Intimate Partner Violence Against African American Women: An examination of the socio-cultural context.

Disha Khopkar

Intimate partner violence against African American women: An examination of the socio-cultural context is an article that discusses violence and its effect on African American women. Most of the Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) research has been focused on white women in the past. This has resulted in the neglect of ethnic minority women, whose cultural context has been ignored. The first survey was used to examine African American women’s experience of IPV was conducted in 1994 by Brice-Baker, Williams and Becker. The aim of this review is to summarize available literature focusing on IPV in the African American community with the hope that this information may ultimately inform theory and intervention developing efforts. The first official study was conducted in 1975 and the first representative studies reporting on the prevalence and incidence of IPV in the United States. The NFVS utilized the Violence subscale of the Conflict Tactics Scale, including indicators of “mild” and “severe” violence, to assess self- and partner- reported IPV among a national probability sample included of 2,143 American households. Using NFVS data, assessed whether type of social network and levels of IPV differed across racial groups and social classes. Their sample was contained of the 147 African American married couples that participated in the NFVS and 427 randomly selected Caucasian respondents drawn from the larger sample. Results indicated that African American men evidenced a higher rate of severe IPV perpetration (11%) than Caucasian men (3%). However, when income level was taken into account, African American husbands were less likely to have perpetrated IPV than Caucasian husbands in all income groups except for those in the $6000–$11,999 income brackets. The authors noticed that about 40% of African American men were in this, the second-lowest, income grouping. Thus, the authors conclude that overrepresentation of African Americans with respect to a key social class indicator (income) confuses simplification of racial differences in the perpetration of IPV.

Social Economic Status (SES) does matter when it comes to propensity of IPV by becoming a risk factor for violence. A study conducted by Buttell and Carney investigated the effectiveness of a 26-week group treatment for court-mandated abusive men that highlighted skills development and anger management. All men who were suggested to the program by the courts completed a set of assessments at pre-treatment and, in the case of treatment completers, at post-treatment, including measures of socially desirable responding, self-deception, passive-aggression toward one’s spouse, assertiveness toward one’s spouse, controlling behavior, and propensity for abuse. They also examined the variance in efficiency of this program among a randomly selected subsample of African American and Caucasian treatment-completers. Data from this study confirmed that this standardized group treatment for abusive men was only somewhat effective. Participants reported significant decreases in their use of passive–aggressive behavior against their spouses’ post-treatment, but self-reported spouse- directed forcefulness, controlling behavior and propensity for physical abuse remained unaffected. There were no significant differences in the degree of changes or lack of on psychological variables related to IPV between African American and Caucasian participants.



An African American woman are 1.23 more likely to experience minor IPV compared to a Caucasian woman and 2.36 times more likely to suffer severe IPV than were Caucasian women. Although differences in prevalence rates were not noteworthy after controlling for income level, African American women in the lowest income bracket still showed slightly higher levels of male-perpetrated IPV persecution than did Caucasian women. The NVAWS measure incidence of sexual assault, IPV, and stalking victimization among a nationally representative sample of 8000 men and 8000 women. Via telephone survey, researchers administered the CTS to measure IPV victimization, four items from the National Women’s Study to assess sexual assault, and the 13-item Power and Control Scale to measure psychological aggression victimization. The NVAWS found comparable rates of sexual assault, IPV, and stalking among African American. A stronger indicator of IPV besides race is income because overrepresentation of African Americans with respect to an important social class indicator confuses generalization of racial differences in the responsibility of IPV. African American men and women report higher rates of IPV victimization and perpetration than Caucasian men and women. African American women are more likely to experience severe IPV victimization than their Caucasian counterparts. When income is measured for, differences by race in rates of IPV are reduced or removed, signifying that income may be a stronger predictor of IPV than ethnicity. It is vital to understand that in America, race and income are inseparably related. 11% Caucasian women living in poverty compared to African American women and black women make up 25% of the people in the same living condition. This suggest that income is the greater predictor is not to overlook the fact that African Americans are more likely to live under the anxiety and stress of poverty.


Researchers say there is many differences in the way African American men are socialized compared to Caucasian men. Although we live in a patriarchal society, the generalizability of the theory to African Americans is limited. In general, she proposes that African American men are not trained, and do not assume, to be dominant or to be specific holders of such power. There is a large wage gap and extreme differences in socioeconomic and power status among African American and Caucasian men. There is not as large a difference in gender role socialization within African American families as in Caucasian families. A lack of access to educational, economic, and political resources among African American men is one feature that contributes to more democratic familial roles. Hypermasculinity is the amplification of male conventional behavior, such as an emphasis on muscle power, hostility, and sexuality. Given that manhood is linked to wealth and power in American society, and African American men confronted by racism and classism may endorse hyper masculine roles as ways to determine or prove their manhood. Macro-structural factors heavily contribute to IPV and taken an ecological perspective to examine the African American community. Macro system facts reveal that the higher levels of IPV in the African American community are somewhat connected to the larger percentage of African Americans living in areas of severe poverty, comparative to members of other ethnic groups. Other macro-system facts examine the social disorganization theory and study on urban poverty to assess the high frequency of IPV in the African American community. According to the social disorganization theory, communities have more trouble regulating local crime when they are impacted by ethnic heterogeneity, intense poverty, and the recurrent replacement of people. Thus, a range of macro-system factors functioning on the cultural-community level may produce an important role in the prevalence of IPV in the African American community.

Institutional and internalized racism play a huge role in the development of African Americans’ self-esteem. Internalized racism promotes self-dislike on an individual level and conflict within the community, and thus treatments for African American abusers should speak to issues of internalized racism. This internalized oppression is not establishing itself in direct self-harming behaviors but in the harming of others, namely African American women. Several stereotypes regarding African Americans that are obvious in mainstream American culture may function to contribute to violence against African American women. American mainstream culture holds that being perceived as feminine and fragile is needed in order for women to remain protected and reputable. In contrast, African American women are usually characterized as non-feminine, autonomous, and uncontrollable. The African American woman is often represented as being abnormally controlling with regard to relationships, sex and money. Such depictions have inaccurately lead some social scientists to hold African American women accountable for problems that harm the African American community, such as the collapse of community and family and the “psychological castration” of African American men and boys. Another possibly damaging image of African American women is the image of the “Black superwoman” stereotype. While the notion of strong and independent African American women include some positive messages, the idea that these women can successfully manage anything may also intensify African American women’s risk for and exposure to IPV. These stereotypes support the old view of “African American women as invincible, indifferent, apathetic, and in need of power and subjugation,” a perception which may serve to justify the suppression of these women. An additional harmful result of the preservation of the “Black super- woman” stereotype is the societal reaction to the abuse of these women. Such descriptions may inhibit society from seeing African American women as vulnerable. Merged with the label of the African American woman as not feminine enough, this stereotype limits the empathic worry of society at large, and therapists in particular, and may contribute to the lack of advocacy for African American victims of IPV. Another danger of the “Black superwoman” stereotype is the potential for the internalization of such ideas by African American women themselves. Women who follow strongly to this identity may be unwilling to share details of their situations with others, such as therapists and those in their support networks, and may hesitate to seek out provision or support.

One thought on “Intimate Partner Violence Against African American Women: An examination of the socio-cultural context.”

  1. Great job.

    You stated: Given that manhood is linked to wealth and power in American society, and African American men confronted by racism and classism may endorse hyper masculine roles as ways to determine or prove their manhood.

    I totally agree with the above statement.

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