David King Hall, #1004G
November 28, 2011, 12:00 PM to 09:00 AM
In the field of intimate partner violence, research often explores differences among ethnic groups in the experience of and responses to abuse. This study investigated the possibility that such differences are caused by variance in particular cultural values. Specifically, it examined how two cultural values (egalitarianism and individualism) are related to tolerance of and timeframe for disclosure of abuse. According to Hofstede’s (1980, 1983) seminal work on cultural values, egalitarianism is defined as the extent to which members of the culture accept egalitarian distribution of power, and individualism is defined as an emphasis on personal autonomy, self-fulfillment and freedom of choice, including the extent to which family privacy and wellbeing is a priority. In order to assess at what point a victim might recognize abuse as problematic, we constructed a series of scenarios of increasing abuse severity levels, and asked a sample of graduate and undergraduate international students from three universities in the Washington DC area (N =203) to read and respond to them. Analyses showed that participants’ concern about psychological abuse grew as severity of psychological abuse increased. The nature of this increase was predicted by their egalitarian values, showing that the more egalitarian people were the more quickly they became concerned. Results also showed that people’s concern was high as soon as the abuse became physical and remained high as the violence worsened. In addition, mediational analysis found that tolerance of abuse was a full mediator of the relationship between egalitarianism and disclosure, showing that people’s egalitarian beliefs influenced how tolerant they were of abuse, which in turn influenced when they indicated they would disclose. Last, in the absence of egalitarian values, high familial values predicted earlier disclosure of abuse. Among other implications for research and practice, these results suggest the utility of using cultural values to understand reactions to abuse and highlight the differences in people’s reactions to levels of severity in psychological abuse and physical abuse. Further discussion of the findings, implications for research and practice are also provided.