The Bio-Social Predispositions Impacting African American & Latin Men.
As a sociologist I want to explore the origins of interpersonal violence that can begin in the developmental stages of a child’s brain, it is important to understand that the environment in which the infant is brought up in, to understand how violence can have detrimental effects on their cognitive abilities. Many children around the world are raised in chaotic, and violent settings. It is the responsibility of caretakers to nurture the infant, as it is what defines the child’s neurobiology. The experiences in early childhood can have negative implications, resulting from exposure to an unstable environment. The social factors that shape our interpersonal relationships can manifest in internalized oppression, historical trauma, socioeconomic, acculturation and male socialization being the prime motivators of domestic violence especially African American, and Latin men. Early childhood trauma, can contribute to a negative cycle of violence. Some of the biological factors that contribute to violence can affect cognitive ability of the child.
The Biological Factors
The biological factors can contribute to a host of issues. Such as the effects it has on the child’s social, emotional, cognitive development. Perry B.D is an American Psychologist discusses the direct causes of violence starting in early childhood brain development. Moreover, the article examines how intrafamilial violence, and child neglect are catalysts for a cycle of violence. The childhood trauma gets internalized, causing them to be less likely to develop cognitively. Childhood trauma can affect both their verbal and performance skills, often these children are labeled as having a learning disability and will use violence as a tool to make up for their lack of problem solving. I found this article especially helpful in my research, because it gives a deeper insight to the biological factors, such as early trauma that gets internalized, and the younger the child is the less likely they will have the cognitive ability to properly adapt. Having experienced early childhood trauma, through growing up in unhealthy environment, consisting of violence, drug use, sexual abuse, neglect and psychological abuse did leave its emotional imprints on my psyche. To clarify, “In 2005, data collected by the FBI revealed that 1181 females and 328 males were murdered by an intimate partner (Fox & Zawitz, 2007). Physical injuries, ranging from bruises to gastrointestinal disorders, are often accompanied by psychological problems including depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, low self-esteem, and harmful health behaviors such as substance abuse and risky sexual activity” (Campbell et al., 2002; Coker et al., 2002; Plichta, 2004). The statistics show that women are at high risk for physical abuse that can leads to murder. Abuse can range from physical to psychological, often triggering PTSD, among other mental disorders. However, “Widespread ignorance of the intimate relationships between cultural belief systems, childrearing practices and the development of violent behaviors will doom any attempts to truly understand and prevent violence (Dodge et al., 1991; Richters, 1993). The lack of knowledge on raising children, cultural competence between differing belief systems, or how psychological, and emotional imprints develop are still unclear, making it difficult to implement corrective measures to prevent future incidents of violence.
The traumatic experiences in my young adult life made it difficult to adapt due to not being taken to school, and in the case, I did go I had difficulties forming healthy relationships with my peers or focusing. Perry B.D. illustrates, “Experiences not genetics, results in the critical biological factors associated with violence” (Perry, p.2). This means that it is in infancy, and early childhood that determines their neurological makeup. If an infant, or child is exposed to repeated acts of violence within their home or community, they may become predisposed to violence. Straus states, “The major setting for violence in America is the home” (Straus 1974). Intrafamilial violence, and neglect are catalysts for a cycle of abuse. The childhood trauma gets internalized, causing the child to be less likely to cognitively develop. Exposure to violence especially within the Latin community can suffer many oppressions such as socioeconomic issues, and acculturation stresses causing internalized trauma. Many Latinos who have a history of violence stemming from childhood, are also more susceptible of using alcohol or illegal substances to escape these often-unconscious oppressions.
Social factors, and the Impacts it Has on Men of Color
The social impacts that contribute to Latin men abusing their female partners, such as lack resources, and proper education can cause many to run to alcohol and drugs. For example, “Recent findings identify the importance of poverty as a strong predictor of violence among different groups, including Latinos” (Caetano, & Schafer, 2002). The Latino population suffer from poverty, joblessness, and lack of decent education. Similarly, institutional racism has limited African American men’s ability to obtain both education and employment, resulting in African American women to take the lead in finding work, and economic resources, thus causing black males to become dependent on their female partners. These social factors, and stresses contribute to IPV. Similarly, Robert Hampton, an editor of “Domestic Violence in African American Community” illustrates that “Illegal drug use has become a significant risk factor in the occurrence of intimate Partner violence among African American women” (Richie, 1994). The statistics show that there is an increase in domestic violence due to illegal drug use. For instance,” in a survey of State prison inmates who had experienced abuse in the past, nearly 76% of the abused, men and 68% of the abused women reported that they had used illegal drugs” (Harlow 1999). This indicates that African American women are likely at risk of IPV, when using alcohol and drugs. Children that have been exposed to violence, have a greater propensity to use alcohol, and illegal substances and are more prone to depression. This can affect a child’s ability to use appropriate coping mechanisms. Ricardo Carrillo and Maria J. Zarza the editors of, “Fire and Firewater: A Co-Occurring Clinical Treatment Model for Domestic Violence, Substance Abuse, and Trauma” found that drugs and alcohol run in the family. As proof “The National Compadres Network program presupposes that violence and substance abuse are indeed learned from generations of violence and substance abuse in the family” (Freire, 2000; Duran & Duran, 1995; Duran, Duran, Yellow Horse, & Yellow Horse, 1998). The historical trauma from colonization, and other oppressions have been underlying reasons for the transmission of violence through the bloodlines. Crime affects Latino’s due to acculturation stress, internalized trauma, and male socialization.
The Latino immigrants, and those born in the United States are a risk of IPV, due to acculturation stresses, to illustrate, “Violence seems to rise when women are more acculturated such that men perceive a loss of control over their spouses (Kantor et al.. 1994; Perilla et al,. 1994 Sorenson ; Telles, 1991). Exposure to new culture or environment breeds unfamiliarity and stress to adapt to different lifestyles, resulting in physical or psychological abuse against their female partners. In contrast, African American’s propensity to abuse their partners comes from male socialization learned through their community that it is normal to dominate and mistreat their female partners. This behavior is learned through political and economical subordination. To emphasize my point the author, states “A societal structure built on a dominator/ subordinate model seeks to maintain the status quo where African American are the subordinate group and part of the underclass. In this context, the values of the dominator are to be internalized, and reinforced, while the values of the subordinates are devalued and rejected” (Lemelle, 1995b; Roberts, 1994). Institutional racism, and other oppressive forces in society reinforce that African Americans are a lower class, and should be relegated to low income jobs, and little education. Men of color who have internalized multiple oppressions, will respond with maladaptive behaviors such as psychological, or physical abuse, directing at those whom they are closest to, usually their girlfriends or wives.
In my research I want to find out the biological, and social factors that motivate African American and Latin men to commit violence against their female partners. The methodologies that guide my research include; looking at what impact violence has on the development of a child’s brain. Finding out why these violent experiences contribute to a child growing up and repeating the same cycle of violence, as well as understanding the social factors that cause men of color, e.g. (African American, and Latin) to abuse their female partners.
A study was done to test children’s IQ to show a relationship between violent environments, and verbal/ performance abilities, “(Pynoos et al., 1985; Pynoos, 1990) In our clinical population, children raised in chronically traumatic environments a prominent V-P split on IQ testing (n = 108; WISC Verbal = 8. 2; WISC Performance = 10.4, Perry et al., in preparation). This qualitive study was useful in my research in order to understand the impact that violence has on the development of a child’s brain, and if we as humans are a product of our environment. In a second study, through Sullivan’s empirical research she has found that genetics and intimate partner violence are interconnected, (Hines and Saudino (2004) “conducted the first empirical evaluation of genetic and environmental contributions to the use (and receipt) of psychological and physical IPV. Among 175 pairs of same-sex adult twins, all of whom had experienced an intimate adult relationship, 134 were monozygotic (18 male, 116 female), sharing 100% of their genes, and 41 were dizygotic (5 male, 36 female), sharing 50% of their genes.” The setting is in twin conventions. Correlational analyses within each class of twins indicated that monozygotes, unlike dizygotes, were significantly similar to one another in their frequency of physical and psychological IPV, as measured by the CTS2″ (Straus et al., 1996). There is a correlation between twins because of their genetic similarity. I found this research both useful, and relevant in determining if individuals who are related, are genetically predisposed to pass down physical and psychological traits connecting to IPV. The traits that get passed down can have negative implications such as alcohol abuse later on life, causing men of color to engage in IPV.
Many times, those who have been victims of violence often are sent to the hospital for head injuries, for Example “Rosenbaum and Hugh (1989) conducted the first empirical evaluation of head injury in men who engage in IPV.” In this study Rosenbaum shows participants that had physically abused their female partners were court ordered to an outpatient hospital, and then a psychoeducation program for aggression against their spouses. Physician’s determined that a concussion was considered a serious head injury. Rosenbaum does a second study experimental research design to rule out bias, “(Rosenbaum et. Al 1994) compared the injury rates of 53 partner abusive men to those of two non- violent groups, 32 martially discordant, and 45 martially dissatisfied. The methodologies of this experiment were useful in connection to my research, as it looks at the cause of domestic violence. Many times, violence is caused by a number of variables such as alcohol, and or substances that increase the likelihood that abuse will occur in the form of verbal, spitting, hitting, kicking, punching, that more often than not lead to head injuries. The deeper reasons behind violence such as Acculturation are looked at in the following study.
In an analysis done Sorento as well as Telles, looks at acculturation and how it occurs differently between men and women, resulting in men feeling as though they are not in control leading to interpersonal violence. Additionally, the increase rates of violence with Mexicans born in the United States as the authors illustrate, (Sorento and Telles, 1991) “Found that Mexican-Americans born in the United States reported a rate of violence 2.4 times higher than immigrants born in Mexico they explain these results in part by conflict between two cultures”. According to statistical findings, Mexicans born in the US. had higher rates in violence then migrants from Mexico. Acculturation to new cultures leads to intimate partner violence, and the longer they stay in the United the more difficult it becomes to acclimate to the culture, the author conveys, (Aguilar-Gaxiola et al. 2002) “Found mental illness, alcoholism, and domestic violence to be prevalent in Mexican immigrants after 13 years living in the United States in essence the longer the migrant stays in the United States the more impaired he or she becomes.” This analysis is important to understand how acculturation to the United States can incite IPV, in addition to multiple issues such as addictions, and psychological impairments.
In the following research I found that there is a connection between the violent environment that they grew up in, and the effects it has on their verbal and performance skills, as seen through IQ tests. The clinical observations showed a strong correlation between traumatic environments and a child’s cognitive ability. Often times many children are classified as having a learning disorder, when in fact they actually smart kids. Children that have been labeled as having cognitive disabilities may have difficulty problem solving, and may display symptoms of hyperactivity, or physiological hyperarousal. For Example, “”These difficulties with cognitive organization contribute to a more primitive, less mature style of problem – Solving – including violence. These children are also characterized by persisting physiological hyperarousal and hyperactivity (Perry, 1995a; Perry, Pollard, Blakley, Baker, & Vigilante, in press)”. Children who have been exposed to violence can contribute negative implications in both in the way they adapt and handle stressful situations. The findings also show that females seem to be more dissociative, while males fight or flight response will kick in, causing them to be more reactive, hyperactive, and impulsive, and therefore more prone to violence. Additionally, these reactive responses to fear tend to be more pronounced when under the influence of alcohol or other substances. Witnessing or of violence in early childhood not only affects their cognitive development, but may transmitted genetically, impacting them later on in life.
Through my research I found an empirical evaluation done by Rosenbaum and Hugh’s to confirm that genetics does play a part in domestic violence. Findings show that (19 out of the 31) participants in Sullivan’s study had histories of head injury. Variables include childhood abuse, aggression, alcohol, and substance abuse.
In the analysis done by Telles and Sorrento I found that although the data is older, it is still relevant today, as acculturation to the United states, impacts anyone that migrates over from another country, and is forced to assimilate to unfamiliar surroundings. The findings illustrate that Mexican Immigrants that have lived in the United States more than 13 years become more prone to committing domestic violence as well as have psychological issues and addictions to alcohol. Issues of assimilating to the US culture and adapting to new gender roles, can cause PTSD, attachment issues, depression and other psychological impairments. Implications of growing up in an unstable, or in some cases unfamiliar environment can later become a motivator of IPV.
The implications for violence in youth, can have a negative impact when the child has been a witness or a part of intrafamilial violence, and therefore will react in fear. The findings also show that females seem to be more dissociative, while males fight or flight response will kick in, causing them to be more reactive, hyperactive, and impulsive, and therefore more prone to violence. Additionally, these reactive responses to fear tend to be more pronounced when under the influence of alcohol or other substances. The violent environment in which children grow up, can have detrimental effects in the way they adapt. For instance, “The most dangerous among us have come to be this way because of a malignant combination of experiences. Lack of critical early life nurturing, chaotic and cognitively impoverish environments, persisting fear and physical threat and finally, watching the strongest, most violent in the home get what he wants, and seeing the same aggressive violent use of power idealized on television and at the movies” (Perry et al., 1997). Youth that grows up in poverty, chaos, and witnesses those who are considered to be the strongest within the family getting what want, as well as seeing violence idealized on media platforms reinforces that aggressive behavior is appropriate. The implications for this are that the earlier that a child is exposed to violence, the more likely they will not have the appropriate coping mechanisms such as reasoning, and cognitive skills that are critical to adaption. Furthermore, growing up without a strong support system, or positive role model can manifest into the child internalizing trauma. When they have been a witness of violence within their community, and have been rewarded for violent behavior, will lash out aggressively hoping to elicit a similar response that the child has learned in their environment. The social impacts such as unemployment, male socialization, and acculturation may be a prime motivator in African American and Latin men taking out their frustrations on their significant others. Implications suggest that assessment is a vital component to intervention for forming methods and programs to be obtained through both individual and group settings. Support is necessary in learning coping methods, as well as dealing with behavioral issues. The support groups work towards reaching goals, attaining success in bringing about an awareness of these often times unconscious issues. Additionally, creating positive outlooks and attitude towards violence and the consequences of violence. Understanding the risk factors, addressing through a cultural lenses issues such as socioeconomic culture, sexism, acculturation and substance abuse can have greater impact in resolving internalized trauma, preventing future IPV.
Intimate partner violence is a pervasive, destructive problem for which many are still ignorant in regards to the etiology, as well effective preventive programs that address all risk factors involved. Children who experience traumatic violent events, can have both an impact on the development of their brain, as well as influence their mental health often responding with hypervigilance, and impulse. Children who are exposed to unstable environments are at an increased risk of abusing their female partners. External factors of IPV not only effect children’s ability to focus in school, and everyday tasks but also interferes with developing healthy interpersonal relationships. The male socialization that African American and Latin men have learned through their communities may be a contributing factor in the transmission of violence towards women. Additionally, other determinants of health include not having proper education, unemployment, income inequality, and Acculturation. Often men of color feel isolated, and devalued within their communities, due to political, and economic subordination. Feeling insecure, and insolated, many run to alcohol, and drugs to escape these oppressions. As a sociologist it is important to understand that domestic violence is complex, and multilayered requiring more funding, and community-based support. Furthermore, the key policy initiatives should be culturally sensitive, and addresses all these issues, in order work towards the reduction, and prevention of IPV.
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