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Girlfriend Abuse as a Form of

Girlfriend Abuse as a Form of - Girlfriend Abuse as a Form...

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Girlfriend Abuse as a Form of Masculinity Construction among Violent, Marginal Male Youth MARK TOTTEN Youth Services Bureau of Ottawa This study focuses on the development and effect of familial and gender ideologies on the masculine identities of thirty marginal male youth aged thirteen to seventeen years, all of whom were gang members or belonged to violent male peer groups. Qualitative, indepth interviews uncovered protest and negative masculine identities. Their abusive behavior, directed at girlfriends, gays, and racial minorities, is suggested to be a response to blocked access to traditional institutional benefits of patriarchy. Violence compensated for perceived threats to their masculine identities. The construction of masculinity was an ongoing process for these boys, negotiated and developed on a daily basis using available resources in their social space location. Significant differences within the sample explain the variation in the degree to which they embraced patriarchal- authoritarian models of family and gender, and variation in the forms and seriousness of their physical and sexual violence. Key words: youth violence, gangs, girlfriend abuse, masculinity, child maltreatment Male violence against women is a major problem in Western, postindustrial societies (Johnson 1996; O’Neil and Harway 1997; Thorne- Finch 1992). Statistics Canada’s Violence Against Women Survey (VAWS) estimates that 51 percent of Canadian women have experienced at least one incident of physical or sexual assault since the age of sixteen.Alarge body of survey data suggests that male-to-female physical, sexual, and psychological assaults in dating relationships are common on Canadian and American university and college campuses (Barnes, Greenwood, and Sommer 1991; DeKeseredy and Schwartz 1998; Stets and Henderson 1991). Data on the extent of girlfriend abuse in high school and elementary school dating relationships suggests that girlfriend abuse is likewise a serious problem in these settings. These assaults pose a significant threat to the health and well-being of these young women (Coffey et al. 1996; Totten 2000). While statistics on this issue are available, there is an absence of research on male youth that provides theoretical analysis and qualitative under- Men and Masculinities, Vol. 6 No. 1, July 2003 70-92 DOI: 10.1177/1097184X03253138 © 2003 Sage Publications 70 Downloaded from http://jmm.sagepub.com at Ebsco Electronic Journals Service (EJS) on March 26, 2010 standing of this phenomenon (O’Neil and Harway 1999; O’Neil and Nadeau 1999; Schwartz 1988). Furthermore, although some studies suggest that violent interpersonal assaults are most prevalent among those with the least resources, especially younger people (McKendy 1997; Messerschmidt 1993; O’Keefe 1998), there is an absence of girlfriend abuse research among those who are less privileged. This study addresses these issues.
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