DV occurs within the context of a family’s daily life, which is deeply affected by numerous factors including personal, familial, cultural, and socio-political issues. Although researchers have investigated the relationship between certain variables, they haven’t yet isolated a single variable that “causes” DV. Rather, researchers have learned that DV is a very complex issue associated with multiple variables that impact one another and DV in different ways. The findings in this section must be understood in this context.
Knowledge and Attitudes about Domestic Violence
Increasing knowledge and changing attitudes about DV are often targeted in prevention and intervention programs; therefore, it may be useful to understand some common opinions held by Latino men. In this section we see that Latino men experience varying levels of awareness of DV as a problem.
- A qualitative study with Latino males (44% from Cuba, 16% U.S.-born, 12% from Honduras, and 12% from Nicaragua) living in South Florida showed that they perceived domestic violence among the major areas of concern for the Latin@ community (Gonzales-Guarda, Ortega, Vasquez, & De Santis, 2010).
- Men in this study viewed DV as a problem interrelated with a multitude of issues, such as substance abuse, community violence, immigration, poor mental health, low education, negative childhood experiences, traditional gender roles, women’s employment, men’s unemployment, and economic hardships (Gonzales-Guarda et al., 2010).
- In a different study, when Latin@s in the rural southeastern U.S. were asked to rank top concerns in their communities, males rated DV as a less severe problem than did Latina females (Moracco, Hilton, Hodges, & Frasier, 2005).
- Latino males were more likely than females to agree that children were unaware of DV occurring in the home (Moracco et al., 2005).
Commentary: As noted above, attitudes and knowledge of DV varies among subpopulations of Latino men, with one study indicating that Latino men in South Florida perceive domestic violence as a major community concern and one group of Latino men in the rural southeast reporting it as a less severe problem.
Intergenerational Transmission of Violence
A large portion of research has been dedicated to the intergenerational transmission of violence, or how the experience or witnessing of violence during childhood influences later aggression or victimization.
Certainly, a person who experiences violence as a child may never become violent, while one who has never experienced violence can become violent; nevertheless, research does suggest that experiencing violence throughout one’s lifetime increases the chances of using violence and/or becoming a victim. The bullets below reflect this research undertaken with Latino males.
- A qualitative study conducted with Latino males (44% from Cuba, 16% U.S.-born, 12% from Honduras, and 12% from Nicaragua) living in South Florida identified negative childhood experiences as risk factors for DV (Gonzales-Guarda et al., 2010).
- A national study of 846 Latin@ heterosexual couples found that experiencing physical violence from parents as an adolescent was related to an increased risk for assaulting a female partner for Mexican men. No relationship was found between witnessing violence as a child and increased violence against a partner (Aldarondo, Kantor, & Jasinski, 2002).
Commentary: Clearly, one’s personal experience with violence is a key factor impacting whether or not he decides to use violence in a relationship. As many men are also personal survivors of violence, it’s important to understand this historical factor.
Drug and Alcohol Use
Drug and alcohol use are often considered in relation to violence. Despite the misconception that drug and/or alcohol use “causes” violent behavior, research shows little evidence for this association among Latino men.
- A national sample of 387 Latin@ couples found no relationship between alcohol consumption and DV (Caetano, Ramisetty-Mikler, Vaeth, & Harris, 2007).
- A national survey of 527 married or cohabiting Latin@ couples found no relationship between alcohol use and DV for Latino men (Cunradi, Caetano, & Schafer, 2002).
- A longitudinal study across a five-year span found no association between alcohol use and incidences of male-to-female or female-to-male physical violence (Caetano, Ramisetty-Mikler, & Harris, 2008).
Commentary: It’s important to understand these findings in the context of common misconceptions among the general public. Although drug and alcohol use often co-occur with prepetration of DV, research indicates that violence is not caused by substance abuse. Hoewever, these studies did not evaluate the impact of drugs or alcohol on the severity of ongoing abuse reported by men or women. Anecdotally, we hear from many Latinas that the presence of alcohol or drugs can alter the severity and types of violence inflicted during a DV incident. Therefore, this issue clearly warrants further research.
Understanding Latin@ communities involves taking into account the large-scale issues they face, including high rates of poverty. Many Latin@s experience significant financial stressors and evidence suggests that these stressors impact DV.
- In a national sample of 527 Latin@ couples, lower household income was related to increases in male-to-female violence (Cunradi et al., 2002).
- In a national sample of 846 Latin@ couples, the lack of economic resources was related to increased partner assault for Mexican American men (Aldarondo et al., 2002).
Commentary: Given these findings, the stress of financial burdens may need to be addressed in DV prevention or intervention. For example, part of the work may involve assistance around job training or obtaining financial resources. Because these factors are related to DV, they require attention.
Cultural Factors and Gender Norms
Many researchers have taken an interest in cultural factors or experiences specific to minority groups, such as acculturation and the relationship of these factors to DV. As mentioned above, one shouldn’t assume that cultural variables fully explain DV, especially since the results regarding acculturation are mixed. Cultural experiences are only one variable within a web of other factors, including gender norms that influence and are influenced by DV.
- Latino males attending a batterers’ intervention program reported having conflict with their female partners over changes in expected gender roles. Men talked about conflicts with their female partners over marriage roles, childcare responsibilities, and working outside the home (Galvez et al.; 2011).
- Latino males attending a batterers’ intervention program commonly reported the belief that American culture influenced their partners to become too independent and to stop relying on their male partners (Galvez et al.; 2011).
- For both Latin@ men and women, high scores of dominance (e.g., power, submissiveness, decision making, and devaluation) were related to increased psychological aggression, physical violence, and infliction of injury towards an intimate partner (Sugihara & Warner, 2002).
- Male-dominant power structures in relationships—measured by the male’s insistence on having his own way—were positively correlated with abuse (Firestone, Harris, & Vega, 2003).
Commentary: As with other factors, it’s important to state that no single cultural variable or gender norm can explain the use of violence. And while it’s obvious that cultural variables affect Latino men’s use of violence, it’s also worth emphasizing that violence exists in every culture and isn’t exclusive to Latin@s. Nevertheless, when working with men, it’s important to understand that the belief in male-dominant power structures may influence their use of violence.