In a earlier blog we looked at domestic violence as a means of maintaining control within relationships. We examined the dynamics of coercive control as an ongoing, systematic, escalating series of behaviours designed to intimidate and instil fear in those on its receiving end. These behaviours attack the very foundation of what is the accepted norm of relationships and what Christ teaches. Unfortunately our culture and our community continue to look at domestic and family violence within a relationship framework that lacks understanding of the corrosive effects of abuse. Women and children subjected to domestic violence often experience an attitude where the cultural expectation is that they will be able to negotiate, or talk to, or calm down the perpetrator. There is a misconception that domestically violent men and fathers can be reasoned with; that they can be helped to see the error of their ways and that they can develop more respectful behaviours within their relationships. This is often not the case unless there has been an attitude shift within the perpetrator. Those who use power and control tactics within their relationships often maintain an attitude where entitlement to behave the way they do is their right. Research concurs with this stance. ‘Entitled and disrespectful attitudes’ contribute to ‘shaping a batterer’s behaviour’ (Bancroft et al., 2012 p. 8). This article will explore the behavioural dynamics of parenting differences between those practicing domestic and family violence and those who are interested in maintaining a relationship with their partner and children.
Definition of Entitlement
Entitled parenting is characterised as having special rights and privileges that are not applicable to other family members (adapted from Bancroft, 1998 p. 2; Bancroft et al., 2012; Bancroft & Silverman, 2002). Bancroft et al., (2012 p. 8) argue that entitlement ‘may be the single most critical concept in understanding the battering mentality’.
In the equity wheel (above) there are several behaviours that highlight what respectful and equitable relationship looks like. In as much as the Living God is invited into our lives, He enacts these behaviours. There is ample Scriptural evidence that this is so. As our Heavenly Father He seeks our wellbeing. This is not always the case with domestically violent fathers and research has highlighted how entitled attitudes are acted out within families.
Women report that they rarely experience their abusive partners as consistent and involved in the parenting of their children. In understanding why, it is often the case that domestically violent men and fathers often perceive themselves as victims, are self-focused and un-empathetic to their children’s experiences and feel entitled to care from family members, including their children (Bancroft et al., 2012; Harne, 2011; Laing, 2010; Perel & Peled, 2008).
These attitudinal characteristics of entitlement and self-centredness mean that children are often expected to meet the needs of their violent and abusive fathers, rather than the other way round (Bancroft & Silverman, 2002; Guille, 2004). ‘[Fathers] appeared to believe they held a unique position within their families that entitled them to special and non-reciprocal treatment, that their economic provision entitled them to a status not afforded to other members of the family and this included physical and emotional care by family members including children.’ (Bosly, 2013 p. 176)
For men who believe their behaviour is acceptable violence is perceived as ‘normal and defensible’ and is a ‘manifestation of entitlement’ in that domestically violent men expect ‘family life to center on the meeting of their needs’ (Bancroft et al., 2012 p.9). This is demonstrated when fathers who use violence within familial relationships appear unable or unwilling to acknowledge their violence and impacts on their children. They appear disconnected from awareness of their use of violence and can be reluctant to label their behaviours as anything other than good parenting practice.
As already mentioned, this is not the attitude of our Heavenly Father who seeks our wellbeing, who provides and serves us. He asks us to reflect His mercy, loving-kindness, graciousness and steadfastness and these are the qualities to look for in both fathers and mothers.
Bancroft, L. (1998). Understanding the batterer in custody and visitation disputes.
Bancroft, L., & Silverman, J.G. (2002). The batterer as parent. Thousand Oaks. CA. Sage
Bancroft, L., Silverman, J., & Ritchie, D. (2012). The batterer as parent (2nd Ed.) Thousand Oaks, CA.: Safe Publications Inc.
Bosly, F. (2013). ‘I wouldn’t want my kids around him’: How men who use violence in their intimate relationships perceive themselves as fathers. School of Social Work and Human Services. University of Queensland.
Guille, L. (2004). Men who batter their children: An integrated review. Aggression and Violent Behaviour. 9. 129-163.
Harne. L. (2011). Violent fathering and the risks to children. Bristol: The Policy Press.
Laing, L. (2010). No way to live. Sydney: Faculty of Education and Social Work.
Perel, G., & Peled, E. (2008). The fathering of violent men: Constriction and yearning. Violence Against Women, 14, 457-482.