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Books and Articles

The Weakness of Family Ties and Their Perpetuating Effects on Gender Violence

By Carolina Agoff, Cristina Herrera, and Roberto Castro

This article discusses women’s social relations, especially their family relations, and their role in the promotion of traditional gender norms. Previous research noted the importance of social networks and its positive physical and mental health benefits. This qualitative study explored how different family members reacted to a woman’s experience of domestic violence.

  • This qualitative study was carried out at the National Institute of Public Health of Mexico as part of the National Survey on Violence against Women.
  • The sample comprised 26 interviews.  The women had an average education level of 7.4 years, lower income, and generally lived in conditions of poverty and strong material limitations.
  • Women were recruited through public health services with the help of social workers and through independent public shelters.
  • The study showed that violence committed against women by their partners is a problem that incorporates, in addition to the couple relation, a complex set of relations in the social environment that may favor the appearance of violence and contribute to its perpetuation, especially in regards to family ties.
  • Differences were found in the reactions of the men and women’s family of origin to a woman’s experience of domestic violence. Often mother-in-laws played into the abuse by blaming the women.  At the same time, the survivors were seen as having a lower ranking in the family than their mother- and sisters-in-law. 
  • This study showed that family ties are not necessarily a source of support and in some cases may increase the vulnerability for such women.
  • From both sides of the family, women were often reminded of their “roles” in the family in two ways: they deserved the violence because they were not “behaving” or they had to put up with it because it was a “natural” destiny for all women.
  • This study shows the importance of understanding the nature of the abused woman’s social ties and the social context in which they exist.

Agoff, C., Herrera, C., Castro, R. (2007). “The Weakness of Family Ties and Their Perpetuating Effects on Gender Violence.” Violence Against Women, 13 (11), 1203-1220. 

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©2007. National Latino Alliance for the Elimination of Domestic Violence.
All Rights Reserved. Last updated 12/13/07.