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Research analyses effects of gender violence in the psychological development of women

Elhuyar Fundazioa

A PhD thesis recently defended at the University of Deusto studied the effects of gender violence on the psychological development of women. Carmina Serrano Hernández, who has just received her PhD, is the author of this investigation the aim of which was to understand the phenomenon of gender violence, and to know its causes and effects. To this end, she carried out theoretical research on the topic and constructed a theoretical framework for explaining the phenomenon known as the Psychological Skills Model.

The researcher started with the idea that the mind of persons is not a static reality given that the contexts in which one lives, gender, power and personal relations will condition its development and its deterioration. In her view, gender roles, stereotypes about gender and the ideal of romantic love are some of the causes of gender violence and, moreover, give rise to restrictions on the development of the self and on the possibility of having a healthy and egalitarian partner relationship.

According to the results of the thesis, women continuing in abusive relationships and their contradictory behaviour are due to the deterioration that the traumatic link produces in their minds. In order to maintain equal relations, persons have to perform in a sufficiently suitable way in five skills: Emotional Regulation, Self-affirmation, Assertiveness, Mentalisation and Self-valuation. And these skills are damaged when one suffers ill treatment and abuse.

In order to carry out this research, the MARA questionnaire was drawn up, based on 90 indicators, and which evaluated performance in the skills in three areas: family of origin, relationship with it and relationship with partner.


The most relevant conclusions from this research were that, on the one hand, the MARA questionnaire turned out to be a highly reliable test for evaluating gender violence; on the other, ill-treated women present alterations in physiological, sensory-motor, emotional and cognitive functioning and a deterioration in Emotional Regulation, Self-affirmation, Assertiveness, Mentalisation and Self-valuation. Abuse also influences in the style of attachment and in affectivity. Persons who suffer abuse present greater levels of concerned attachment, low self-esteem, approval-seeking and fear of being rejected.

The data from this research also questions some of the arguments of the theories put forward regarding the functioning of women trapped in abusive relationships. According to doctor Serrano, neither a supposed feminine masochism, nor narcissism, nor abuse in the family of origin have been shown to be sufficiently determinant factors in their psychological functioning. In fact, she concludes that what has greatest weight in the mental functioning of a woman is the relationship that she has with herself, and almost equally with her partner.

Given all this, the University of Deusto researcher proposes constructing therapeutic projects and relationships which help abused women to recover and acquire the skills damaged.


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