A study of schoolchildren in Glasgow, Scotland, revealed some extremely disturbing findings: violence against women was perceived as justifiable if there was a “reason” behind it (anything from having an affair to being late making tea). The children also expected women to curtail ambitions after getting married.
The study, admittedly, was limited. Focusing on 89 schoolchildren in five different Glasgow schools, the sample size was extremely small and focused, and we can’t accurately draw larger conclusions about what children of other ages or from other communities believe about domestic violence. But the results are still worrying, simply because they were so overwhelming.
“The children didn’t agree with violence,” researcher Nancy Lombard explained, “but gave reasons to try to justify it if the woman had done something ‘wrong’. The old saying of ‘If he pulls your pigtails it means he likes you’, translates into violence in adulthood which girls accept as normal.”
Lombard also reported that “sexual stereotypes were limiting and modifying girls’ behaviour to accommodate boys and men.” Girls were still kept out of spaces like the soccer field (despite the fact that, as I wrote about earlier this week, playing sports as a child seems to have extremely beneficial consequences for women). “They are still told they can’t play football because they are a girl,” Lombard said.
If anything, this study indicates how easily children internalize stereotypes and attitudes toward violent behavior perpetuated by role models or the media. Lombard’s calls for “work with children to start early to encourage respectful relationships, challenge violent behaviour and break down gender stereotypes” seems like good advice, even if the results of this same study might be less extreme elsewhere – and who knows, they might not be.
Photo from Lisa Norwood's Flickr photostream.