Master Thesis The relationship between gender, violence and identity construction ± A literature review and focus group

research among female adolescents in Cuenca, Ecuador. Promotor: Prof. Dr. Paul Enzlin Student: Sofie Maenhout
Master thesis Master in human of sexuality July 2010 1

I. Statement of the problem

II. Literature review III. Analyses

IV. Conclusion



Statement of the problem
‡ Family or personal relationships are not always equally satisfactory. The boundary between attachment and destruction can be very thin. ‡ Violence is a common phenomenon in every country. Ecuador, like other countries, suffers from this problem. ‡ An additional problem in Ecuador is the fact that speaking about violence in a familial context is considered taboo. This taboo is partly maintained by cultural ³ beliefs´ or ³myths´ that normalize violence (Jerves et al., 2009).


Statement of the problem
‡ Many communities have boundaries concerning the forms of violence that are tolerated, often in the context of discipline constituted by social institutions like family or marriage. Impermissible forms of violence are categorized under the definition ³abuse´ (Engly, 2006). ‡ In Ecuador too many boundaries shape social reality. Cultural beliefs, like masculinity allow violence to exist (Villasenor Farias and Castañeda- Torres, 2003).



Literature review

This gender related concepts are contribution factors in the victimization of female adolescents: machismo patriachal society the exposure to parental violence an uncertain romantic relation ship style a passive coping style


Literature review
‡ Female adolescents in poor families in Cuenca are forming an inferior identity construction because existing assumptions of patriarchal traditions and subjugation of women. ‡ Teenage pregnancies in Cuenca are strongly be associated with partner violence. ‡ A lack of scientific information is adapted for adolescents.


Method: Qualitative research
‡ Using three focus groups in the private school CEDFI in Cuenca in Ecuador. ‡ Three focus groups were conducted with different age segments, from the age nine until eleven, twelve until fourteen, and fifteen until nineteen. ‡ With guidance of three cases studies of family violence (concerning physical, psychological and sexual violence), the focus group was inquired on their attitudes towards domestic and sexual violence.



Analyses of focusgroup discussions
‡ The Grounded Theory 1. Intends to collect the codes in categories 2. Assignment of domains 3. Development of a theoretical structure Hierarchical code structure a theoretical model (explaining the relationship between identity, gender and violence).




Code structure


‡ 12 domains from the code structure: a) an insecure romantic relationship style b) communication c) relation skills d) lack of responsibility e) gender concepts f) patriarchal society g) using power h) respectful treating i) inferior identity construction j) defensive strategies (nature of resilience) k) effects

Associations between domains


1) gender-concepts -> identity construction
‡ Gender concepts that are living in the community have a strong influence on the identity construction of female adolescents ‡ Machismo expresses itself as superiority over women ‡ A girl expressed this as follows: ³Men seem superior to women. They all think it is justifiable.´


1) gender-concepts -> identity construction
‡ Women are, in this case, regarded as a sex object. The participants described this as follows: ³A macho must have someone for pleasure, just as sex object. But men who think in such way, are disgracing themselves.´ Men in this society ask sexual activity as testimony for love. ³They have crazy hormones, if you give them a hug, they want more. A girl must µgive¶ sex as a testimony for love. In my opinion having sex isn¶t good proof for love.´


1) gender-concepts -> identity construction
‡ Such macho forms are tolerated by most female adolescents. ‡ This illustrates the following statement: ‡ ³Some females accept machismo. They accept that they can be abused. They agree to the idea that men are superior towards woman. The men think they can do everything´. ‡ Superior masculinity (gender concepts) are internalized by the women. ‡ Some girls often act out of oppression. ‡ ³If they are forced out of love, they will reform (for fear of loss)´

1) gender-concepts-> identity construction
‡ A lack of self-esteem and confidence, according to this adolescent group, is at the base of tolerating violence ‡ This view is reflected in the following phase. She has not much confidence. If you love yourself, you don¶t accept such things. ‡ Women do have the responsibility to choose their partner. ‡ ³The majority is just like Emillio, there is a certain variation. It¶s up to our selves to choose.´


1) gender-concepts-> identity construction
There are also gentle men (loving knights). They are much friendlier and more introverted. They know how to communicate.


1) gender-concepts construction


Conclusion: Gender concepts in Cuenca are probably internalized by female adolescents. Internalization of the feeling that men are superior towards women, is leading these women to a feeling of oppression.


2) Identity Construction insecure romantic relationship style
‡ Some female adolescents, some girls do not dare to stand up for their rights out of fear of losing their husbands. ´She must be strong in her decisions. She can not be influenced ... ". ‡ The importance of self-esteem is recognized too. "It is necessary to have self-esteem so such things aren¶t tolerated ". ‡ They say that if she has a sense of self, she may not return the man who assaulted her. They will feel more capable.


2) Identity Construction insecure romantic relationship style
³She must understand that he does not love her. She should leave him making her more capable. He will feel nothing, because he requires it.´ ‡ If the boy manipulates the girl and pressures her for sex, it raises, according the girls from the focus groups, bad and pessimistic feelings: ‡ "She feels forced, because otherwise he will leave her, if she doesn¶t get the help from a friend, she needs to inform the parents of an other friend.´


2) Identity Construction insecure romantic relationship style
‡ A lack of confidence leads to the fact that they allow such things. They create an inferior identity construction. ‡ An inferior identity construction has an impact on the form of an uncertain romantic relationship style. ‡ For example, it is stated that they always will doubt, if they remain in a position which allows abuse.
The fear is always in return, it will happen again. "Some people don¶t learn from their mistakes .... I mean that they always will be doubt, the fear that it will happen again ....


2) Identity Construction insecure romantic relationship style
‡ Depending on who has positive experiences, one can determine what may or may not. ‡ But to understand what is wrong, you should have a life with positive experiences. This is the reason why an inferior identity construction is maintained. A lack of positive experiences may lead to insecure attachment. Resulting in an uncertain relationship. An additional problem is the following:
"I will say, if they want love, why not. Many times some girls think no. Why should they store, that's our fault. I don¶t think the girl will leave because she will always serve him. He should respect the truth.´


3) Uncertain romantic relationship style relational skills
‡ An uncertain romantic relationship style is associated with relational skills.
"There is a feeling of insecurity. Do he love her or not? This uncertainty rise up from a lack of love and affection. Some girls said that love is blind. Some girls accept some things, but it must be say, that some decisions aren¶t respected.


3) Uncertain romantic relationship style relational skills
‡ Some girls are feeling so inferior that they sacrifice their own desires for the other person. ‡ According the participants, there is no insight that their partner doesn't love and respect them.
The said love is blind, and they forget their own value. In such issue, the boy say he doesn¶t love her. If he love her, he needs to wait for to start a sexual relationship (and not obligate out of respect). She need to leave him, if he doesn¶t respect her decisions. ³


3) Uncertain romantic relationship style relational skills
‡ An insecure attachment in the past can lead to an uncertain romantic relationship style. ‡ An uncertain romantic relationship style is associated with avoidance or anxiousness to establish themselves in relationships. ‡ It isn¶t easy when someone has an uncertain romantic relationship style to change to a different lifestyle: ‡ "How can they decide if you spent all your life for the television ? They don¶t know, what it is, to take an other style of live. ‡ An unsecure romantic relation style, from the preoccupied type is often associated with jealousy.´ 28

4) Insecure romantic relationship style communication skills
‡ An uncertain romantic relationship style in female adolescence leads to the fact, that they are feeling insecure to stand up for their opinion. ‡ An uncertain romantic relationship style is associated with a lack of communication skills. ‡ ³It seems mainly a lack of communication, because they don¶t know what happens with the other partner. They fall into miscommunication. They need to have an agreement.´


4) Insecure romantic relationship style communication skills
‡ Furthermore the female adolescents state that they feel more comfortable when they can talk in a group solely existing out of women about intra-family and sexual violence. "It's good sign, we can just talk with women. With the men there, I¶ll be feeling ashamed. I would likely be less loquacious. ‡ The conclusion of this part is that some girls feel too insecure to talk with men about violence. However, there is a desire to share their values and feelings with the men.

5) Relational skills skills


‡ Communication happens with two persons in a relationship. Relational skills and communication skills are in interaction with each other. ‡ "Melissa had a responsibility too, because she wasn¶t communicative at all. She¶s little innocence, but there was a lack of communication between the two people. If he needed to be together with someone else, I think it¶s better to talk about it. They should talk about having al or nothing sexual relations, but follow the female adolescents, it have more to deal with love«.


5) Relational skills skills


‡ ³For me, it has more to do with love and not with principles or values. They can say, what they desire from a girlfriend, but the other can¶t have one specific live moment, for not having sexual relations. But they love to do something. It doesn¶t have to with principles.´


6) Communication skills resilience

the power of

‡ ³If you indicate that it is necessary to communicate about certain issues, in order to achieve an agreement. This is a strategy to prevent violence. ‡ I think it is bad, but not justifiable. They don¶t have time together. He must say how he feels, to prevent this. ‡ Saying µno´ is an important strategy to defend.


6) Communication skills resilience

power of

‡ "First I would say no, then I would speak to my parents so they can complain. If the decision isn¶t respected, they can not tolerate violence from their partner. ‡ I think she shouldn¶t go back, because she can¶t accept violence from her partner. ‡ Skills to communicate are important for resilience.


7) Relational skills

type of resilience

‡ A lack of experiencing love during childhood, can lead to a weak resilience.
± As example: I know a girl, who had everything on material resources. The parents were always working. She always said: my mother isn¶t here, my father isn¶t here. I¶m home alone. She¶s usually sleeping, if they come home at night. She lives alone, without feelings, she has no brothers or sisters. She isn¶t loved or gets parental care. It¶s a bad education for her, if the parents don¶t guide her. ± They forget negative interaction in their relation. I guess a lot of times, we¶re blinded by love. We have a wrong vision of the others. They forget negative reactions in relations. ± On this way it will always come back. ± Don¶t react on thing who goes wrong in a relation, is a sign of passive coping, to have consequences for resilience´.

8) Strength of resilience consequences: victimization
‡ A weaker resilience is an interaction with traumatically experiences from the victims of the female adolescents. ³It's a typical couple, but the problem is having a trauma after what happened.´ ‡ If just they want to act something out. They really love each other, but they are searching for a reason to act out, and to beat him, like her. Intimate partner violence follows female adolescents described in a cycle.


9) Lack of respectful threatens relationship skills
‡ According to the female adolescent, valuing the other person (relational skills) is associated with a lack of respectful acting. ‡ "In this sight is having confidence, and giving respect to each others.


10) Lack of acting respectful communication skills
‡ Female adolescents say when you obligated someone, there is no love. The importance is that they understand each other. ‡ Understanding as a part of communication skills. ‡ There is an interaction with a lack of respectful acting. ‡ They just have such a lack of respect. They must have an argument about the sexual and don¶t have experience as obligation.


11) Lack of responsibility Consequences: victimization
‡ According to the female participants, if a boy doesn¶t respect a girl, a violent relation will be come back. Or just only the habit in their relationship. ‡ ³For me it is important to take care, it is necessary, that they love each other, and don¶t push the other person´.


12) Lack of responsibility respect

lack of

‡ The female adolescents believe that when there is love in their relationship, it involves respect in the relationship. ‡ That is illustrated by the following sentence: "If they assume there is love in the relationship, there is respect between the two partners. If the boy doesn¶t respect his girl, there would be violence.´


13) Lack of responsibility skills


‡ If there was a lack of responsibility by the parents in the past there could be problems with their relational skills in the future. ‡ According to the female adolescents it is very important to build up their own love, if someone his whole live is build up out of parental tasks. There¶s parentification.


13) Lack of responsibility skills


‡ ³ As a child, living by taking care. I know a case in a family, where the mum died, a girl of 15 years. She had four younger brothers, she gave up her own youth. When she will be 20 years old, she will want to get her time back, but she will never be able.´


14) Lack responsibility communication skills
‡ If the parents don¶t take any responsibility, it has, according the female participants, consequences for the future: ‡ "She lives alone, without feelings. She has no brothers or sisters. She doesn¶t receive any love or care from her parents. It is a bad way for her parents, the parents aren¶t guiding her.


15) Lack of responsibility power


‡ Some female adolescents think that if the partner isn¶t confidential, the cause is loneliness, because they don¶t spend time to invest in the relation. The solution: they need help. ‡ "He feels lonely, because he doesn¶t spend time with his girlfriend to invest in the relationship, he should seek help and go to a person who can help and decide what to do.´ ‡ Loneliness is no justification for such behavior. In this case interaction is situated between a lack of responsibility and power.


15) Lack of responsibility power


‡ Lack of responsibility in a relationship, also shows abuse of power. According the female adolescents they say that such a man presses his girl to start with sexual relationships, because the feeling is right. ‡ ³If the boy knows that a girl loves him, it¶s easy for him to benefit. Why I said that, because he has the right to express his love. He know if she love him, we can use it´.


16) Gender Concepts

power abuse

‡ According the female participants, boys and girls think about "sexuality" in a complete other way. Some female adolescents have counterproductive premarital sex. ‡ "It is wrong to have sex before marriage". ‡ They associated sex with love. A young girl said the following: ³For us means giving your body at someone, that you love each other, but the only thing, what he wants, is let you go. This marks is by girls associated with love. Some boys associated with values and love are important for female adolescents.


16) Gender Concepts

power abuse

‡ That values and love for the female adolescents are important comes back in the following statement: "In a serious relationship, one must show that you love each other to show that the person is worth it. For me it is something very special, I just want to do with someone whose heart and soul I love.´ "According to the female adolescents, Unfortunately the boys did not think the same. They agree that he only wants sex and not her. I think she should terminate the relationship with him and realize that everything he will of her is a sexual relationship and not a serious relationship´

17) Patriarchal community abuse


‡ A patriarchal society tolerates boundary behavior in the community. ‡ Macho-men in the Cuenca society use the excuse that the flesh is weak.


17) Patriarchal community abuse


‡ Regarding the violence, besides tolerating it, female adolescents also have a strong apathy against violence


17) Patriarchal community


‡ The concepts "tolerance" and "apathy" lead to power abuse. Other abuse is often perpetrated by confidence persons´


17) Patriachal community concepts


‡ "A girl was raped by her grandfather. ³The parents don¶t live here, because they are migrated. She was abused by her grandfather, who profited from the situation.´ The position is that parents are migrated or the counselors, who often have an educational role in a powerful position. According to the oldest female adolescents exist sexual abuse is more prevalent in the countryside.


18) Patriarchal society concepts


‡ Female adolescents recognize that women often sacrifice their selves for the men in Cuenca. ‡ I guess it has a lot to do with the community and family. At least the female adolescents mean that women from a lower social class, don¶t have enough future perspectives.


‡ Education is a necessary process for the future and its consequences.


Common theory building
‡ The existing gender concepts, an asymmetric malefemale relationship, is internalized by female adolescents. ‡ Cuenca characterizes itself as a patriarchal society that generally accepts machismo. ‡ The Cuencan society defines itself by an apathetic attitude toward violence. ‡ Not all men however are considered to be macho by nature, there are considered to be several types of men. The choice is up to the woman herself.


Common theory building
‡ Girls that opt for a macho men could be deficient in selfworth and self-confidence. ‡ This inferior identity construction is associated with an uncertain romantic relationship style. ‡ A preoccupied romantic relationship style forces the girls to completely sacrifice themselves for their partner. ‡ This uncertain romantic relationship style often involves not having the courage to stand up for their own opinions and thus a lack of communication skills.


Common theory building
‡ Lack of communication often encourages to be treated disrespectful. This leads to the habitude and tolerance of sexual and domestic violence towards female adolescents. ‡ Open transparent communication would be an important part in the preventing domestic and sexual violence.


Common theory building
‡ Lacks of responsibility taken by parents are possible to have serious implications for the future of the adolescents. ‡ Open transparent communication would be an important part in preventing sexual and domestic violence. ‡ In some families in Cuenca a strong form of parentification is noticeable, making it difficult for adolescents to build their life on their own.


Common theory building
‡ The abuse of power by a trusted person is more common with adolescents with a difficult situation, such as the ones that have migrated parents. ‡ Women of lower education are particularly vulnerable to violence because they would sacrifice themselves quicker for their husbands.


‡ This study showed that female adolescents internalize existing gender relates concepts, the superiority of machismo and a asymmetrical relationship. ‡ Based on that they create an inferior identity construction, resulting in the fact that they are less evolved in terms of communication and relational skills, opposite their partner, making themselves more susceptible to violence. ‡ Preventing programs should therefore take extra care into increasing assertiveness and communication skills among female adolescents.


‡ None of the above pictures is associated with personal stories. ‡ Thank you for your help and collaboration in this project!


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