Publication - Research and analysis

Scottish Social Attitudes Survey 2014: Attitudes to violence against women in Scotland

Published: 25 Nov 2015
Part of:
Research
ISBN:
9781785448003

This report presents findings from the 2014 Scottish Social Attitudes survey on the attitudes of the Scottish public to the following forms of violence against women: sexual violence, domestic abuse (physical, verbal, mental and emotional), sexual harassment and commercial sexual exploitation.

131 page PDF

1.8 MB

131 page PDF

1.8 MB

Contents
Scottish Social Attitudes Survey 2014: Attitudes to violence against women in Scotland
4. Domestic abuse – Verbal abuse and controlling behaviour

131 page PDF

1.8 MB

4. Domestic abuse – Verbal abuse and controlling behaviour

We now turn from attitudes towards physical abuse between a married couple to scenarios that portray verbally abusive or controlling behaviour. First, we look at attitudes towards a relationship in which someone’s husband or wife repeatedly verbally abuses them. Then we turn to various examples of controlling behaviour, such as their husband or wife trying to stop them from going out, wanting them to change what they wear, or insisting on having sight of their financial affairs.

As in the previous chapter on physical abuse, some respondents’ views were sought when the woman was the victim and the views of other respondents were sought about their attitudes when the man was the victim. Comparing these two sets of attitudes enables us to establish whether people adopt a consistent attitude towards a particular form of abuse, or whether in fact their views were dependent on the gender of the victim.

Verbal abuse

First of all, we asked respondents to: ‘Imagine a married couple who both work. When the man has a stressful day at work, he often takes it out on his wife by putting her down and criticising her.’ They were then asked to say both how wrong the man’s behaviour was, using the seven point scale from ‘not wrong at all’ to ‘very seriously wrong’, and how much harm his behaviour did to his wife. Only half the respondents were asked to consider this particular scenario. The other half were asked a version in which it was a woman putting down her husband.

As can be seen from Table 4.1 , most people believed that putting down your husband or wife and criticising them is wrong, irrespective of the gender of the perpetrator or the victim: 94% said it was wrong (choosing a score of at least 5 out of 7) when the man criticised his wife, while 88% thought it was wrong when the criticism came from the woman to her husband. However, the gender of those involved did make some difference. Whereas nearly three-quarters (72%) felt that it was ‘very seriously wrong’ when a husband put down his wife, less than half (46%) said the same when the wife put down her husband.

Table 4.1 Attitudes towards the perpetrator’s behaviour – putting down and criticising wife/husband

Behaviour is… Man putting down his wife Woman putting down her husband
7 Very seriously wrong 72% 46%
6 16% 27%
5 6% 15%
4 2% 6%
3 1% 2%
2 * 1%
1 Not wrong at all * 2%
Don’t know/Refusal 2% *
Weighted bases 738¥ 695^
Unweighted bases 740¥ 688^

Base: All respondents who completed either Version A¥ or Version B^ of the self-completion

A similar pattern appeared when people were asked how much harm this behaviour did to the victim (see Table 4.2 ). In both cases, most thought that it did either ‘a great deal’ or ‘quite a lot’ of harm, but this was especially so when the woman was the victim: 79% felt that the woman’s behaviour did ‘a great deal’ or ‘quite a lot’ of harm to her husband, but 92% expressed that view when the wife received the criticism.

Table 4.2 Man/ woman putting down and criticising wife/ husband. What harm, if any, do you think this does to him/ her?

Man putting down his wife Woman putting down her husband
A great deal 61% 41%
Quite a lot 31% 38%
Some 6% 17%
Not very much * 3%
None at all * 1%
Don’t know/Refusal 2% *
Weighted bases 738¥ 695^
Unweighted bases 740¥ 688^

Base: All respondents who completed either Version A¥ or Version B^ of the self-completion

For the most part, women were more likely than men to feel that a man putting down his wife and criticising her was wrong and harmful to the victim (see Figure 4.1 ). Whereas 68% of men thought that the behaviour of the man who frequently put his wife down and criticised her was ‘very seriously wrong’, 77% of women thought so. Equally, whereas only 52% of men thought that the man’s behaviour did ‘a great deal’ of harm to his wife, two-thirds (69%) of women thought so.

Figure 4.1 How wrong is it and what harm does it do when a man puts down his wife and criticises her (%)

Figure 4.1 How wrong is it and what harm does it do when a man puts down his wife and criticises her (%)

Base: All respondents who completed either Version A of the self-completion
Unweighted base= 740 Weighted base= 738

See Annex A, Tables 4.1 and 4.3 for full details.

Men and women had very similar views about how wrong the wife’s behaviour was when she was the perpetrator of the abuse (see Table 4.3 ). 47% of women thought the woman’s behaviour was ‘very seriously wrong’, as did 45% of men. Both genders were less likely to say that the woman’s behaviour was ‘very seriously wrong’ compared with the man’s behaviour (see Figure 4.1 above). However, women were more likely than men to say that the woman putting down her husband caused him ‘a great deal’ of harm (see Table 4.3 ). 35% of men thought that the man was harmed by his wife putting him down compared with 46% of women.

Table 4.3 Attitudes to woman putting down and criticising her husband by gender, age and holding stereotypical views on gender roles

% said woman’s behaviour ‘very seriously wrong’ % believed behaviour did man ‘a great deal’ of harm Unweighted bases
Gender
Men 45% 35% 309
Women 47% 46% 379
Age Group
18-29 61% 57% 179
30-39 45% 46% 212
40-64 45% 39% 646
65+ 36% 28% 390
Views of Gender Roles
Buy the doll 55% 51% 256
Try to get to pick a different toy 42% 38% 249
Make him put the doll back 39% 32% 177

Base: All respondents who completed either Version A¥ or Version B^ of the self-completion

See Annex A Table 4.2 for weighted bases

Attitudes towards the scenario in which the woman criticised her husband also varied according to both age and whether people held stereotypical views on gender roles. As Figure 4.2 shows, younger people were more likely than older people to think that the woman’s behaviour was ‘very seriously wrong’. 61% of those aged 18 to 29 years old said that the woman’s behaviour was ‘very seriously wrong’, but only 36% of those aged 65 or over thought this. Younger people were also more likely than older people to believe that the man would be harmed ‘a great deal’ by her behaviour. And those who did not hold stereotypical views on gender roles were significantly more likely to feel that the behaviour was both ‘very seriously wrong’ (Figure 4.1 ) and harmful compared with those who did hold stereotypical views on gender roles (that is, they would make the boy put the doll back). 55% of those who would buy the doll thought the woman’s behaviour was ‘very seriously wrong’ compared with 39% of those who would make him put the doll back.

Figure 4.2 Believing the woman’s behaviour is ‘very seriously wrong’ if she criticises and puts down husband by age and holding stereotypical views on gender roles

Figure 4.2 Believing the woman’s behaviour is ‘very seriously wrong’ if she criticises and puts down husband by age and holding stereotypical views on gender roles

Base: All respondents who completed Version B of the self-completion

Unweighted base= 688 Weighted base= 695

See Annex A, Tables 4.2 and 4.4 for full details.

In contrast neither age nor views on gender roles were related to views on a man putting his wife down. In relation to age this contrast occurred because the views of older people were more influenced by the gender of the perpetrator than the views of younger people. So, for example, amongst those aged 18-29, there was only an 11 point difference between the proportion who thought that it was ‘very seriously wrong’ when a man put down his wife (72%) and the proportion who took the same view when a woman did (61%). In contrast, the equivalent gap amongst those aged 65 and over was as much as 28 points - 64% thought it was ‘very seriously wrong’ when the man put down his wife compared with only 36% who thought the same when a woman put down her husband.

There was a significant relationship between income and attitudes towards a man putting down his wife. Those in the highest income group were more likely than those in the lowest income group to say that the man’s behaviour was ‘very seriously wrong’ (77% compared with 64% respectively) (see Annex A, Table A4.1). This did not, however, translate into them being more likely to say that the man’s behaviour caused harm to the woman.

Controlling behaviour – not wanting wife/husband to go out with friends

This section discusses the first of the scenarios about controlling behaviour. Again, half of the respondents were asked their views when the victim was a woman and half when it was a man. The first group was asked: ‘Imagine a married woman who wants to go out with her friends for a meal in the evening. When she tells her husband about it, he gets very annoyed. He tells her that he doesn’t want her going out without him.’ The other group was asked exactly the same question, except that it was the husband who wanted to go out and the wife who said she did not want him to go out without her.

Comparing Table 4.4 with Table 4.1 above shows that such behaviour was less likely to be regarded as ‘very seriously wrong’ than repeatedly putting down a wife or husband. Nevertheless, a majority still believed that it was seriously wrong (a score of 5 or more on the scale), irrespective of the gender of the perpetrator or the victim. However, once again we found that the gender of the perpetrator and the victim does make some difference to people’s attitudes. Whereas 50% said that it was ‘very seriously wrong’ for the husband to try and stop his wife from going out, less than half that proportion, 23%, said the same of the wife stopping her husband from going out.

Table 4.4 Attitudes towards the perpetrator’s behaviour – not wanting wife/husband to go out without them

Behaviour is… Man does not want wife to go out Woman does not want husband to go out
% %
7 Very seriously wrong 50% 23%
6 21% 22%
5 11% 20%
4 8% 18%
3 4% 7%
2 2% 4%
1 Not wrong at all 3% 5%
Don’t know/Refusal 2% *
Weighted bases 738¥ 695^
Unweighted bases 740¥ 688^

Base: All respondents who completed either Version A¥ or Version B^ of the self-completion

This difference is also reflected in people’s views about the harm that such behaviour might cause. As Table 4.5 shows, two-thirds (66%) stated that the husband’s behaviour would do ‘a great deal’ or ‘quite a lot’ of harm to the woman, but only 41% said the same about the woman’s behaviour towards her husband.

Table 4.5 Perceptions of harm – do not want wife/husband going out without them

Man does not want wife to go out Woman does not want husband to go out
% %
A great deal 30% 12%
Quite a lot 36% 29%
Some 26% 43%
Not very much 4% 12%
None at all 2% 3%
Don’t know/Refusal 1% 1%
Weighted bases 738¥ 695^
Unweighted bases 740¥ 688^

Base: All respondents who completed either Version A¥ or Version B^ of the self-completion

Women were more likely than men to be negative about such behaviour, irrespective of the gender of the victim. While 43% of men felt that the husband’s behaviour was ‘very seriously wrong’, 56% of women felt that way. In the case of the wife trying to stop her husband from going out, the equivalent figures were 17% and 29% respectively.

There were only two further factors that showed marginally significant differences between groups: views on gender roles and education. Only 39% of those who would refuse to buy the boy a doll believed that the husband’s behaviour was ‘very seriously wrong’, compared with 53% who would buy the doll without saying anything. And those with a degree (37%) were significantly more likely than those with no formal educational qualifications (20%) to say the wife’s behaviour was ‘very seriously wrong’ (see Annex A, Table 4.5).

Women (36%) were also significantly more likely than men (23%) to say that the man’s behaviour did ‘a great deal’ of harm to his wife. There were no significant differences between men’s and women’s views about harm when the woman tried to stop her husband from going out. Those who had experienced gender-based violence (33%) were also more likely than those who had not (19%) to say that the husband’s behaviour would cause ‘a great deal’ of harm. Again this difference was not replicated when respondents were asked about the woman stopping her husband from going out. In that case, it appears that it is age that makes some difference. Those aged 18 to 29 years old (21%) were much more likely than those aged over 65 (8%) to feel that the woman trying to control whether her husband goes out would do ‘a great deal’ of harm.

Controlling behaviour – trying to control what wife/husband wears

The second example of controlling behaviour described a situation where just before going out for the evening, a man tells his wife to wear something different. Specifically, the scenario was: ‘A woman is getting ready for a night out. When her husband sees she is dressed up more than usual, he tells her he doesn’t like her going out looking like that and tells her to change.’

The first column of Table 4.6 shows there was widespread acceptance that a man trying to control what his wife is wearing is wrong. As many as 81% gave it a score of 5 or more on the 7-point scale. However, only around 4 in 10 (39%) believed it was ‘very seriously wrong’, meaning that it was much less likely to be regarded as ‘very seriously wrong’ than any of the other behaviours considered so far in which the woman was the victim.

Table 4.6 Attitudes towards the man’s behaviour – telling wife to change clothes before a night out

Behaviour is… Man tells wife to change clothes After wife has had an affair – man tells wife to change clothes
% %
7 Very seriously wrong 39% 21%
6 24% 13%
5 18% 14%
4 8% 14%
3 5% 10%
2 2% 12%
1 Not wrong at all 2% 15%
Don’t know/Refusal 1% 1%
Weighted bases 1433 1433
Unweighted bases 1428 1428

Base: All respondents who completed the self-completion

Equally, people were not particularly inclined to feel that such behaviour was harmful. Only 27% thought that the man’s behaviour would cause a ‘great deal of harm’ to the woman, fewer than in any of the other scenarios considered so far, although a further 34% did feel that it would cause ‘quite a lot’ of harm.

Women were more likely than men to be negative about the man’s behaviour and to feel that it did the woman considerable harm. 31% of men believed that the behaviour was ‘very seriously wrong’ compared with 46% of women. Just 22% of men felt that it did ‘a great deal’ of harm to the woman, compared with 31% of women.

There was a similar difference between those who held stereotypical views on gender roles and those who did not. Nearly half (47%) of those who would buy a doll for a boy felt that the man’s behaviour was ‘very seriously wrong’, compared with just 30% of those who would make the boy put the doll back. Equally, whereas 34% of those who would buy a doll for a boy thought that the behaviour did ‘a great deal’ of harm, only 21% of those who would make the boy put the doll back did so.

Those who had had some personal experience of gender-based violence (49%) were also more likely than those who had not (36%) to say that the man’s behaviour was ‘very seriously wrong’, though when it came to whether or not the behaviour was harmful the difference between these two groups was not statistically significant.

But perhaps people’s views about such behaviour depend on the circumstances? Maybe there are circumstances which people felt excused this behaviour and mitigated the seriousness of the man’s actions? To investigate this possibility all of the respondents were asked how wrong they felt the man’s behaviour would be if he ‘had recently found out that his wife had been having an affair’.

As the second column of Table 4.6 above shows, this did prove to be the case. If the wife had had an affair slightly less than half (48%) felt that the man’s behaviour merited a score of 5 or more on the ‘wrong’ scale, although this group was still larger than the group who gave a score of 3 or less (37%).

Moreover, in these circumstances there were only small differences by both gender and whether or not people held stereotypical views on gender roles in perceptions that the man’s behaviour was ‘very seriously wrong’. While just 18% of men thought that the man’s behaviour was ‘very seriously wrong’, the equivalent Figure amongst women was only slightly higher at 24%. Similarly, 26% of those who would buy a boy a doll thought the behaviour was ‘very seriously wrong’, compared with 19% of those who would make the boy put the doll back.

Women and those who did not hold stereotypical views on gender roles were slightly more likely to think the man’s behaviour was wrong. After finding out the wife had had an affair, women’s views changed more than men’s and the views of those who did not hold stereotypical views on gender roles changed more than those who did hold stereotypical views. So, for example, among men there was a 13 point difference between the proportion who thought that it was ‘very seriously wrong’ for a man to tell his wife to change her clothes (31%) and the proportion who took the same view when the woman had had an affair (18%). In contrast, the equivalent gap amongst women was 22 points - 46% thought the behaviour was ‘very seriously wrong’ compared with only 24% when the woman had had an affair.

Controlling behaviour – financial control

An important issue in any long-term relationship is how the couple manage their finances. That means finance can provide another way in which a partner can engage in controlling behaviour. To investigate attitudes towards this possibility, respondents were asked to consider the following scenario:

‘Now imagine a married couple who both work full time and earn similar salaries. The man insists on looking at his wife’s bank statements every month, but he does not let her see his own’.

Such behaviour was more likely to be regarded as ‘very seriously wrong’ than either of the other two examples of controlling behaviour considered so far. Around 3 in 5 (63%) thought controlling the wife’s finances was ‘very seriously wrong’, while 93% regarded it as meriting a score of 5 or more.

On the other hand, this behaviour was no more likely to be regarded as harmful than the other forms of controlling behaviour (perpetrated by a man). Just 34% felt insisting on looking at his wife’s bank statements did the woman ‘a great deal’ of harm, though a further 38% thought it would do ‘quite a lot’ of harm.

In what is by now a very familiar pattern, women were both significantly more likely to think that the man’s behaviour was ‘very seriously wrong’ and that it did the woman ‘a great deal’ of harm (see Table 4.7 ). At the same time, views on both also differed by age. However, whereas previously when there were age differences younger people were inclined to be more negative about the behaviour or more likely to feel that serious harm had been done, in this instance, the opposite was the case. For example, only 26% of those aged 18 to 29 years old felt that the behaviour would cause a ‘great deal of harm’, compared with 40% of those aged 65 or over.

Table 4.7 Attitudes to husband insisting on seeing bank statements by gender and age

% said man’s behaviour ‘very seriously wrong’ % believed behaviour did woman ‘a great deal’ of harm Unweighted bases
Gender
Male 57% 27% 615
Female 69% 40% 813
Age Group
18-29 54% 26% 179
30-39 56% 31% 212
40-64 67% 36% 646
65+ 69% 40% 390

Base: All respondents who completed the self-completion

In addition to these two patterns, and more in keeping with other results, those who would buy the boy a doll (38%) were significantly more likely than those who would not (29%) to say that the behaviour did ‘a great deal of harm’ to the woman.


Contact

Email: Alison Stout