Attitudes of Secondary School Students in llorin Metropolis towards Wife Battering



Mary Ogechi Esere

University of llorin, llorin



The study invest/gated attitudes of Secondary School Students in llorin Metropolis toward wife battering. A total of 300 respondents participated in the study. A self designed questionnaire titled "Attitudes Toward Wife Battering Questionnaire" (ATWBQ) was used for data collection. Drawing Upon Cognitive dissonance and social learning theories, three hypotheses were formulated to identify variables of attitudes toward wife battering. It was found, among others, that those students who come from homes where wife battering is a daily occurrence have higher acceptability of wife battering in a marriage relationship than their counterparts. It was therefore recommended that counsellors should mount enlightenment campaigns in the form of Marriage Enrichment Programmes and Conflict Resolution Seminars aimed at teaching parents ways of resolving their conflicts.



Marriage, as a social institution, is cherished and highly approved in almost every culture of the world. It is usually contracted amidst joy, happiness and merry-making for the couple, family members and friends. According to Omari (1969), marriage involves the coming together of a man and a woman to raise a family and to meet the Satisfaction of security and of an enduring affection and companionship. in recent years, however, it has been observed that marriage relationships seem to be deteriorating and that couples no longer seem to enjoy each other's company. In fact, marriages all over the world have been witnessing an increasing wave of conflicts (Click, 1975; Alvarez, !982;Adegoke & Esere, 1998). One wonders why a social institution which calls for mutual love, co-existence and harmony should lead to a battle field, a place of violence, a place of assault and battering.

Wife battering has been identified as one of the factors leading to divorce among married couples (Truininger, 1971;Weiss 1980; Adeyemi, 1991). The incidence and prevalence of wife battering in Ilorin Metropolis is overwhelming. In the case register of one of the Area Courts (Area court I, No. I) in llorin, between January 1997 and September 1998, 306 cases of divorce based mostly on spouse battering were recorded. The problem of wife battering is an age long phenomenon of domestic violence (Philip, 1980). The surfacing of the battered wife as a specific problem out of many social problems occurred in Britain and many other countries in the I960's (Bell, 1971). There has been an increasing amount of literature on battered women (Bell, 1971; Gelles, 1974; Gelles, 1977; Rounds vile & Weissman, 1978; Walker, 1979; Mowaiye- Fagbemi & Idowu, 1997).

According to Stank (1985), wife battering is the maltreatment of a wife by her husband. This includes physical assault such as beating, biting, flogging, pushing, kicking and the like. Wetzel and Ross (1983) added that a little push to get a wife out of the way or holding her to keep her in control and other actions that may result into injuries requiring hospitalization are all forms of wife battering. In a research study conducted by Steinmetz (1977), it was revealed that nearly all the respondents reported the use of verbal aggression and physical attack to resolve marital conflicts. Straus (1973), using college students, found that 16% of them (about one out of every five) accepted that their parents use physical force to resolve marital conflicts. Also, Gelles (1974), in an in-depth interview of 50 families, reported that 60% (three out of every five) of the husbands and wives had used physical aggression during marital conflicts.

The fact that wife battering has persisted suggests that the society is yet to take the issue seriously. The American National Commission on the Causes and Prevention of Crime and Violence found in large representative samples that between one-fourth and one-fifth of the adults questioned felt that it was acceptable for spouses to hit each other under certain circumstances (Stark& McEvoy, 1970). Some people do not seem to feel concerned about wife battering because they seem to believe that the man's home is his kingdom, a private institution where he is the king and where the interference of outsiders is highly prohibited. As such, it requires extreme evidence such as a severely battered spouse to gain the attention of the public.

The enumerated examples or instances give indication that violence between husbands and wives has long suffered from selective inattention both at the hands of the law and the society thereby resulting in serious marital maladjustment with adverse consequences on the couples concerned (Kitson & Holmes, 1992); the children of the marriage (Kelly & Wallerstein, 1975), and the society at large. This study focuses attention on one of the recipients of the effects of wife battering - the children, in this case, secondary school students in llorin metropolis.

The dynamic interaction between attitudes and behaviour has received a lot of attention in social psychological literature. Attitude is defined as mental disposition, as it indicates opinion or allegiance (Festinger & Berstern, 1964). Attitude has also been explained by Abiri (1966) as an acquired tendency to react either covertly or overtly in a manner which is expressive of a certain degree of favourability or unavoidability in relation to certain objects, persons, ideas or situations in the environment. An individual may show a certain attitude towards an issue in reacting to his/her conception of and feeling towards that issue rather than to its actual state of situation. Attitudes are best expressed when the individual makes statements about his/her feeling or opinions about certain events or ideas (Mukherjee, 1978).

Utilizing data collected from secondary school students, this study sought to find out the students' attitudes toward wife battering. In this context, an attitude toward wife battering is defined. as continuum of attitudes and dispositions ranging from opposition wife battering to overall acceptance of wife battering, cognitive dissonance and social learning theories provide; the theoretical frameworks for suggesting why certain independent variables are believed to be linked with wife battering.

Briefly, cognitive dissonance theory, as formulated by Festinger (1957) and Heider (1958), suggests that the individual strives to maintain a state of "consonance" or consistency between beliefs, feelings or perceptions and behaviour. Any inconsistency between ^these cognitions and one's actions create "dissonance", which is psychologically discomforting to the individual. In order to maintain cognitive consistency, the child who feels satisfied with his/her parents' marital relationship will perceive wife battering to be a poor solution to marital discord because it is inconsistent with his/her belief of what marriage can and should be. Accordingly, he/she will tend to score low on attitudes toward wife battering scale. On the other hand, the child whose parents are always fighting will be more liberal in attitudes toward wife battering in general, and thus will score higher on the attitudes towards wife battering scale.

Social learning theory provides an understanding of how the family of orientation furnishes the introductory setting for children to learn marital roles and values in the marital subsystem. In the social learning system, learning may occur through modelling. These learned response patterns are symbolically coded, retained for memory representation and may serve as guides for behaviour on later occasions (Bandura, 1971). Social learning theory provides the rationale for making two predictions regarding wife battering liberality. Firstly, the child is an observer of, rather than a participant in the marital subsystem. Children reared in a family in which the marriage is functioning effectively not only observe a viable model in which just many competencies are portrayed, but also develop the confidence that success in marriage is achievable (Hill & Aldous, 1969). It follows that exposure to parents who portray high satisfaction with marriage may exemplify a particular goal or standard for the child, as a married adult, to emulate and pursue. The prediction is that wife battering would tend not to be considered a viable option given prior exposure to this type of marital value system (Willin, 1 954). Secondly, social learning theory suggests the proposition that a familiar history of wife battering tends to make the child more liberal towards wife abuse (Omari, 1969). Thus, the child learns marital role behaviours and value system through observations 4 parents as role models. As a result, a familiar history of wife battering places wife battering into the child's repertoire of possible options in dealing with discord.

Previous studies have shown that receiving abuse as a child or observing violence between parent's tallies with expressing and acceptance of violence as an adult (Gelles, 1977; Steinmetz, 1917; Bernard, 1980; Straus, Gelles & Steinmetz, 1980). Gelles (1977) identified social factors related to family abuse and violence. One such factor is a "cycle of violence" in which observers or victims of violence during childhood are more likely than those not reared in violent homes to be violent in their future relationships. According to Gelles (1977), it seems that the greater the frequency of violence in a family, the greater the probability that the person from the family will grow up to be a violent spouse or parent. For example Straus, Gelles and Steinmetz (1980) found that spouse battering increased from 2% to 200% as a function of having parents who abused each other.

Furthermore, Henslin (I960) positioned that the sources of assaults and acceptance of marital violence most often than not result from exaggerated masculinity of a sex role in which the male feels compelled to always be in control - the power source and the sole determinant of what obtains in the family. Aro (1986) explained that the relationship between husband and wife in the traditional setting is such that the basic social principles affirmed the subordination and subjection of female to male authority and superiority. And in the modern society where some educated and even the less educated women are no longer prepared to accept their traditional role in marriage (Esere, 1993), the end result is clash of personality which ultimately leads to spouse battering. This study is therefore pertinent and significant especially in the wake of increase in divorce rate (Adegoke & Esere, 1998) and marital maladjustment, with its attendant problems.


Research Questions

The following questions guided the conduct of the study:

1.                  Are there significant differences in students' attitudes toward wife battering on the basis of incidence of wife battering in their family background?

2.                  Are there significant differences between male and female students' attitudes toward wife battering?



Arising from the research questions stated above, the following hypotheses were posited for testing.

1.                  There will be no significant difference in students' attitudes toward wife battering on the basis of incidence of wife battering in their family background.

2.                  There will be no significant difference between male and female students' attitudes toward wife battering.



The survey method was adopted for the conduct of the study. The sample for the study was selected using a simple random sampling method for the schools and for the students. Six secondary schools in Ilorin metropolis participated in the study. Fifty students were randomly selected from each of the schools. Thus, the total number of students who participated in the study was 300 comprising 150 males and 150 females, all in Senior Secondary School III. The selection of the Senior Secondary School III became necessary so as to ensure the proper understanding of the instrument used.



Questionnaires were used to collect the date required from the respondents. The questionnaire consisted of 2 parts: section A sought personal information such as sex, age, name of school, incidence of wife battering, and parents' marital relationship. It also required the respondents to indicate whether they perceived their parents' marriage as happy or unhappy. It was designed by the researcher to elicit information about the students' attitudes toward wife battering. Section B considered 20 items. The items were designed in the form of statements to which the students responded in a continuum of available responses. The options were given as Strongly Agree (SA), Disagree (D) and Strongly Disagree (SD). Based on whether the question was put affirmatively or negatively, numerical values were assigned in either descending or ascending order, but the options were left unchanged.


Validity of the Instrument

To establish the content validity of the instrument, experts in the field of counselling psychology were consulted for a careful examination of the items and for vetting. The suggestions of the experts were incorporated in the final copy of the questionnaire. On a second look at the questionnaire, the experts unanimously agreed that the revised instrument has a wide coverage of the domain of interest.


Reliability of the Instrument

To determine the reliability of the instrument, a -test re-test procedure was employed with a three-week interval using 40 respondents from the envisaged population. When the two sets of scores were correlated using Pearson Product Moment correlation coefficient, the Pearson "r" was found to be .65. With this, the instrument was adjudged to be reliable.


Procedure for Data Collection

The researcher visited sampled schools to fix a date for the administration of the questionnaires. On the appointed date, the questionnaire forms were administered to the sampled students in an organized class in each school. The researcher, with the help of some other teachers in the school, ensured that the questionnaire were correctly and completely filled.

To ensure a high degree of independence in the information supplied by the respondents inter-student consultations were not allowed while they were responding to the questionnaire forms. The completed questionnaires were collected on the spot. A total of 300 copies of the questionnaire (50 copies in each of the 6 schools) were distributed and collected back.


Method of Data Analysis

Data collected for the study were subjected to statistical analysis. The t-test statistics for differences among means was used to analyze data.





Hypothesis I: It states that there will be no significant difference in students' attitudes toward wife battering on the basis of incidence of wife battering in their family background.

The t-test analysis compared students' attitudes toward wife battering on the basis of incidence of wife battering in their family background.


Table 1           Means, Standard Deviation and t-value of students attitudes toward wife battering on basis of incidence of wife battering in the family


Group                                     N             X             SD           DF           Calc. t-val...           Crit. t-val.*

with incidence of wife

battering                                                135          37.52       7.73        

283          2.80                         1.96        

without incidence of

wife battering                        150          34.82       8.83                                                                        

NB:* = p>0.05


At 0.05 level of significance and 283 degrees of freedom, the calculated t-value (2.80) is greater than the table value (1.96). This indicates a significant difference between the mean scores of the two groups hence the rejection of the null hypothesis.


Hypothesis 2: It states that there will be no significant difference between male and female students' attitudes toward wife battering.






Table 2: Means, Standard Deviation and t-value of attitudes of male and female students toward wife battering


Group                     N             X             SD           DF           Calc. t-val              Cri. t-val.

Male                       150          64.640     2 1 .49    

                                                                                298          4.17         1.96

Female                    150          54.735     18.30                                                                                      

NB: * = p<0.05


The result in Table 2 shows that the calculated t-value of 4.17 significant at 0.05 alpha level of significance with 298 degree freedom, hence the rejection of the null hypothesis which states that there will be no significant difference between the attitudes of male and female students toward wife battering.



Drawing upon cognitive dissonance and social learning theories, two hypotheses were formulated to identify variables of attitudes toward wife battering, conceptualized here as wife battering liberality. Tests of these hypotheses yielded some findings which merit discussion.

The observation that the family is perhaps the most violent social group in our community today and the home the most violent social setting (Mowaiye-Fagbemi & Idowu, 1997), can no longer be contested. One is most likely to be hit or killed in his or her home by another family member than anywhere else (Gelles & Straus, 1979). As a matter of fact, beatings, stabbings, kicking, chokings are common occurrences in many families. These violent acts most often than not occur between husbands and wives. In such cases, the children of the marriage are converted to helpless and inevitable spectators with all it portends.

The result of this study shows that students who reported incidence of wife battering in their own family background have higher acceptability of wife battering. This is evident in the t-test analysis performed on the scores of the students. The analysis showed that the students who reported incidence of wife battering in their own family background have mean score (37.52) which is greater than the mean score (34.82) of those students who did not report incidence of wife battering in their family of orientation.

This finding is in line with the major tenets of social learning theory which suggests the proposition that a familiar history of wife battering tends to make the child more liberal towards wife abuse (Omari, 1969). Through observations of parents as role models, a child who is brought up in a family where wife battering is the order of the day tends to see wife battering as part and parcel of marriage relationship. It is therefore not surprising that this attitude is carried on to adult life.

The results of this study also reveal that sex has significant effect on attitudes toward wife battering. The result in Table 2 showed that the t-value of 4.17 was significant at 0.05 level of significance, hence, the conclusion that a significant difference exist between the attitudes of male and female students toward wife battering. A further analysis of this result revealed that male students with a mean score of 64.640 have higher acceptability of wife battering than female students whose mean score (54.735) is lower.

The reason for the female's lower scores on the attitudes toward wife battering scale is not far fetched. At least being the recipient of wife battering, no woman would whole-heartedly support wife battering in a family relationship. The results of the study may also reflect the erroneous belief by some men that women are their toys and personal property who must be treated as second class citizens.

Supporting this view, Aro (1986) posited that the relationship between husband and wife in the traditional setting is such in which the basic social principles affirmed the subordination and subjection of female to male authority and superiority. The authority, however, are sometimes carried to extreme with men inflicting untold physical harm on their wives. The case of a husband (in Frank Olize's NTA Newsline) who poured concentrated acid on his wife to "check" her infidelity is just one of the examples of violent acts against women.

Our National dailies are replete with cases of similar wife violence. It is no longer news to neighbours and relatives for a husband to beat his wife (Mowaiye-Fagbemi & Idowu, 1997).


Implications for Counselling

This study has several implications for counselling. The home is the cradle of the society. As revealed in this study, children who come from unhappy homes where wife battering is a daily occurrence tend to see wife battering as the best way to resolve a marital conflict. To this end it becomes imperative that counsellors should mount enlightenment campaigns in the form of marriage enrichment programmes and conflict resolution seminars among others. These programmes should be geared toward teaching parents the best ways to resolve their conflicts and at the same-time letting-them know the negative effects of marital violence (delinquencies, crime, drug addiction e.t.c.) on their children.

In conclusion, it has been observed that social norms, experiences and individual choice are all contributing factors propensity toward violence. Thus, if wife battering is to be eradicated or at least minimized, then educational and psychotherapeutic interventions should be mounted on many levels. This calls for the training of more counsellors to enable them provide services to all sectors of the Nigerian populace.







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