Dr. Victoria S. Lockwood of Southern Methodist University will undertake research on the social and cultural correlates of domestic violence. Recent advances in the study of domestic violence suggest that it may actually consist of several qualitatively different forms of behavior that can be distinguished by their underlying motivations, conflict/control tactics, consequences for victims, and domestic contexts. Two major forms have been identified: situational couple violence and intimate terrorism. The researcher will apply this model to understanding variability in domestic violence on the rural Tahitian islands of Tubuai and Rurutu, part of the Austral Islands of France's Overseas Territory of French Polynesia.
The cross-cultural literature suggests that a high rate of domestic violence perpetrated by both spouses in early marriage may be the more transient and often less severe form of situational couple violence. The proposed study will investigate differences in the prevalence, causes, meanings, and consequences for victims of each form of domestic violence. Research will focus on possible linkages between how conflict and instability in early marriage to high rates of situational couple violence, a pattern identified cross-culturally. Situational couple violence, unlike the life-long patterns of abuse associated with intimate terrorism, appears to be strategically utilized by perpetrators in domestic politics. The project will also investigate differences in the "meanings" of various domestic violence acts, some defined as "violent" and illegitimate, and others defined as "not-violence" and justifiable. Critical factors operating at the marital, family, and household levels within the Tahitian gender system will be identified that are linked to the presence/absence of each form of domestic violence in couples. Analysis of narratives describing marital histories and domestic violence events will be analyzed to uncover how domestic violence begins and develops over time in couples.
This research will contribute to our efforts to understand how and why violence becomes a feature of some marital relationships but not others. It will also contribute to our efforts to develop theories of the causes of domestic violence cross-culturally.