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Title:A study of psychological abuse of women in marriage
Author(s):Chang, Valerie Nash
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Cowger, Charles D.
Department / Program:Social Work
Discipline:Social Work
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Psychology, Social
Social Work
Sociology, Individual and Family Studies
Abstract:This feminist interpretative interactionism study explored the lived experience of sixteen women, from diverse backgrounds, who were or are in psychologically abusive relationships. Moving beyond previous definitions, psychological abuse was explained as domination, oppression, unrealistic expectations, and verbal attacking or silent withdrawal within a relationship characterized by almost no emotional connection. Using in-depth interviews and group meetings, the researcher collected descriptions of the content and process of psychologically abusive relationships. Narrative form was used to present the findings as a collective story.
Following biographical sketches of each participant, the findings of the study include descriptive information about psychologically abusive relationships and identification of the predominant interaction patterns: complementary schismogensis, double bind, verbal attacking, and silent withdrawal. These patterns transactionally recreate the power imbalance of patriarchy. Psychological abuse is explained as an extension of the system of domination and submission which distinguishes gender duality and patriarchy. Moving from a societal perspective to the individual, denial, projection, anxiety, depression, and physical illness are common dynamics. And finally, the process of these relationships was explored. Moving from the beginning of the abuse and her attempts to fix the relationship by changing herself; to a perceptual shift involving rejection of his view of reality, seeing the seriousness of the problems, and often seeking counseling help; to exhaustion and despair and a return to self; to gaining support, setting limits, and in most cases, leaving the relationship, psychologically abusive relationships follow a predictable path.
The study points to a number of practice implications including: the importance of identifying possible psychological abuse, of assessing where the woman is in the relationship process, of being patient as she struggles to find acceptable alternatives, of validating her reality and her power, and of listening to her story; the merit of using support and/or psychotherapy groups, and feminist's therapy methods; and the need to include gender and societal analysis in the psychotherapeutic process. Ultimately, the work must involve advocacy for broad societal change to a structure which demands respect and equal treatment for all individuals.
Issue Date:1993
Rights Information:Copyright 1993 Chang, Valerie Nash
Date Available in IDEALS:2011-05-07
Identifier in Online Catalog:AAI9411581
OCLC Identifier:(UMI)AAI9411581

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