Women-centered Rituals and Levels of Domestic Violence

A Cross-Cultural Examination of Ritual as a Signaling and Solidarity-Building Strategy

Published in: Journal for the Study of Religion and Culture, Volume 14, No. 1 (2020). doi: 10.1558/jsrnc.38921

Posted on RAND.org on August 11, 2020

by Kate J. Stockly, Stephanie Arel, Megan K. DeFranza, Damian J. Ruck, Luke J. Matthews

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Prior research indicates that ritual can be a source of social solidarity by signaling trustworthiness and group commitment. A separate line of research expects domestic violence against women to be more common in societies with post-marital residence at the husband's birthplace (i.e. patrilocality). Thus, we hypothesized that when wives are able to construct strong bonds with the female members of their communities through solidarity-building rituals, they gain social support capable of inhibiting violence, leading to lower overall levels of domestic violence—especially in patrilocal societies. Results indicated that certain types of women-centered rituals were associated with lower levels of sexual and domestic violence; however, we found inconsistent effects according to patrilocal residence. Women-centered rituals were not found to be associated with beliefs about the husband's prerogative to punish and dominate his spouse, and patrilocality did not contribute to the effects we found.

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