Conflict and Violence in Premarital Relationship
Incidence of conflicts and violence in premarital relationship seems to happen regularly. This research paper discusses the many possible reasons that would cause someone to become a victim or perpetrator in premarital relationships. A root cause of premarital violence is in childhood experiences. Individuals develop a certain relationship style based on their childhood experiences that influences how they behave in close relationships.
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Childhood emotional trauma causes children to develop insecure relationship style that produces adults with many emotional and psychological issues such as depression and anger. These styles are termed: the secure, the avoidant, the ambivalent and the disorganized relationship style. Children learn to communicate and interact with others through observing the way their manage conflicts parents. Conflicts occur often, mainly due to the lack of communication skills between couples and individual insecurities. Uncontrolled and unmanaged conflicts can cause one or both partners lose control, and quite often, the heated conflict ends in violence.
Introduction Conflicts that arise in premarital relationships may be due to both dyadic and individual problems. These conflicts often lead to violence in relationships. The way someone reacts to life’s problems or issues is rooted in the way he or she is raised and his or her childhood experiences. The term “premarital” used throughout this paper refers to only a male-female relationship. The terms such as courtship, dating relationships, also refers to the entire scope of heterosexual dating behavior, from casual dating through engagement and/or cohabitation.
A premarital relationship is defined as any romantic love relationship involving a male and a female before marriage or outside of marriage. The essence of romance is characterized by a marked physical attraction, strong emotional attachment between the partners, and a tendency for each to idealize the other (Waller & Hill, 1951). Premarital relationships in this research paper includes anyone from as young as high school students to seniors. Conflicts Lead to Violence Conflict in premarital relationships can be defined as a disagreement, a quarrel or dispute, or a discord of action or feeling.
According to Tim Clinton (2006), there are three levels of relationship dispute which are termed renegotiation, impasse or dissolution. Level one (renegotiation) involves someone who is angry and bickers about his or her differences and who is governed by fears and anger. Level two (impasse) is where both individuals begin to disengage emotionally from each other and no longer confide or trust each other. Level three (dissolution) is where couples eventually reach a point where they completely cut themselves off emotionally from each other (Clinton 2006).
Violence in premarital relationships include acts that involves any force that is unjust, rough or injurious to another person. Henton et al. (1983), reported several types of violent behaviors such as pushing, grabbing or shoving, slapping and kicking, biting or hitting with the fist. Relationship violence involves both the victimized and the perpetrator. When a conflict gets out of hand and escalates, one or both partners lose control, and quite often the heated conflict ends in violence (Lloyd et al. , 1989).
Alarmingly, violence in courtship seems to happen regularly between 1 in 3 and 1 in 2 college students and 1 in 10 high school students experience violence as victims or perpetrators (Cate et al. , 1982; Laner & Thompson, 1982; Makepeace, 1981; Roscoe & Callahan, 1985; Rouse et al. , 1988; Stets & Straus, 1989). The ability of premarital partners to overlook, forgive, or ignore negative interaction that is even encouraged and supported by peer groups is due to the power of romance (Lloyd, 1991). Individual and Childhood Problems Childhood experiences have a lasting effect on people according to the Social Learning Theory.
Exposure to violence during childhood makes individuals more prone to be involved in a violent intimate relationship. The witnessing of violence in the family of origin links to violent experience and perpetration in premarital relationships Gover et al. (2008) explored the association between exposure to violence in the family of origin and subsequent physical violence and psychological abuse in dating relationship. Dating violence victimization and perpetration, has been linked to exposure to violence during early childhood.
Gover et al. 2008) termed this hypothesis “intergenerational transmission of violence,” where “exposure to violence during childhood is related to subsequent involvement in violent intimate relationships” (p. 1668). The hypothesis explains how dating violence is more likely in people that experienced child abuse or witnessed parental violence. The study looked at the interpersonal violence between dating partners in several ways by using large sample of male and female college students to comprehensively examine the intergenerational transmission of violence hypothesis.
Women are more often victimized than men. The study by Gover et al. , showed that childhood abuse is associated with the likelihood of dating violence victimization among females but not males. The results showed a correlation between childhood violence victimization and physical violence perpetration in a dating relationship, which supported the intergenerational transmission of violence hypothesis. They also concluded that there is a significant relationship between physical dating violence victimization for women who were exposed to paternal perpetrated abuse.
Witnessing violence between parents does not have as much of a significant impact on dating violence perpetration in comparison to female exposure to paternal perpetrated abuse. Child abuse is related to dating violence victimization and perpetration especially among males; women are more likely to become victimized rather than the perpetrator according to some studies. Child abuse involves psychological abuse, emotional neglect, sexual abuse, exposure to severe marital conflict and addictive behavior (Clinton, 2006).
According to the Gover et al. tudy, violence victimization and perpetration are experienced by those who witnessed one parent hit the other parent and experienced childhood abuse at higher rates in dating relationships in comparison to those who were not exposed to violence during childhood. One’s childhood relationships are very important because they shape the chemical processes in the brain that determine how someone controls his or her impulses, calm or strong emotions and develop memories in their early family life. Tim Clinton (2006) believes that everyone develops relationship rules, which determines their relationship style from childhood.
He described four relationship styles in his book, “Why You Do the Things You Do: The Secret to Healthy Relationships;” the secure, the avoidant, the ambivalent and the disorganized relationship style. The underlying reason why people do the things they do is their relationship style or their attachment style. Special relationship, bond, or connection with another person that is characterized by strong emotions and continues through time is what Clinton (2006) refers to as attachment. A person’s relationship style is determined by the interactions between a mother and her infant over time.
These interactions teach her child certain relationship rules, which are core beliefs about one self and others. These core beliefs may not always be fully conscious to the individual, but they influence the behavior of everyone in a powerful way, such as the tendencies to act violently or easily become a victim in premarital relationships. Insecure relationship styles, the avoidant, the ambivalent and the disorganized relationship style are most likely to experience relational conflicts more often than those with secure relationship style.
Children learn how to manage conflict from watching the way their parents work out their disagreements. A child’s security is also threatened when he sees his parents in screaming matches, physical struggles or violence (Clinton, 2006). An individual with a disorganized relationship style is at a high risk to fall into deep depression because this person has been borderline depressed and anxious throughout life. Events such as job loss, conflict with a friend, financial struggles can cause him or her to sink rapidly into serious depression.
Those with poor mental health outcomes such as anxiety, depression, reduced self-esteem, stress, and various physical health consequences, have been involved in a violent relationship (Gibb et al. , 2004; Messman-Moore et al. , 2000). The potential for violence can be linked to someone who has developed a disorganized relationship style. Children who develop a disorganized relationship style have been traumatized by their own parents, who were both a “source and the solution” to their fears and anxieties. This simply means that these children had no solution or safe haven for them.
As a result, these children become emotionally disorganized and fragmented during stressful times (Clinton, 2006). There are two sources of stress that influence individuals or couples; positive events that comes with a challenge and negative events that comes with threat and harm or loss. There are contradicting studies of dating violence, and the role that stress plays in premarital love relation conflict is not yet clear. Men and women may react differently to stress according to O’Leary’s (1998) theoretical formulation of spouse aggression.
Wethington et al. (1987) reported that research on acute stressors shows that males and females are similar in the number of undesirable events experienced, but that males seem more emotionally affected. Therefore, if there is a relationship between stress and violence, it might be greater for males than females (Marshall & Rose, 1990). Marshall and Rose (1990) conducted a study to test the influence of stress on relationship conflicts and violence. They found that “positive stress contributed to males’ recent expression of violence,” (p. 61).
The reason why positive stress but not negative stress, contributed to male’s expression of violence is unclear according to Marshal and Rose (1990). This finding is contrary to previously similar studies done by other researchers, however, this contrast may be due to the fact that Marshal and Rose allowed the observers, rather than the respondents to classify the direction of stress impact, whether they are positive or negative. Stress is a secondary emotional reaction, when someone tries to repress primary emotions such as fear or pain due to life issues (Clinton, 2006).
An individual who has an avoidant relationship style tends to be narcissistic who can easily become even more self-absorbed under stress. Possibilities for conflicts would increase dramatically for these types of individuals because “when they receive negative feedback, for instance, they become angry and contemptuous, (Kindle Locations 1522-1526). ” This kind of behavior brings constant or more frequent conflicts under stressful times for both individuals. Dyadic Problems
In premarital relationships, mutual admiration and devotion exist between couples, especially when they move towards a deeper level of commitment. In contrast to these qualities, most couples were found to be in mutual combat because more than two-thirds of one sample reported reciprocal violence (Carte et al. , 1982). Some individuals, whose perception of dating is one of a carefree experience to be enjoyed or to just have a good time, approach their problems by using their partners as targets to physically act out feelings of anger, confusion and jealousy (Henton et al. 1983).
A study done by Henton et al. (1983) assessed the incidence and context of the use of violence in high school relationship because the first experiences in forming intimate relationships occur for many individuals during high school. He found that a significant number of high school students have experienced premarital violence in one or more relationships. In 71. 4% of high school relationships where violence occurred, it was found that the pattern of abuse was reciprocal, where each partner had been both the victim and aggressor at some point in time.
The remaining 28. 6 %, four patterns were identified; male abuser only, female abuser only, abused male and abused female. Most individuals remained in violent relationships because they felt that they have significantly fewer alternatives than those who terminated such relationships. Individual tends to tolerate or have a more positive attitude towards premarital violence if they have been involved in abusive relationships than those who were involved in non-abusive relationships (Henton et al. 1983).
This finding in this study suggests that the occurrence of premarital violence is because of dyadic problems rather than solely a result of individual characteristics. One suggestion as to why victims had a more positive attitude towards violence may be because victims of violence may have become addicted to such trauma. The brain releases chemicals called endogenous opioids, natural painkillers that are the brain’s equivalent to heroin whenever someone is under extreme stress.
The stress of relationship violence could easily cause victims to become addicted to the drug. For someone to withdraw from that drug would be similar to breaking a drug addiction. “Increasing the difficulty is the fact that the withdrawal symptoms parallel the nightmare of the traumatized person: emptiness, tension, irritability, and an internal sense of unrest,” (Clinton, 2006, Kindle Locations 2131-2137). The person may return to the trauma and its “morphine,” in order to relieve the symptoms.
Another way addiction to trauma can develop is fear of the unknown Clinton, 2006, Kindle Locations 2131-2137. The state of one’s emotional wellbeing is a factor that influences how couples handle conflicts and whether they are prone to violence or foster safety. Emotion, according to Clinton (2006), is “The physical, gut-felt responses that fuel our behavior and motivate us to act,” (Kindle Locations 4310-4311). Emotions are what motivate someone to seek closeness during times of stress and therefore, they are very important in relationships.
Specific emotional components such as positive affective tone, listening and understanding, and self-disclosure, protect premarital relationships from violence (Prager & Buhrmester, 1998). Those individuals who did not develop a secure relationship style as termed by Tim Clinton (2006) foster many kinds of negative emotions because of insecurities they developed from childhood. Individuals with the ambivalent relationship style tend to be anxious, melodramatic or angry. These individuals would be prone to violence in their dating relationships. Swett and Marcus (2002) explored the issues about couple’s emotional dynamics and violence.
A group of upper-level undergraduates were asked a number of questions about their current relationship, about the duration of their relationships, number of times in previous relationships they had physical fights and the severity of injury they had suffered as a result (Swett & Marcus, 2002). The findings of the study support the importance of the intimacy components of positive affective tone and listening and understanding in reducing dyadic violence. The quality of emotional interactions is a factor that influences violent tendencies in premarital relationships.
Positive emotions that involve positive affective tone and listening and understanding, can inhibit violence in relationship, and therefore serve as protections against violence (Swett & Marcus, 2002). Unhealthy communication leads to conflicts, it prevents couples from being able to talk through their feelings. Tim Clinton (2006), talks about four kinds of unhealthy communication, in his book, he explained how criticism, defensiveness, contempt and stonewalling are all forms of unhealthy communication. Criticism comes in a form of questioning that implies that the other person has a character flaw, for example, “why do you always do that?
You never do what you say you’re going to do. I just can’t count on you for anything, (Kindle Locations 775-776). Defensiveness is a reaction against a criticism causing retaliation, for example, “What do you mean I never do what I say? How many times have you not come through when I needed you to help me out with the kids? You don’t help. You just whine and complain that things don’t happen according to your schedule! ” (Kindle Locations 778-779). Contempt comes when criticism and defensiveness intensifies, derogatory remarks, put-downs and extreme distress result.
For example, some one who is in contempt might say something like this, “You make me sick! You never do what you say you’ll do. You’re a big talker, just like your mother, but you never follow through. I’ve grown used to not being able to rely on you, so I’ll just do everything myself—like always. ” (Kindle Locations 782-784). Stonewalling results from a high intensity of contempt, causing a person to shut down and stop participating in conversation by walking out of the room or stare off into space. These behaviors can increase the other person’s rage and spark another round of criticism. Kindle Locations 785-787).
People with insecure relationship styles would be at a higher risk of relationship violence victimization and or perpetration. Conclusion Although squabbles are a necessary part of every couple’s growth together, when carefully managed or regulated, is a building block for a healthy relationship, one that is vibrant and thriving (Clinton, 2006). People who are at less risk for relationship violence victimization and perpetration are most likely to possess a secure relationship style. These people are confident in their identity, their effectiveness in the world and trust others.
This allows them to have a healthy way of interacting with and relating to people. “Secure people are emotionally strong, willing to seek and accept comfort from others, courageous about love and intimacy, and responsible for themselves,”(Kindle Location 4337). There are many other factors that potentially increase the chances for individuals to have a healthy love relationship with another person. Individuals, who have higher attachment to his or her parents during childhood, were less likely to be responsible for dating violence (Chapple & Hope, 2003).
Religious institutions were found to be a protective factor for potential violence dating relationship. “Students reporting more church attendance were less likely to be involved in a violent dating relationship” (Coker et al. , 2000; Gover, 2004). Conflicts often arise because of the lack of communication skills and resolution skills. Couples should learn to talk openly and honestly about our feelings, both positive and negative ones. A healthy form of communication can develop this way between couples. It will help them avoid unnecessary conflicts that can eventually escalate to violence.