Issues of separation -individuation and gender role socialization in battered women: An investigation of the relationship between early developmental patterns and exposure to abusive relationships in adulthood

Jennifer A Walker, Pace University

Abstract

It has been estimated that between 21% and 34% of women in this country will be physically assaulted—slapped, kicked, beaten, choked, threatened or attacked with a weapon—by an intimate partner in adulthood (Browne, 1993). Some women who are involved in abusive relationships appear to be unable to remove themselves from the violent relationship. They baffle and frustrate those who attempt to help them when they initiate an escape, only to drop all efforts and return to their victimizers. This study investigated the relationship between early developmental patterns and involvement in abusive relationships in adulthood, based on reasons for women's tolerance of abusive relationships hypothesized in the literature. ^ Thirty-three women reporting relationship difficulties participated in the study. Based on their report of physical abuse in adulthood in the demographic questionnaire, they were divided into a group of eighteen Battered women and a group of fifteen non-Battered women. The two groups were compared on gender role (Bem Sex Role Inventory (Short Form), BSRI; Bem, 1981), gender identity (Solowey & Herman, 1986), level of separation-individuation disturbance (Separation-Individuation Inventory, SII; Christenson & Wilson, 1985), and level of object representation self-other differentiation (Object Representation Inventory Self-Other Differentiation Scale, ORI; Diamond, Kaslow, Coonerty, & Blatt, 1990). ^ It was hypothesized that Battered women would achieve lower levels of object representations and self-other differentiation than Non-battered women. This hypothesis as stated was partially confirmed. Battered women achieved significantly lower levels of object representations and self-other differentiation when describing themselves (M = 4.7, SD = 2.1), than did Non-battered women, (M = 6.4, SD = 1.4, t (31) = −2.79, p = .009). They also achieved significantly lower levels of object representations and self-other differentiation when describing their partners (M = 4.4, SD = 2.1) than did Non-battered women (M = 6.2, SD = 1.6, t (31) = .012). In addition, levels of object representations and self-other differentiation in their descriptions of their fathers (M = 4.6, SD = 1.5) were significantly lower than those of Non-battered women (M = 6.3, SD = 1.6, t (26) = −2.67, p = .013). The two groups did not differ significantly, however, in level of separation-individuation pathology, gender role, or gender identity. ^ These results suggest that early developmental patterns, specifically in significant relationships, are related to exposure to abusive relationships in adulthood. Implications of these findings are far reaching and call for future research in order to better understand how to prevent the development of the dynamics involved in abuse and domestic violence. ^

Subject Area

Women's Studies|Psychology, Developmental|Psychology, Clinical|Psychology, Personality

Recommended Citation

Jennifer A Walker, "Issues of separation -individuation and gender role socialization in battered women: An investigation of the relationship between early developmental patterns and exposure to abusive relationships in adulthood" (January 1, 2001). ETD Collection for Pace University. Paper AAI9988089.
http://digitalcommons.pace.edu/dissertations/AAI9988089

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