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File:Cycle of Abuse.png

The cycle of abuse is a social cycle theory developed in the 1970s by Lenore Walker to explain patterns of behavior in an abusive relationship.[1]

Walker's theory rests on the idea that abusive relationships, once established, are characterized by a predictable repetitious pattern of abuse, whether emotional, psychological or physical, with psychological abuse nearly always preceding and accompanying physical abuse. Additionally, Walker suggested that sustained periods of living in such a cycle may lead to learned helplessness and battered person syndrome.

The cycle of abuse concept is widely used in domestic violence programs, particularly in the United States. Critics have argued the theory is flawed as it does not apply as universally as Walker suggested, does not accurately or completely describe all abusive relationships, and may favor ideological presumptions over empirical data.[2]

Phases of the cycleEdit

The cycle usually goes in the following order, and will repeat until the conflict is stopped, usually by the victim entirely abandoning the relationship.[3] The cycle can occur hundreds of times in an abusive relationship, the total cycle taking anywhere from a few hours, to a year or more to complete. However, the length of the cycle usually diminishes over time so that the "making-up" and "calm" stages may disappear.

1: Tension building phaseEdit

This phase occurs prior to an overtly abusive act, and is characterized by poor communication, passive aggression, rising interpersonal tension, and fear of causing outbursts in one's partner. During this stage the victims may attempt to modify his or her behavior to avoid triggering their partner's outburst.

2: Acting-out phaseEdit

Characterized by outbursts of violent, abusive incidents. During this stage the batterer attempts to dominate his/her partner (victim), with the use of domestic violence.

3: Reconciliation/Honeymoon phaseEdit

Characterized by affection, apology, or, alternatively, ignoring the incident. This phase marks an apparent end of violence, with assurances that it will never happen again, or that the abuser will do his or her best to change. During this stage the abuser feels overwhelming feelings of remorse and sadness, or at least pretends to. Some abusers walk away from the situation with little comment, but most will eventually shower their victims with love and affection. The abuser may use self-harm or threats of suicide to gain sympathy and/or prevent the victim from leaving the relationship. Abusers are frequently so convincing, and victims so eager for the relationship to improve, that victims who are often worn down and confused by longstanding abuse, stay in the relationship.[1][4]

Although it is easy to see the outbursts of the Acting-out Phase as abuse, even the more pleasant behaviours of the Honeymoon Phase serve to perpetuate the abuse.

4: Calm phaseEdit

During this phase (which is often considered an element of the honeymoon/reconciliation phase), the relationship is relatively calm and peaceable. However, interpersonal difficulties will inevitably arise, leading again to the tension building phase.

CritiquesEdit

Walker's cycle of abuse theory was regarded as a revolutionary and important concept in the study of abuse and interpersonal violence.[2] However, subsequent researchers have occasionally critiqued Walker's methodology, preconceptions or findings.

Dutton and Golant[2] agree that Walker's cycle of abuse accurately describes all cyclically abusive relationships they studied. Nonetheless, they also note that her initial research was based almost entirely on anecdotal data from a rather small set of women who were in violent relationships. Walker[1] herself wrote, "These women were not randomly selected and they cannot be considered a legitimate data base from which to make specific generalizations."

Initially, Walker proposed that the cycle of abuse described the controlling patriarchal behavior of men who felt entitled to abuse their wives to maintain control over them. Her terms "the battering cycle" and "battered woman syndrome" has since been largely eclipsed by "cycle of abuse" and "battered person syndrome," respectively, for many reasons: to maintain objectivity; because the cycle of abuse doesn't always lead to physical abuse; because symptoms of the syndrome have been observed in men and women, and are not confined to marriage and dating. Similarly, Dutton (1994)[5] writes, "The prevalence of violence in homosexual relationships, which also appear to go through abuse cycles is hard to explain in terms of men dominating women."

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Walker, Lenore E. (1979) The Battered Woman. New York: Harper and Row.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Dutton, Donald G. and Susan Golant. 1997. The Batterer: A Psychological Profile. 0465033881
  3. Bancroft, Lundy. Why does he do that? Inside the minds of angry and controlling men Berkley Publishing Group 2002 ISBN 0-339-14844-2
  4. Brewster, Susan Helping her get free Seal Press 2006 ISBN 1-58005-167-5
  5. Dutton, Donald G. (1994) Patriarchy And Wife Assault: The Ecological Fallacy. Violence and Victims, 9 (2), p. 125 – 140

Further readingEdit

BooksEdit

  • Engel, Beverly Breaking the Cycle of Abuse: How to Move Beyond Your Past to Create an Abuse-Free Future (2005)
  • Biddix, Brenda FireEagle Inside the Pain: (a survivors guide to breaking the cycles of abuse and domestic violence) (2006)
  • Hameen, Latifah Suffering In Silence: Breaking the Cycle of Abuse (2006)
  • Hegstrom, Paul Angry Men and the Women Who Love Them: Breaking the Cycle of Physical and Emotional Abuse (2004)
  • Herbruck, Christine Comstock Breaking the cycle of child abuse (1979)
  • Marecek, Mary Breaking Free from Partner Abuse: Voices of Battered Women Caught in the Cycle of Domestic Violence (1999)
  • Mills, Linda G. Violent Partners: A Breakthrough Plan for Ending the Cycle of Abuse (2008)
  • Ney, Philip G. & Peters, Anna Ending the Cycle of Abuse: The Stories of Women Abused As Children & the Group Therapy Techniques That Helped Them Heal (1995)
  • Pugh, Roxanne Deliverance from the Vicious Cycle of Abuse (2007)
  • Quinn, Phil E. Spare the Rod: Breaking the Cycle of Child Abuse (Parenting/Social Concerns and Issues) (1988)
  • Smullens, SaraKay Setting Yourself Free :Breaking the Cycle of Emtional Abuse in Family, Friendships, Work and Love (2002)
  • Waldfogel, Jane The Future of Child Protection: How to Break the Cycle of Abuse and Neglect (2001)
  • Wiehe, Vernon R. What Parents Need to Know About Sibling Abuse: Breaking the Cycle of Violence (2002)

Academic journalsEdit

  • Coxe, R & Holmes, W A study of the cycle of abuse among child molesters. Journal of Child Sexual Abuse, v10 n4 p111-18 2001
  • Dodge, K. A., Bates, J. E. and Pettit, G. S. (1990) Mechanisms in the cycle of violence. Science, 250: 1678-1681.
  • Egeland, B., Jacobvitz, D., & Sroufe, L. A. (1988). Breaking the cycle of abuse: Relationship predictors. Child Development, 59(4), 1080-1088.
  • Egeland, B & Erickson, M - Rising above the past: Strategies for helping new mothers break the cycle of abuse and neglect. Zero to Three 1990, 11(2):29-35.
  • Egeland, B. (1993) A history of abuse is a major risk factor for abusing the next generation. In: R. J. Gelles and D. R. Loseke (eds) Current controversies on family violence. Newbury Park, Calif.; London: Sage.
  • Furniss, Kathleen K. Ending the cycle of abuse: what behavioral health professionals need to know about domestic violence.: An article from: Behavioral Healthcare (2007)
  • Glasser, M & Campbell, D & Glasser, A & Leitch I & Farrelly S Cycle of child sexual abuse: links between being a victim and becoming a perpetrator The British Journal of Psychiatry (2001) 179: 482-494
  • Kirn, Timothy F. Sexual abuse cycle can be broken, experts assert.(Psychiatry): An article from: Internal Medicine News (2008)
  • Quayle, E Taylor, M - Child pornography and the Internet: Perpetuating a cycle of abuse Deviant Behavior, Volume 23, Issue 4 July 2002 , pages 331 - 361
  • Stone, AE & Fialk, RJ Criminalizing the exposure of children to family violence: Breaking the cycle of abuse 20 Harv. Women's L.J. 205, Spring, 1997
  • Woods, J Breaking the cycle of abuse and abusing: Individual psychotherapy for juvenile sex Clinical Child Psychology and Psychiatry, Vol. 2, No. 3, 379-392 (1997)

External links Edit


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