Kathleen Malley-Morrison (Boston University), Chair; Laura Sheridan and Odelya Pagovich (Boston University), Perspectives from Lebanon and Israel; Mizuho Arai (Boston University), Naomi Sotoo (Harvard University), Akiko Abe (Boston University), Mikyung Yang (Yonsei University), Mi-Sung Kim (Boston University), and Huei-Ping Liu (Boston University), Perspectives from Three Asian Pacific countries; Alev Yalcinkaya-Hanly (University of Connecticut) and Georgia Stathopoulou (Boston University), Perspectives from Turkey and Greece; Melanie Santos (Boston University) and Wilson Flanders (Fielding Graduate Institute), Perspectives from Portugal and Brazil; Elizabeth Donovan and Anna Gaynullina (Boston University), Perspectives from the United Kingdom and Russia. Discussant: Murray A. Straus (University of New Hampshire).

The argument can be made that tolerance for human aggression has its roots in the family, where aggression among family members is often seen as acceptable and unabusive under a variety of circumstances—e.g., to discipline a child, to punish a spouse’s infidelity, to control the behavior of an elderly demented and emotionally unstable parent. Cross-culturally, there are both consistencies and inconsistencies in the normative acceptability of different forms of family aggression. All of the participants in this symposium are currently conducting research on views of family aggression in countries outside the United States. Co-presenters are from countries that have historically experienced conflict or aggression in their relations with each other. The co-presenters of each paper will discuss both qualitative data from respondents in their countries on perceptions of intrafamilial aggression and the social, economic, political, and historical forces that provide support for tolerance of interpersonal aggression. Connections between tolerance for aggression at the familial level and tolerance for aggression at ethnic, tribal, and international levels will be introduced. Dr. Straus will lead the discussion.

Kathleen Malley-Morrison, Department of Psychology, Boston University 64 Cummington St. Boston, MA 02215 617-326-3082
Fax: 617-353-6933 Email:
Symposium: Social and Developmental Psychology: Interpersonal Violence Member


Symposium Chair: Kathleen Malley-Morrison

Problems in family violence and domestic abuse have increasingly been recognized as global problems. While international agencies such as the United Nations and the World Health Organization have tried to assess the prevalence of family violence and domestic abuse in countries around the world, their efforts have been hampered by both conceptual problems (e.g., What is child abuse? What is wife abuse?) and methodological problems. There has also been considerable concern over the appropriateness of attempts to formulate a general definition of domestic abuse or a universal set of principles governing treatment of family members in diverse cultures. While contemporary social scientists recognize the importance of respecting cultural contexts when defining domestic abuse and maltreatment, there is also recognition that some practices that are normative in some cultures may also be harmful to women, children, and other family members. Moreover, increasingly, there is recognition that tolerance of violence as a solution to conflict at any one level of society (e.g., the family) has implications for the tolerance of violence at all levels, including the international. The presenters in the proposed symposium are an international group of psychological researchers (pre- and post-doctoral, from the United States, Europe, the Middle East, Asia, and Latin America), who have been working together for several years. We believe that while it is useful to use objective standardized measures of family aggression to gather normative data from different countries, it is also important to let people from different cultural backgrounds speak in their own voices and have their own views heard as to what constitutes abusive behavior in families. Over the past two years we have developed and administered an open-ended measure in which we ask respondents from different countries to give us their definition of abuse within the context of the family, including examples of severe, moderate, and mild abuse. We then ask them to give examples of severe, moderate, and mild abuse within the specific contexts of parent-child, husband-wife, wife-husband, adult-elderly parent, sibling, and “other” family relationships. An enormous amount of time has been devoted to issues of translation, and all translations already completed have undergone a rigourous process of discussion as well as back-translation and/or decision by multiple native speakers of the language as to the most appropriate translation of key terms. One primary purpose in the proposed symposium is to provide an examples of the judgments of respondents from each country, indicating, in their own words, what they believe are examples of abusive family interactions. The “voices” of these participants are then considered in the context of selected historical, economic, political, and social forces that underlie each country’s norms concerning women, children, the elderly, and the range of acceptable interactions among family members. Within each presentation, we focus on at least two countries that have historically experienced conflict or aggression with each other, and note both similarities and differences in their current perspectives on aggression within families. Dr. Straus, the discussant is an internationally famous expert on family violence.