The Role of Traditional Gender Norms in Domestic Violence


Traditional gender norms play a huge role in perpetuating domestic violence, emphasizing power imbalance in relationships. Under traditional gender norms, men are placed in an authoritative position in a relationship, increasing their likelihood of domestic abuse towards their female partners and family members. 

By recognizing and challenging these norms, society can work toward creating more equitable and respectful relationships. More than that, it will encourage you to take the necessary steps to combat the long-lasting physical and mental health impacts of domestic violence on women, children, and young family members who are at a higher risk of being exposed to violence. 

This article will help you learn about the role of gender norms in domestic violence and power imbalances in family relationships. Start reading to understand the seriousness of domestic violence and cultivate the desire to break the cycle. 

Understanding the link between gender norms and domestic violence

The World Health Organization once indicated that about one in three women worldwide are victims of sexual and physical violence in their lifetime. This violent act was often perpetrated by their intimate partner, followed by other immediate family members and relatives. 

Historically, men and women have socially distinct traditional roles in the household. Men have been commonly perceived as breadwinners, responsible for providing financially for the family. 

Meanwhile, women have been relegated to caregiving and domestic tasks. These traditional roles put women dependent on men, making it difficult for women to acquire social and economic sanctions against potentially abusive husbands or leave abusive family relationships. 

Recognizing traditional gender roles illuminates the root causes of domestic abuse that create power imbalances within family relationships. This understanding allows for more effective prevention strategies to be developed, targeting the underlying societal attitudes and beliefs that perpetuate violence.

Here are a few ways in which traditional gender norms can perpetuate domestic violence: 

Power imbalance

Traditional roles create a situation where men hold more power and control in the family structure, both economically and socially. This condition often generates a sense of entitlement and superiority, leading to beliefs that they have the right to assert control over the subordinate gender, especially women. Meanwhile, women are often expected to remain passive, nurturing, and submissive. 

When a man believes that he is entitled to power and control in a relationship, he may resort to violent acts. This includes physical abuse, emotional manipulation, and economic coercion to maintain his power.

On the other hand, women may be more likely to tolerate or excuse the abuse, as she is in a dependent relationship with her husband, who provides her with the resources necessary for a living. 

Normalization of violence

Traditional gender norms that are deeply entrenched in society may normalize and excuse abusive behavior, particularly towards women.

The condition that entitles men with more power and control over social and economic resources is reinforced through the socialization of gender expressions. For example, men are often expected to be assertive, dominant, and in control. In contrast, women are dictated to be accommodating and passive. 

Abusive acts are not perceived as violating individual well-being and rights but are rather accepted as a part of daily life. As a consequence, aggressive behavior might be justified and seen as a normal component in a relationship involving men and women.

Impact on help-seeking behavior 

Even though domestic violence has existed for a long time, numerous barriers make it difficult for the victims to seek help. The barriers include low educational status, unemployment, and economic dependence. 

A study shows that women with better employment status had higher levels of help-seeking behavior due to their ability to generate income and pay out of pocket to seek help. 

Women who are not working and less educated than their husbands are less likely to seek help. In this context, gender norms that shape women’s access to resources, education, and employment can impact their tendency to seek help when subjected to domestic violence. 

Challenging traditional gender norms 

Traditional gender norms reinforce unequal power dynamics between genders, especially between men and women. By challenging these norms and promoting equality between genders, there will be a greater emphasis on mutual respect and understanding within a relationship, preventing the likelihood of domestic violence. 

Below are things that can contribute to breaking the cycle of domestic violence and prevent future generations from engaging in or tolerating domestic violence.

Promoting gender equality

Preventing domestic violence is possible if the fundamental norms that give birth to gender inequality are addressed. As traditional gender norms have profound impacts on the behaviors that women and men are expected to do, gender inequality enhances the risk of conducting violence by men against women. 

You can take part in promoting gender equality by first being aware of gender stereotypes and how they can lead to violence. Stay informed so that you can educate others about it.

You can promote gender equality starting with your own family. For example, start by simply sharing domestic responsibilities across genders so that these duties do not fall only on a specific gender, especially women. 

Early education and awareness

Education plays a critical role in helping students, especially children and young people, to raise awareness of domestic abuse as a criminal act and thus prevent abusive tendencies later in life. 

The content of the education curriculum may cover a wide range of topics that assist children and young people in better understanding domestic violence, its contributory factors, signs, and how to address domestic violence properly. 

The curriculum may include topics such as gender equality, healthy relationships, consent, and communication skills that can equip students with the right knowledge early on. 

As a family, you can help your children raise awareness of domestic violence and better understand how to prevent it by allowing them to engage in activities that foster empathy and respect. 

For example, you can read your children a book that addresses themes such as consent, respect, and boundaries in relationships. You can even watch a movie that depicts a character who addresses conflict in nonviolent ways. 

Community support services

Communities play a pivotal role in supporting domestic violence survivors and encouraging those who are exposed to violence to seek help. 

Research has shown that domestic violence is strongly associated with poor psychological and physical health, as well as lowered overall quality of life.

Community support services usually offer valuable opportunities for domestic violence survivors to improve their well-being. They often offer counseling services, advocacy, court support, and other necessary assistance. This kind of support is vital in helping survivors navigate the challenges they face, providing them with resources to break free from abusive situations and rebuild their lives. 

Promoting access to community support services can further aid domestic violence survivors in acquiring opportunities to increase positive outcomes for them.

You can promote access to community support by involving yourself in a community service directed at domestic violence survivors. You can offer a variety of ways to help, including volunteering, making a financial contribution, and donating necessary items, just to name a few. 

Engaging men and boys

This is a key strategy for preventing the perpetuation of domestic abuse. Engaging men and boys in violence prevention refers to any effort that looks into the underlying causes of men and boys’ violence, including social and structural ones, men and boys’ gender socialization, and men’s sexism. 

Men and boys help prevent domestic violence by first recognizing how societal norms dictate masculinity and how it contributes to the perpetuation of domestic violence.

By recognizing the toxicity rooted in traditional masculinity, they are encouraged to challenge traditional gender norms that have long been the primary causes of domestic violence. 

Start encouraging positive role modeling in your family by highlighting men who are advocates for gender equality. You can share stories with your partner, children, and other family members about the seriousness of domestic violence and how to tackle its roots. 

In conclusion

Domestic abuse remains a significant threat to the safety and well-being of marginalized genders, especially women. Rooted in unequal power relations and social expectations of dominance and submission, traditional gender norms perpetuate abusive behavior. 

As a result, these outdated norms cause harm to the survivors and perpetuate cycles of violence across generations. 

To effectively combat domestic violence, dismantle the harmful gender norms in the first place. Promote gender equality through education, advocacy, and systemic change. Foster environments that prioritize mutual respect and autonomy within relationships.  

Stand together to promote healthy relationships based on mutual respect, consent, and support. Then, you can help build a society in which everyone can live free from the fear of violence and coercion in their own homes.

If you would like to see more resources on domestic violence, check out the Family Science Labs. The lab uses the research of the Institute for Life Management Science to produce courses, certifications, podcasts, videos, and other tools. Visit the Family Science Labs today.

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