Domestic violence in India: Identifying types of control and coping mechanisms in violent relationships

Open Access
Menon, Niveditha
Graduate Program:
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
June 27, 2008
Committee Members:
  • Michael Paul Johnson, Committee Chair
  • Ralph Salvador Oropesa, Committee Chair
  • Dr Nancy Landale, Committee Member
  • Carolyn Elizabeth Sachs, Committee Member
  • agency
  • domestic violence
  • india
  • feminist theory
  • control
The present study is fueled by three primary questions: are there different kinds of domestic violence in India? Can differences in the types of domestic violence complicate our understanding of the relationship between violence and male dominance? Will the recognition of differences in domestic violence help us to closely examine women’s actions in response to domestic violence? These questions arise partly from contested relationship between patriarchal ideology and domestic violence. One of the prominent “paradigm shifts” in how family scholars think about domestic violence came with Johnson’s (1995) assertion that there are multiple forms of partner violence in families, some more rooted in patriarchal ideology than others (Thompson & Walker, 1996). Johnson (1995) differentiates among forms of violence on the basis of “the control context in which [acts of violence] are embedded,” and identifies three major types of domestic violence. This attention to the control contexts of violent incidents as well as the interest in examining women’s reactions to the violence led me to conceptualize the primary research questions. Paying close attention to the specific interpersonal and intra-familial dynamics of control and coping mechanisms in a marital relationship, this project will, answer four main research questions: (1)What are the different types of control that families exert over women in situations of domestic violence? (2) How do the different contexts of domestic violence influence the strategies used by families to control women's economic and social lives? (3) What are the different coping strategies that are used by women to deal with violence in these differing contexts? and (4) How are these coping strategies influenced by the interaction of particular cultural, social, and economic contexts? The answers to these questions will also speak to a critical finding in my previous research: while patriarchal control in families is central to the understanding of domestic violence, the relationship between patriarchal ideology and violence is complex and context-specific.