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Explanations for Violent Behavior

The committee spent a good deal of time reviewing what is known about why people behave violently. Much has been written on this complex subject and it was clear to us that we should beware of superficial explanations. Bearing in mind that the risk of violence depends on the interaction of a number of possible […]

Explanations for Violent Behavior

Explanations for Violent Behavior

By Aylward Game - Mar 14, 2016 Conveyancing, Family Law

The committee spent a good deal of time reviewing what is known about why people behave violently. Much has been written on this complex subject and it was clear to us that we should beware of superficial explanations.

Bearing in mind that the risk of violence depends on the interaction of a number of possible factors, we identified what we regarded as the most significant of these. As far as the particular phenomenon of domestic violence (Violent Behavior) is concerned, the following factors must be regarded as the most significant.

IMPORTANT FACTORS

  • In the committee’s view, families constitute the training ground for aggression. It is within families that aggressive behaviors are first learned, to the extent that families fail to instill non-violent values in their children, those children will be more likely to develop a repertoire of violent behavior as they negotiate life in society at large.
  • Although there are many factors that may influence children to behave violently, the committee concluded that what children observe and learn in their homes, for good or ill – what they come to recognise as norms of behavior – will largely determine their reaction to those other factors.
  • The committee observed that, in general, the orientation of a culture, or the shared beliefs within a subculture, help define the limits of tolerable behavior. To the extent that a society values violence, attaches prestige to violent conduct, or defines violence as normal or legitimate or functional behavior, the values of individuals within that society will develop accordingly.
  • The committee concluded that the use of violence to achieve ends perceived as legitimate is a principle deeply embedded in Australian culture. Violence in the home, and many other places as well, is tolerated by many Australians.

Violent behaviour is any behaviour that causes another person any injury to the body that interferes with a person’s health or comfort, or that places them in fear of being injured. The injury only has to be slight – it can include pain or bruising. Violent behaviour is an offence and can carry very serious penalties.

Violence generally is more common in those societies characterised by widespread poverty and inequality. In Australia, both victims of violence and violent offenders tend to be drawn from the most disadvantaged socioeconomic groups. Although we do not know whether a direct relationship exists between poverty and domestic violence, we can assume that stress engendered by poverty may play its part.

Straus et al in their study of violence in American families, found that poor, unemployed men more often lived in violent households than men whose families were ‘well-to-do’. It is likely that similar findings would be made in Australia.

  • Cultural disintegration may also play a role in the loosening of social prohibitions against violence. Large segments of the Aboriginal population, for example, experience feelings of alienation because of their status as marginal members of our society. In such communities, the violence of all kinds, including domestic violence, is frequently found on an appalling scale.  The committee believes that breakdown in traditional prohibitions, and lack of identity with alternative values, plays a part in the high incidence of such violence in Aboriginal communities.
  • Finally, the committee believes that the attitudes of gender inequality are deeply embedded in the Australian culture and that both rape and domestic violence can be viewed as expressions of this cultural norm.

Taken from Family Violence, P. 289 ‘explanations for violent behavior’

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