries childishly in another, offering tainted justification which Sharon uses to prove him a hypocrite, and all of which establish a role reversal between Jimmy and his daughter. Seeking out to defend Sharon’s honor, Jimmy gains a bloody nose in a fight with some of the fellows down at the bar, and comes back home proud of his injury. His actions infuriate Sharon as she is unable to grasp why he would feel the need to take such childish measures; violence certainly would not hinder the mocking of her reputation. Most parents will recommend to children who are being bullied that, “You’re a fucking eejit, Daddy. Why couldn’t yeh just ignore them? ” (277); Sharon proves beyond her years by explaining this to her father, who apparently does not think rationally in regard to dealing with these jeering, drunken men he associates with. It does not even appear that Jimmy, Sr. understands her reasoning for not wanting him to lowering himself to their methods, especially in saying, “All Jimmy Sr had wanted was value for his nosebleed. But something had gone wrong. A bit of gratitude was all he expected. ” (278). It is painfully obvious from this statement that Jimmy, Sr. has learned nothing from the lesson Sharon has tried to impart to him, but she hopes that he will act differently the next time this situation arises, as it inevitably will. Also, when told that Sharon was a good ride by some of his bar pals, Jimmy, Sr. begins to cry and commences telling his daughter about it as a warning for her to know what is being said about herself. Sharon points out, however, that her father has considered other young ladies “rides” themselves, and wants him to realize this is no different, because they are all someone’s daughter. This is a hard lesson for Jimmy, Sr. to take in, but through his daughter’s actions and criticisms, he is able to being to understand what actions he must take, and what actions he definitely must steer clear of in his role as an active father for this pregnant young woman.

The earlier avoidance of conflict and confrontation of true emotions during the opening scene manifests itself into a childish evasion of Sharon altogether following her reprimands, as Jimmy attempts to make her feel guilty for the sin she has committed. By only speaking to her in casual passing and “enjoy[ing] his depression when Sharon was around or when he thought she was around and he could enjoy a few pints with the lads as well. ” (283), Jimmy sought to gain leverage against her claims, to make her remorseful for having sexual intercourse outside of wedlock. However, this plan backfires through the careful manipulation of her father with the threat of moving out, and Sharon is able to bring out his embarrassment due to presence of her unborn child. In this elaborate role reversal, Sharon is the one to confront her father about his less than friendly behavior in an attempt to correct the situation. She twists the situation back on him by demanding “Did I do somethin’ to yeh? I’m pregnant. I saw yeh lookin’ at me. —I’ve disgraced the family. ”(286), but this forces him to admit that he in fact is ashamed of her deeds. When Sharon apologizes to Jimmy, all he really wanted to hear from her to reconcile his differences with her, he insists that she not leave the family. This incidence represents a prime turning point in the evolution of their relationship as the father is, for the first time, truly able to open up to his daughter and make peace with her pregnancy, despite that she must take on the parental role for these results to come about. Examples of such a role reversal abound in this novel as one finds Jimmy, Sr. volleying back and forth between acting as an adult and acting as a child, although, after this scene, he no longer finds it imperative to hide his emotions.

As the novel’s storyline progresses, Jimmy, Sr. makes many very serious, whole-hearted attempts to create a stronger and more intimate bond between his daughter and himself, first by educating himself about her pregnancy. While Veronica seems to desire no part in her pregnancy despite the fact that she herself has been through this occurrence as she is a mother of six children, Jimmy, Sr. takes great interest in Sharon’s health and well-being, perhaps an attempt in making amends for his lack of sentiment upon her initial announcement of pregnancy. Jimmy, Sr. purchases books about pregnancy and becomes relatively educated, even explaining that “Hormonal changes are perfectly normal…But sometimes, like, there are side effects. Snottiness or depression or actin’ a bit queer. ” (306). By suggesting these consequences of pregnancy Jimmy, Sr. makes allowance for any strange behavior coming from Sharon, and therefore, expresses to her that he understands that she may be moody at times but won’t take it personally, although sometimes he should. This is a small step of him coming forward and opening himself up to her in his path to maturing as a father figure. He now also has a new concrete conversation topic to share with his daughter, without having to get too deep into emotional issues, and she feels he is the only one who really cares about this pregnancy. In addition, her father checks up on her when she is vomiting from morning sickness and drives her to work so that she will not have to walk. He even escorts her to Hikers one night so that they may talk, but sends her off to her friends so that he may join his bar mates, much as a teenager would send his parents off when he tired of them. Overall, Jimmy, Sr. affirms his position as father and head of the household in his assistance and concern for Sharon

In the final scene, Sharon’s father drives her to the hospital when her labor begins, instructing her on her breathing and solidifying a more parental relationship with her, trying to prove that he has stepped up to the plate and is prepared to take care of her and her child. This act completes the evolution of the relationship between father and daughter in this novel, although it will later continue to develop in The Van, however, much less drastically.

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Summary of Roddy Doyle’s Barrytown Trilogy (Part 2)

June 24th, 2010 Comments off

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As a whole, Sharon’s pregnancy has vastly improved her relationship with her entire family, particularly with Jimmy, Sr. establishing for the first time a close parental bond between the two as her father assumes his role as caretaker of his family.

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Battered Woman Syndrome and its Legal Implications

June 22nd, 2010 Comments off

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In American and other Western-modeled courtrooms around the world, an increasing insurgence of testimony pertaining to the innocence or guilt of thousands of battered women abused by their intimate partners, who later lashed out and killed their violent spouses, is being examined from a psychological standpoint.   Here, I will examine the positive benefits, negative consequences, and further implications of the use of testimony pertaining to Battered Woman syndrome in today’s judicial system. I also seek to establish a convincing claim that testimony concerning this syndrome should be admissible in all instances.

One million women are sent to doctor’s offices and emergency rooms around the country for treatment every year as a result of physical abuse, making battering by spouse or loved the leading cause of injury in American women (Wrightman & Fulero, 2005).   To this end, nearly fifty percent of homeless women and children entering homeless shelters are fleeing from male violence, and nearly one thousand, four hundred women (or six percent of all murder victims) who are killed by abusive partners each year (Wrightman & Fulero, 2005).   Similar statistics maintain that spousal violence contributes to one forth of all reported suicide attempts by women in any given year, providing a solid evidence that abusive relations create significant psychological harm.

Lenore Walk first coined the term “Battered Woman syndrome” in the context of a heated court decision in 1979, and continued to develop the term as classified by situational factors alone, insisting that no particular personality traits or factors predispose these women to engage in and maintain violent relationships by strongly rejecting the notion that battered women have masochistic personalities (McMahon, 1999). Although a precise definition of Battered Woman syndrome remains obscure despite growing acknowledgement by the scientific community and endorsement by the American Psychological Association, methodical studies by trained psychologists, many of which we will investigate in detail, have revealed in situations of domestic violence a typical pattern of behavioral functioning for the male batterer and his female victim in addition to typical responses on the part of this same female victim (McMahon, 1999).   By breaking down the two components of this theorized psychological impairment, we first define syndrome as a collection of symptoms that occur together and characterize a particular disease (Hubble, 1999).   Of great scrutiny, however, researchers question the usage of the syndrome classification because this term implies that all symptoms and responses are consistent for every woman in the applicable situation.   The definition of a battered woman as determined by Hocking (1999) applies to a woman who is eighteen years of age or older, and who has been in an intimate relationship with a man who repeatedly subjects (or in the past subjected) her to forceful physical and/or psychological abuse.   Bradfield (2002) suggests that Battered Woman syndrome can be defined as “a distortion of thought and perception, impaired ability to perceive and realistically appraise alternatives and delusions regarding the batterer and relationships,” although considerable debate continues on the breadth and specificity of the psychological impairment.   The duality of the term Battered Woman syndrome describes both the pattern of violence within a relationship, “as well as the psychological and behavioral sequelae for the female victim”, in addition to the behavioral and psychological characteristics of the abusive male and his female victim (Hocking, 1999).   Further described as a general pattern of reaction to physical and psychological abuse inflicted on a woman by her spouse, Hocking (1999) identifies those diagnosed with Battered Woman syndrome to possess a “collection of specific characteristics and effects of abuse that result in a woman’s decreased ability to respond effectively to the violence against her, and a set of particular symptoms, characteristics, and problems experienced by a woman in an ongoing physically abusive relationship with a man” (Hocking, 1999).   These extreme circumstances may produce a continual state of shame, isolation, guilt, depression, passivity, learned helplessness, implications of traditional sex role attitudes, low-self esteem, and dependency, propelling a battered woman to a situation of choosing to kill herself or the batterer or else face being reduced to a psychological state in which sustained physical existence has little or any meaning or value (Ewing, 1990).    Overall, the experience of a battered woman may include a history of fatal threats by her husband, prior life-threatening abusive incidents, and a belief that her husband could eventually kill her due increasing severity and frequency of the abuse, all factors which must be taken into consideration when analyzing the mental state of an individual on trial (Follingstand, Ponek, Hause, Deaton, Bulger, & Conway, 1989).

As the result of a perpetual state of fear produced by repeated physical abuse by one’s spouse, mental anguish may affect all aspects of human functioning in battered women, thus causing women in these circumstances to display a variety of characteristics similar to those exhibited by sufferers of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.   Hubble (1999) has concluded that individuals assessed as having Battered Woman syndrome experience fear and terror with elevated levels of anger and rage towards their abuser, in addition to impaired functioning including an inability to engage in planful behavior, which can become particularly inhibitory in determining a safe and effective escape from the abuser when conditions are favorable.   This same source also focuses upon a finding that battered women may begin to lose the “assumption of invulnerability and safety that ‘things would turn out’ alright or ‘this won’t happen to me’”, concluding that such beliefs often dissipate in the onslaught of abuse and violence (Hubble, 1999).   Based on this determination, it is fairly easily to understand why women who are battered respond with hypervigilance to cues of danger, noticing subtle aspects of their partner’s behavior which others would deem inconsequential and ignore, and as a result may initiate a preemptive strike to what appears to be unrelated behavior.   Battered women also most often display a high tolerance for cognitive inconsistency, that is, they may express two logically inconsistent ideas but fail to comprehend the discrepancy (Wrightman & Fulero, 2005).   Due to this phenomenon, many often do not assess their habitual situation and alternatives for habitation from a coherent standpoint, instead demonstrating in a diminished-responsiveness reaction focusing all energies upon survival within the relationship rather than seeking out other safe options outside of the marriage.   As evidenced when Walker interviewed four hundred battered women in 1993, eighty-five percent felt they could be killed at any point in the future, but failed to dissolve the union for an unspecified reason based on diminished alternatives (Wrightman & Fulero, 2005).

A remarkable and often controversial aspect of Battered Woman syndrome which deserves considerable attention is the notion that many women are plagued by self-defeat in a theory of learned helplessness developed by Martin Seligman (1975).   Seligman established in his laboratory experiments with animals that, after being exposed to variable aversive and unavoidable stimuli repeatedly in a randomized fashion, his mammalian subjects subsequently failed to utilize available opportunities to escape from the painful stimuli (McMahon, 1999).   In a similar way, female humans learn that, as abuse by their husbands continue, regardless of any of her attempted actions to halt this violence, she cannot control the battering and hence, assume that she has no control over her own environment (Schuller, Wells, Rzepa, & Klippenstine, 2004).   Women in these instances of psychological paralysis eventually cease to avoid the painful stimuli, believing that nothing can be done to prevent being subjected to the abuse and fail to recognize available alternative avenues for escape (Ewing, 1990).

Despite a presumption that most battered women do in fact live in this perpetual state of fear as an indication of learned helplessness, research has yielded evidence that some victims of domestic violence report a cyclic nature to the abuse, describing lulls in the destructive and painful behavior by their spouse (Schuller & Hastings, 1996).   The three phases of the described cycle begin in an initial tension building stage where the wife will often perceive her husband as becoming exponentially more “edgy and more prone to react negatively to frustrations” (Wrightman & Fulero, 2005).   During this phase, as described by Wrightman and Fulero (2005), a woman’s hypervigilant nature may be engaged such that she begins to anticipate her partner’s transitions of moods and his needs in the presence of small episodes of physical and verbal abuse.   As a result of these more trivial abusive instances and a persistent fear of more painful episodes which will inevitably occur in the future, it appears that battered women most often kill their partners during this tension building phase.    Following this apprehensive stage full of anxiety by the wife, an acute battering incident occurs and can last anywhere from two to twenty-four hours.   As Wrightman and Fulero (2005) note, “anticipation of this second stage results in severe psychological stress for the battered woman; she becomes anxious, depressed, and complains of other psycho-physiological symptoms. ”  The final stage which often mitigates flight impulses in a battered woman occurs when the abusive husband admits that his violent reactions are unacceptable and attempts to make amends through apology and promises that he will never behave that way again.   This observation to be more thoroughly addressed is forensically significant in circumstances where a time gap between an abusive threat of death or seriously bodily injury by the husband and the battered woman’s prima facie criminal act (such as killing her abusive partner in his sleep) exists.   In the case of these discrepancies, a symptomatic cycle of violence provides a psychological link in the criminal proceedings for the battered woman between the two temporally distinct occurrences (McMahon, 1999).

As a result of the apparent manipulation of battered women in this incessant cycle of abuse and absolution as identified by those of us on the outside of a particular series of circumstances, the American public have adopted views and often times strong stereotypes against battered women which can hinder a fair unbiased jury composition during trial.   There is a tendency to characterize the violence of the murdered husband as ensuing from difficulties within the marriage rather than resulting entirely from a flaw in the violent partner himself, thus placing a slight yet significant degree of blame upon the battered woman (Bradfield, 2002).   A study conducted by Reddy et al. addresses an underlying belief that the battered woman is somehow responsible for her continued abuse because she places herself repeatedly in a situation where she has prior knowledge that she will continued to be beaten (Bradfield, 2002).   Society’s expectations assume that battered women should and will leave violent relationships prior to the actual murder of a spouse, and when this does not occur, individuals question the motives and rationale of the women in these relationships.   Therefore, although the accused may inform a jury fully of her reasons for remaining with her husband throughout the battering cycles, a common sense understanding by jury members may lead them to question the severity of her abuse claims.   Additionally, according to Bradfield (2002), these perceptions are further “reinforced by the dominant societal and legal conception of domestic violence that focuses on isolated and discrete episodes of violence which facilitates the position that leaving the relationship is the sole appropriate form of self-assertion” (Bradfield, 2002).   Several misconceptions continue to circulate throughout American courtrooms particularly that battered women provoke their abuse, remain in these relationship because they enjoy the physical abuse aspect, or that violence fulfills some dark and deep-seated need within each partner (Spring & Winston, 1994), many of which could bear considerable influence on the decision of a jury during trial.

Although the scientific community acknowledges these assumptions of pleasure derived from physical violence and verbal ridicule as completely inaccurate, one must question what distinguishes a battered woman from other wives who are not physically, emotionally, or psychologically abused, and also the factors which differentiate battered women who kill from those who do not.   Empirical research conducted by Hocking (1999) has revealed discrepancies between battered wives and those engaged in more healthy forms of marriage, stating that battered women are “over-socialized, submissive, dependent, conforming and self-less, cautious, controlling, superstitious, submissive, anxious,” and possess poor coping skills.   Bradfield (2002) further explains that women in violent dyads are more emotionally dependent on their husbands than those in nonviolent dyads, have lower self-image than those in nonviolent unions, and tend to perceive their husbands more positively than women who are in nonviolent marriages (Anson & Sagy, 1995).   On measures of marital and gender social organizational attitudes as assessed by Warren and Lanning (1992), it was determined that women in violent relationships responded significantly differently to four out of twelve statements concerning the division of labor and authority within the family than those in non-violent unions.   According to this study, more women in the violent condition agreed that their husbands had the right to decide about intercourse, when she is able to leave the home for an outing, and that assertive women harm the dynamics of their families (Anson & Sagy, 1995).   In terms of maintaining the relationship, battered women, it seems are more emotionally dependent on their husbands; “when their husbands go out, they feel, as may have been expected, more relieved and relaxed; they also, however, reported more frequent feelings of being angry, sad, and lonely (Anson & Sagy, 1995).   Findings from this research study contradict a proposition that battered women have lowered self-esteem in that, it was verified that the self-image of women in violent marriages were quite similar to those in the non-violent condition, although the battered women were more nervous and less happy compared to their peers as reported by Walker (1984).   Women in violent relationships, moreover, tend to perceive violence as commonplace, justifying their husbands actions with positive emotions, including love, and in many cases, actually believe that they bring their fate upon themselves.   It is still a matter of debate whether these perceptions are a result of early socialization or perhaps are developed as a reaction to the violent martial experience (Anson & Sagy, 1995).

Ewing (1990) suggests that battered women who eventually commit murder may be subjected to more severe abuse, more frequent abuse, threatened with weapons, subjected to threats of death, especially threats of retaliation for leaving, are somewhat older and less educated, thus left with fewer options for economic support in the absence of an abusive partner, and have fewer resources for coping than do battered women in general.   Additionally, women diagnosed as having Battered Woman syndrome are characterized with lower sociocultural and socioeconomic levels, more frequent use of alcohol and other drugs, greater anxiety and depression, more likely to still be habituating with an abusive partner at the time of the criminal offense, and exhibit significantly more deficits in cognitive functioning and disturbance in mental state on psychological tests than those who do not kill their spouses (McMahon, 1999).   This same source determined that those with Battered Woman syndrome also demonstrated an increased risk for obsessive compulsive disorder, psychosexual dysfunction and post traumatic stress disorder as consistent with Walker’s description of Battered Woman syndrome (McMahon, 1999).   But the true question at hand is whether situational factors, such as the husband’s repeated assaults, and the emotional state of his female victims, including feelings of helplessness and guilt, contribute to the manifestations of this syndrome rather than more enduring traits of the woman (Walus-Wigle & Reidmeloy, 1988).   One could suggest that possibly certain disorders for example, borderline, self-defeating, or dependent personality disorders predispose an abused wife to the clinical development of Battered Woman syndrome.   Walker cites research conducted by Rosewater (1985) assessing abused women using the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory, to examine the possibility of such a claim, suggesting that Battered Woman syndrome is identifiable by high scores on the MMPI scales measuring depression, anger, suspiciousness, and confusion and that low ego strength was typically found as well in repeatedly battered women (McMahon, 1999).   As a result of this and previously discussed studies, it becomes apparent that battered women who kill do possess a particular pathology different from those who avoid this homicidal act, although it is not quite understood yet as to whether these psychological abnormalities result from the cycle of violence or by internal factors of the woman herself, the resulting syndrome represents a rationale for homicide in the courtroom.

In addition to a thorough psychological evaluation conducted by the defense counsel to assess a woman’s particular adherence to Battered Woman syndrome criteria, an examination of the previous history of abuse, attempts to leave the relationship, and a woman’s particular feelings concerning the deceased are taken into account when an abused woman who kills her husband is taken to trial.   Although attaining the status of a battered woman does not in itself justify a homicidal act against one’s husband, testimony pertaining to this syndrome is important for arguing the self-defense claim.   In many criminal proceedings, an expert witness is introduced to testify about the nature of the physical violence and psychological abuse the accused killer was being subjected to, offering, as Wrightman and Fulero (2005) suggest, “explanations for puzzling behavior by the [abuse] victim. ”  Such Battered Woman syndrome testimony is elucidated to the court in an attempt to mitigate or absolve the abused wife from her legal responsibility for the act of killing; however, evidence of this syndrome is not a defense to a criminal charge in itself and must be used in conjunction within the existing framework of self-defense (3).   Nevertheless, as McMahon (1999) also demonstrates, in some cases, American courts may rule that Battered Woman syndrome does not constitute a “scientific field of expertise”, and thus exclude expert testimony pertaining to this issue (3 year).   Finally, in evaluating the necessity of Battered Woman syndrome expert testimony in any given court trial, one must take into account the existence of community myths and stereotypes where jurors and spectators fail to understand the dynamics of the domestic violence incurred as well as the patterns of response for the abused spouses, ultimately impacting the decision-making process for guilt or innocence (Bradfield, 2002).   In such instances, a juror’s pre-existing beliefs about spousal abuse, belief in a just world, and his or her gender may influence the impact of expert testimony upon the outcome of the trial (Spring & Winston, 1994).

Expert testimony regarding Battered Woman syndrome has been met with mixed reactions and varied resulting verdicts in courtrooms around the world including those of the United States, Australia, New Zealand and Great Britain since it was first deemed admissible in the 1979 trial of Ibn-Tamas versus the United States.   Expert testimony is most often presented in trials of battered women who kill to provide the first steps for understanding the syndrome in the ordinary person who approaches jury duty without knowledge of the woman’s heightened perception of danger, the impact of this extreme fear on her thinking, and her rationale for being unable to escape the relationship (Schuller, McKimmie, & Janz, 2004), often factors that even the woman herself cannot understand or explain.  Expert evidence of the pathology of Battered Woman syndrome may answer relevant questions pertaining to the individual case and the plight of the woman’s mental capacity such as “(1) why a person subjected to prolonged and repeated abuse would remain in such a relationship, (2) the nature and extent to the violence that may exist in such a relationship producing a response, (3) the accused’s ability in such a relationship to perceive danger from the abuser, and (4) whether the particular accused believed on reasonable grounds that there was no other way to preserve herself from death or grievous bodily harm than by resorting to the conduct giving rise to the charge” (Terrance & Matheson, 2003).

Despite the overwhelming landmark victory in the introduction of expert evidence for battered women who do kill their spouses, as Schuller and Rzepa (2002) indicate, “indeed the impetus it provided for the court’s eventual acknowledgement of the obstacles confronting a battered woman’s claim of self-defense, represents an important and significant legal achievement”, this form of testimony was met with opposition by legal and feminist scholars.   This same source notes that in a jury simulation study, the beneficial impact of Battered Woman syndrome testimony solely depends on the defendant’s degree of fit within the passive characterization of the battered woman as described within the context of the trial (Schuller & Rzepa, 2003). In the description of events leading up to the murder such as aggressive or self-defensive acts including physical harm, verbal insults, or other variations of striking out against the abuser, Schuller and Hastings have determined that expert evidence is not as effective in rendering a not guilty verdict (Schuller et al. 2004).   Schuller and Vidmar (1992) state that the presence of expert testimony, overall however, actually increases an individual juror’s tendency to give more credence to the woman’s claim of fear and danger, and when compared to a non-expert control condition, participants rated the likelihood of success with an insanity plea to be greater when taking into account the woman’s psychological situation as described in expert testimony.   Finally, a moderate shift towards the ruling of manslaughter and a verdict of diminished capacity were evident when jurors were provided with background evidence pertaining the woman’s situation and typical responses of other women in similar abused lifestyles in the form of expert testimony (Schuller & Hastings, 1996).

Despite the increased usage of expert testimony and improved public awareness of any psychological implications stemming from domestic violence, this knowledge, as Bradfield (2002) describes, fails to be translated into an unwavering acceptance of self-defense as the appropriate defense for women who indeed kill their abusive husbands.   Based on a principle which vows that those who are being unlawfully attacked by another human have the legal right to take reasonable and necessary steps in defending herself, the doctrine of self-defense is designed to apply equally to all persons, but meeting these criteria has proven a complex and controversial challenge for those plighted with Battered Woman syndrome when brought to trial (Terrance & Matheson, 2003).   When a battered woman murders her abuser and then pleads not guilty by reason of self-defense, she encounters many obstacles in conveying this claim to a jury of her peers, who often times have presumed beliefs concerning the consequences and effects of violent behavior by men against women in intimate relationships (Schuller & Vidmar, 1992).

Despite the prevalence of the self-defense plea, most battered women who kill are convinced because as Wrightman and Fulero (2005) describe, the “requirements of the current self-esteem law equate self with only the physical aspects of personhood”, thus eliminating those instances where women kill sometime following beatings or threats from falling within this category.   As a result, some battered women may plead not guilty by reason of insanity, arguing that they were unable to tell the difference between right and wrong at the time of the incident due to mental incompetence from sustained head injuries or by mental anguish from an abusive husband’s behavior, and therefore, should be exempt from culpability (Terrance, Matheson & Spanos, 2000).   However, as experts contend, this defense can be construed as demeaning to the woman as she is merely acting to save her own life (Wrightman & Fulero, 2005).   Based on 1987 statistics, Browner concluded that fifty-six percent of battered women who murdered their spouses pled not guilty by reason of self-defense, thirty-three percent pled not guilty to lesser charges in return for leniency, and only eight percent of all battered women brought to trial pled not guilty by reason of insanity (Follingstand et al. 1989).

To understand the failure of self-defense pleas, one must extract all applicable meaning as defined by American laws to address how each aspect could be argued to imply innocence for the defendant on trial.   The principle of self-defense is governed under the standard of reasonable necessity, however, when the homicide is committed outside of an actual instance of battering, the jury may have a hard time deciphering an adequate legal ruling on this issue. As Bradfield (2002) finds, “absent [of the] raise[d] knife-pointed gun scenario – the immediate confrontation – where the threat conforms to the paradigm case of self-defense and the seriousness of the threat is obvious, battered women need to be able to convey to the jury the necessity of the resort to fatal force in their circumstances,” thus proving a woman’s fate to be largely dependent on have convincing her argument is constructed.   To assess the legitimacy of a woman’s claim for self-defense, domestic violence must be understood in the realm of an overall pattern of power and control within the violence, not just as a series of isolated events.   Attorneys highlight the culminating incidents of battery to provide a backing for the reasonableness of the woman’s actions so that, as the law has traditionally required, it seems logical that an “ordinary man” would attempt these same deadly actions in a similar situation (Schuller & Rzepa, 2002).   This definition and understanding of reasonableness of deadly force varies by jurisdiction in the United States, so that in some courtrooms a subjective standard is utilized such that reasonableness is based on the cognition of the defendant rather than that of an ordinary person (Schuller et al. 2004).

The laws of self-defense equate self in terms of corporeal aspects of human existence, including those processes required for sustaining life, but fail to encompass aspects of psychological functioning and dimensions of the battering experience, which can prove problematic for an abused woman who kills her husband (Schuller et al. 2004).   A doctrine of psychological self-defense has been proposed to fill this gap in self protection in order that an individual who kills to preserve the normalcy of her psychological state to safeguard the meaning and value of her physical existence be justified in this killing (Ewing, 1990).   If laws were amended to reflect this understanding, jurors would be provided with an expanded understanding of the defendant’s circumstances, and as a result, I believe that those assessed as having Battered Woman syndrome would be permitted a more realistic and fair trial.

An important component in the homicidal situation to be considered both as consequence to mental health criteria and in the courtroom is the imminence of threat the victim was in at the time of her decision.   As mentioned previously, self-defense criteria demands that the defendant must prove to a jury of her peers that her actions were reasonable when taking into account the degree of danger she was under.   In these laws of self-defense, a precise and narrow legal focus is placed on discrete incidents of violence, the most recent deemed most significant without regard to the evidence of the history of the relationship, determining these facts merely contextualize the abusive incident (Schuller, Wells, Rzepa, & Klippenstine, 2004).   As a consequence Schuller et al. (2004) insist, “there is a failure to elicit at trial the experiences and effects of living a life of being abused. ”  This distortion is further reinforced in the very design of how the evidence is presented in the question and answer format of the examination-in-chief and cross-examination.   When unable to understand the abuse as a continuous cycle rather than purely in isolation, the imminence of danger to the defendant may not be obvious to the court or jury despite the appropriateness of the self-defensive action (Follingstand et al. 1989).   Additionally, when taking into account that nearly twenty percent of these murders were committed outside of direct confrontation (Schuller et al. 2004), during a period of relative calm such as when the husband is sleeping, rulings of not guilty by reason of self-defense dropped from seventy-six percent in attack conditions to forty-four percent when no immediate threat was apparent (Terrance, 2000).   Due to the delay between the batterer’s last violent act and the woman’s deadly response, not surprisingly, (Schuller et al. 2004) also found that these factors exerted a large degree of influence on the jury’s perception of the act as defensive, rendering more guilty verdicts in this condition.   In conclusion, however, one must keep in mind that like a modified definition of self-defense, the threat of imminence can be construed in favor of the battered woman.   In these instances, jury members may understand the context of imminence in terms of the perpetual state of fear model, such that the threat exists based on the very nature of the violent partner and his presence within the home which could instigate further abusive encounters (Schuller & Hastings, 1996).

In addition to the influence of understanding and instructions for the applicability of self-defense provided by the court to jurors during deliberation, the personality and previously held convictions of jury members as relevant to Battered Woman syndrome play a primary role in determining whether the defendant will be charged with murder or released from custody.   A statistical analysis of verdicts prior to 1980 concluded that twenty-seven percent of all adults attributed equal or predominant blame to the wife in the instance of abuse, and based on this determination, one can conclude that during this time period, at least one fourth of jurors also possessed this inherent bias towards a woman’s liability (Follingstand et al. 1989).   Such assumptions may be a result of a strong subscription to the belief in a just world, such that, individuals feel that those who violate ethical and moral boundaries deserve and will receive proper punishment by external forces around them.   An empirical study by Rubin and Peplau established that individuals who strongly accept this belief in a just world tend to devalue victims and actually merit abusive occurrences because, as proposed, they are unable to identify with being in the same position of the victim (1989).   However, a follow-up study conducted by Follingstad et al. revealed that only eight percent of the total variance in jury verdicts was due to the participants’ belief in feminism theories and in a belief in a just world combined (Terrance et al. 2000).   In general, Spring and Winston (1994) support this finding in explaining that those who express a weak belief in a just world are often more lenient in their not guilty verdicts, also concluding that expert testimony more strictly applies to the defendant in the described individual case than for those who were strong believers of a just world.   Gender also had a strong influence in verdict leniency in that women, compared to men, are more likely to deem the defendant’s claim for self-defense more credible (Schuller et al. 2004). Specifically, Schuller et al. (2004) explains, “in comparison to male participants, women were more likely to find the defendant’s claim of fear more plausible and to believe that she was trapped within the relationship,” but noted no gender differences in terms of perception of other available options to the defendant instead of murder.   In conclusion, it becomes clear that individual personality traits, attitudinal beliefs, and predetermined factors such as gender moderate the influence of expert testimony and self-defense pleas in trials of battered women who kill abusive spouses.

Despite the many controversial issues surrounding the assessment and usage of Battered Woman syndrome testimony in court, one must understand that the inquiry as to whether an accused woman did indeed kill her husband due to a mental disorder diagnosis and thus should be pardoned from conviction is solely at the discretion of the legal system.   Psychological findings and evidence of pathology are only as effective as they are conveyed to jury members and judges through expert testimony, and therefore, steps must be taken to refine and increase the saliency of all presented information for the defense.   It is important to note, however, that by introducing this terminology into today’s courtrooms, attorneys and psychologists alike are perpetrating negative connotations of battered women.   When emphasis is placed on the personal inadequacies described under the realm of learned helplessness to explain a battered woman’s failure to flee from her abuser, the legal shift away from the objective rationality of her actions to preserve her own life paints a picture of a dysfunctional and incapable human being.   This is not to say that the theory of learned helplessness should not be applied to women in similar circumstances, but instead, I deem it important to fully educate the general public against stereotypes disseminated and supported through misinterpretation of this evidence.   In a comparable light, Schuller et al. (2004) found that the presence of expert evidence providing a diagnosis of Battered Woman syndrome without adequate explanation led mock jurors to perceive the defendant as more distorted in her thinking and less capable of making responsible choices, factors which could be of great consequence in later child custody hearings.   Taking all of these findings into consideration, I must agree with the use of Battered Woman syndrome testimony when applied properly with full explanation, but also concur with Hubble’s (1999) recommendation that the court should examine the defendant’s financial situation, access to affordable childcare, and the likely effectiveness of legal protection that could have been provided prior to murder as well.   Finally, as is now evident, Battered Woman syndrome is a plight endured by many thousands of Americans and must be sufficiently examined by legal and psychological scholars alike to provide a proper setting for expert testimony and an adaptive role for the psychological self-defense plea in the courtroom.

References

Anson, O. Sagy, S. (1995). Marital violence: Comparing women in violent and

nonviolent unions. Human Relations, 48, 285-305.

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Battered Woman Syndrome and its Legal Implications (Part 2)

June 22nd, 2010 Comments off

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Bradfield, R. (2002). Understanding the battered woman who kills her violent partner –

the admissibility of expert evidence of domestic violence. Psychiatry, Psychology,

and Law, 9, 177-199.

Ewing, C. (1990). Psychological self-defense: A proposed justification for battered

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Follingstand, D. Ponek, D. Hause, E. Deaton, L. Bulger, M. Conway, Z. (1989).

Factors predicting verdicts in cases where battered women kill their husbands.

Law and Human Behavior, 13, 253-269.

Hocking, B. (1999). Limited (and gendered? concessions to human frailty: Frightened

women, angry men and the law of provocation. Psychiatry, Psychology, and Law,

6, 57-66.

Hubble, G. (1999). Self-defense and domestic violence: A reply to Bradfield. Psychiatry,

Psychology, and Law, 6, 51-56.

McMahon, M. (1999). Battered women and bad science: The limited validity and utility

of battered woman syndrome. Psychiatry, Psychology and Law, 6, 23-49.

Schuller, R. Hastings, P. (1996). Trials of battered women who kill: The impact of

alternative forms of expert evidence. Law and Human Behavior, 20, 167-189.

Schuller, R. McKimmie, B. Janz, T. (2004). The impact of expert testimony in trials of

battered women who kill. Psychiatry, Psychology and Law, 1, 1-12.

Schuller, R. Rzepa, S. (2002). Expert testimony pertaining to battered woman syndrome:

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Schuller, R. Vidmar, N. (1992). Battered woman syndrome evidence in the courtroom: A

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Schuller, R. Wells, E. Rzepa, S. Klippenstine, M. (2004). Rethinking battered woman

syndrome evidence: The impact of alternative forms of expert testimony on mock

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Spring, M. Winston, V. (1994). Juror’s decisions in trials of battered women who kill: The

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Premarital Cohabitation’s Influence Upon Stability and Satisfaction in Subsequent Marriages (Part 3)

June 15th, 2010 Comments off

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In addition to the rationale that cohabitation takes time to experience, a delay from informal union into marriage for cohabiting couples is also a factor relative to the coresidential experience. Using data from the 1990 General Social Survey, it becomes evident that cohabitational experience delays the timing of a first marriage by approximately twenty-six percent for women and nineteen percent for men even when selective factors have been controlled for (Wu, 1999). Finally a lack of joint investment as a general mechanism to bind couples together has been proven to be relevant in the experience of cohabitation and subsequent marital dissolution. Economic division of income and resources works against a theory that suggests that through both partners’ joint investment in the relationship, each become increasingly dependent on one another as gain from the current relationship exceeds prospective gains from any alternative (Brines & Joyner, 1999).

Although less research has been conducted pertaining to the thesis of a causal effect of cohabitation upon martial success, significant empirical support emphasizes a generated hypothesis that martial outcome may in fact be due to a combination of the working factors of selectivity in partners for a cohabitating experience. Often partners who enter into a premarital coresidential relationship with previously described personal qualities and individualistic tendencies learn that these functionings of self are well maintained in the constructs of cohabitation through experiences encountered during the relationship, thus further reinforcing this distinctive behavior. In couples where no cohabitation prior to marriage has taken place, the adults may enter into marriage with an independent and individualistic view, but these traits may transition into interdependence as the individual adapts to a more traditional view of marriage due to societal pressures and conformity norms.

Division of Resource

As a result of preselectivity, effects from certain experiences within cohabitation or a combination of both these factors working simultaneously, a variety of contrasts between concrete dynamics in married versus cohabitating relationships may lead to eventual marital termination. In keeping with this argument, Brines and Joyner (1999, p. 339) define a “distinction between the individualistic ethos of cohabitors and the more collectivist orientation of married partners” which contributes to an expression of different patterns in resource management. Couples who share households outside of marriage often do not share joint ownership of these homes or joint bank accounts, thus reducing any risk through avoidance of investment activity in the relationship. Due to a higher degree of emphasis on equality as theorized by selective factors, premaritally cohabitating partners contribute nearly equal earnings into joint purchases and living expenses. Among couples with an employed male, Duvander (1999) found that female cohabitors earned on average ninety percent of their partner’s salary versus a wife’s earnings of just over sixty percent of her husband’s salary. Because the female member of a relationship provides an increased level of income during cohabitation in comparison to her previously married peers, when she herself enters marriage, an expectation for her to continue bringing in this income is apparent. However often times while these women contribute a significant percentage to the overall income, they continue to perceive themselves as being overburdened at home, causing large numbers of women who are no longer economically dependent on men to question the benefits of being legally married (Nicole & Baldwin, 1995). However, some data published by Stafford, Backman, and Dibona (1977) suggests that cohabiting couples share more household tasks than married couples, and thus, this breakdown of tasks may be carried over into marriage. Furthermore, Stafford, Backman, and Dibona (1977) determined that married men without cohabitating experience do less cooking, cleaning and laundry than those who cohabitated prior to marriage. This finding places a high degree of importance on equality of division of tasks for eventual marital success in couples who have previously cohabitated and thus share an equal level of employment.

Perceived Quality of Communication, Satisfaction and Stability

In addition to a reassignment of traditional division of task and resource, premarital cohabitation may also contribute to an eventual decrease of overall satisfaction in many aspects of a relationship following marriage in comparison to those who do not cohabitate prior to wedding. In a study based on the data analysis from the 1987-1988 National Survey of Family and Households measuring relationship quality across the five dimensions of disagreement, fairness, happiness, conflict, management, and interaction, it was determined that those who cohabitate experience disagreement with a higher frequency than their married counterparts, thus providing implications that such disagreement may continue into marriage if this level in relationship is achieved (Brown & Booth, 1996). Also determined from this data, people in marriages that were preceded by cohabitation have significantly lower levels of martial interaction and higher levels of disagreement and instability than those who had never cohabitated outside of the confines of marriage. Such an increase in the frequency of disagreements amongst couples who cohabitated before marriage may be attributed to the fact that, “many couples fail to develop conflict resolution abilities during the early stages of their relationship and encounter trouble later when they face problems that are complex and serious enough to require a high degree of such skill,” (Nicole & Baldwin, 1995, p. 6). Additionally, spouses who cohabitated before marriage reported lower levels of commitment to marriage as an institution, providing further evidence for instability within their individual relationships.

A previous empirical study conducted approximately twelve years prior to the analysis of the National Survey of Family and Households revealed similar results, finding that premarital cohabitation was associated with significantly lower perceived quality of communication for wives and significantly lower marital satisfaction for both spouses after controlling for sex-role traditionalism, church attendance, and other significant sociocultural factors (DeMaris & Gerald, 1984).

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