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Ethnic and Racial Studies

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Ethnic heterogamy and the risk of partner violence in Mexico

Sonia M. Fras & Ronald J. Angel Available online: 23 Mar 2012

To cite this article: Sonia M. Fras & Ronald J. Angel (2012): Ethnic heterogamy and the risk of partner violence in Mexico, Ethnic and Racial Studies, DOI:10.1080/01419870.2011.653381 To link to this article:

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Ethnic and Racial Studies 2012 pp. 121, iFirst Article

Ethnic heterogamy and the risk of partner violence in Mexico

Sonia M. Fras and Ronald J. Angel (First submission March 2010; First published March 2012)

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Abstract A common stereotype holds that in Mexico male violence toward women is common among indigenous peoples and reflects cultural norms that sanction a males domination of his female partner. We employ a recent Mexican survey to examine the relative risk of violence against women as a function of the couples ethnic homogamy. Among couples in which both partners are either non-indigenous or indigenous the females risk of partner violence is similar. Among heterogamous couples non-indigenous females in relationships in which the male is indigenous are at elevated risk of violence, while indigenous women in relationships with nonindigenous males are at a lower risk of violence. The stresses associated with heterogamy appear to be more salient in determining a womans risk of violence than ethnicity per se. The implications for future research and the need to deal with the issue of ethnic homogamy in culturally heterogeneous populations are discussed.

Keywords: domestic violence; Mexico; indigenous; heterogamy; ethnicity; partner


Introduction In a classic essay, Susan Okin notes that western feminist egalitarian ideals often come into conflict with traditional cultural beliefs and practices that subordinate womens rights to those of men (Okin 1998). Indeed as Okin notes, most traditional cultures subordinate women relative to men, and both law and custom protect a mans right to dominate and control his female partner. In this paper we assess the extent to which a womans risk of violence at the hands of her male partner reflects culturally sanctioned expectations and practices or structurally based stresses associated with ethnic heterogamy in
# 2012 Taylor & Francis ISSN 0141-9870 print/1466-4356 online

2 Sonia M. Fras and Ronald J. Angel

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Mexico. In order to do so we compare the relative risk of female victimization as a function of the ethnic composition of the couple. Our analysis builds upon existing research in the USA that examines the potential misattribution of contextual and structural effects to race and ethnicity (i.e. Benson et al. 2004). We are particularly interested in the probability of violence associated with the gender of the indigenous partner in heterogamous relationships. Our objective is to determine how cultural differences interact with structural and other individual-level variables that reflect a womans level of domestic power, including her employment status and her participation in household decision-making, to influence her risk of domestic violence. In Mexico, as in most other nations of the world, minority group membership greatly increases the probability of lower-class membership and poverty, which introduces serious stresses into a relationship. Exogamy can also introduce incompatible genderrole expectations, increasing the probability of violence. Rather than focusing solely on individual characteristics or behaviour, our theoretical argument and empirical analysis places the phenomenon of partner violence in a more complex context that involves interacting agency, cultural and structural factors in order to avoid the risk of cultural essentialism in the explanation of partner violence. Mexico is a nation characterized by fairly traditional gender norms in which violence against women by their male partners is common. Despite recent laws that criminalize violence against women, domestic violence remains a serious social problem. Results from the 2003 Encuesta Nacional sobre la Dinamica de las Relaciones en los Hogares (National Survey of the Dynamics of Domestic Relations), a national survey focused on violence and household dynamics, indicate that 48 per cent of Mexican women experienced at least one episode of partner violence (9 per cent physical, 8 per cent sexual) or partner abuse (29 per cent economic, 38 per cent emotional) during the course of a year (INEGI and INMUJERES 2004). Ethnicity and socio-economic status in Mexico Mexico has historically downplayed its racial and ethnic diversity, or at least its potentially divisive aspects (Hooker 2005). An official public myth of a national mestizo identity based on the idealized melding of European and Indian blood and cultures dominates public discussions of ethnic and racial differences (Gutierrez Chong 2007). This mythical national identity diverts attention from the huge economic and social inequality that exists among different ethnic groups (Mutsaku Kamilamba 2005). In reality indigenous cultures are devalued and denigrated and indigenous peoples are viewed as ignorant and inherently violent (Secretara de Desarrollo Social 2005;

Ethnic heterogamy and the risk 3

CNPDPI 2006; Oehmichen 2010). Negative stereotypes of indigenous populations as dirty and violent appear even in school textbooks (Gnade-Munoz 2010). As part of this stereotype, partner violence is often assumed to be higher among indigenous couples even in the absence of clear empirical evidence. Consistent with the stereotype, many traditional customs and beliefs place women in a subordinate position to men. Whether this leads to a higher risk of violence remains unclear. Assessing the actual prevalence of partner violence among different ethnic groups in Mexico presents the investigator with serious analytical problems about whether such estimates are based on selfreports of victimization or on officially recorded incidents. Both estimates of the number of indigenous inhabitants and the amount of violence experienced by women are imprecise. Of the 103 million inhabitants of Mexico, between seven and thirteen million are members of indigenous groups, depending on the specific definition of indigenous that is employed (Janssen and Martnez Casas 2006). In terms of violence, official statistics clearly miss a great deal of victimization, especially among groups in which reporting violence to public authorities is informally and formally discouraged. Additional measurement difficulties result from the likelihood that what are seen as serious acts of partner violence in one culture or among one social group are viewed as less serious or of no significance in another (Levinson 1989; Krahe, Bieneck and Moller 2005). The social sanctioning of violence by males against their female partners is also potentially influenced by general levels of violence in the society, culturally based gender-role expectations, and the specific context in which the abuse occurs (LeVine, Sunderland Correa and Tapia Uribe 1986; Levinson 1989; Rivemar Perez 2002; Perez Robledo 2004). Some evidence suggests that in indigenous communities violence against a female partner is regarded as a mans right and is viewed as a legitimate disciplinary mechanism (Miranda et al. 1998; Alberti Manzanares 2004; Perez Robledo 2004). Indigenous women in Mexico occupy a subordinate position in the family and in their communities. As in non-indigenous communities, gender relations tend to be hierarchical, but some traditional customs exaggerate this gender asymmetry. Among these customs are forced marriage at an early age, womens ineligibility to serve as community representatives or other officials, and their inability to inherit land. Such customs result in the expectation, among both indigenous men and women, that women confine their activities to ascribed gender roles focused on caregiving, childrearing and housekeeping (Muniz and Corona 1996; Chenaut 2006). Since most indigenous groups in Mexico are poor, as in the USA, minority group status is confounded with socio-economic status (SES) and structural disadvantage.

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4 Sonia M. Fras and Ronald J. Angel

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Whether these cultural and structural disadvantages translate into a greater risk of violence is unclear. Some studies find that indigenous women are at lower risk of experiencing partner violence than nonindigenous women (Villarreal 2007). Other studies, though, report relatively high rates of victimization (Gonzalez Montes and Valdes 2008). A central problem with existing research relates to the operationalization of ethnicity. In the case of Mexico, the common practice is for a person or a household to be classified as indigenous if the survey respondent or someone in the family (excluding domestic workers) speaks an indigenous language. Using this language-based definition, 7 per cent of the population of Mexico is indigenous. Unfortunately, many indigenous individuals do not report speaking an indigenous language because of stigma (Janssen and Martnez Casas 2006; Yoshioka 2010). As the result of high rates of rural-to-urban migration, many indigenous individuals no longer speak their native language (Yoshioka 2010). More-inclusive definitions based on nativity and group membership place the estimate of the proportion of the population that is indigenous at from 9.5 to 13 per cent (Hernandez Bringas and Chavez Galindo 2007; Janssen and Martnez Casas 2006). However, despite the limitations of the language-based definition, we employ it in the following analyses both because it is available in the data set we use and because it is likely to identify the most culturally ethnic individuals. As we explain below, though, in order to refine our definition of group membership in our analysis we extend the operationalization of group membership to include ethnicity. Correlates of partner violence A number of theoretical approaches have been employed to attempt to explain the phenomenon of partner violence generally. We summarize those broadly as structural, social learning and cultural. Structural perspectives locate the causes of violence in the elevated levels of stress and the lack of available coping resources that accompany poverty and social marginality. In Mexico these structural factors include extremely low SES, cohabitation which deprives a woman of the legal rights of marriage, low levels of education and unemployment (Oropesa 1997; Miranda et al. 1998; Castro, Peek-Asa and Ruiz 2003; Pozo Del, Castro and Rquer 2004; Villarreal 2007). The association between urban or rural residence and the risk of partner violence remains unclear and previous findings are contradictory, with some studies reporting rural/urban differences and others finding no differences (Villarreal 2007; Castro and Casique 2008; Fras 2009). Gonzalez-Lopez (2004) proposes the use of the concept of regional patriarchies to emphasize the fact that gender relations and

Ethnic heterogamy and the risk 5

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concepts of masculinity vary across different social, historical and cultural contexts. Rural and urban settings represent one of the dimensions on which such relations and concepts vary (Guttmann 1996; Gonzalez- Lopez 2004). From a social learning perspective, family violence is viewed as learned behaviour (Jankowski et al. 1999; Williams 2003) that is transmitted inter-generationally and manifested in different contexts (Fras and Castro 2011). Research in both indigenous communities and non-indigenous communities lends support to the proposition that aggression and violence are learned behaviours since women who have witnessed or experienced violence in their families of origin are at an elevated risk of suffering partner violence in adulthood (Daz-Olavarrieta et al. 2002; Castro et al. 2003; Alberti Manzanares 2004; Pozo Del, Castro and Rquer 2004; Rivera-Rivera et al. 2006). Cultural factors include beliefs and norms that sanction male dominance. Research in the USA has shown that women whose partners hold traditional patriarchal beliefs and attitudes are at elevated risk of partner abuse (Smith 1990). This research also suggests that women who hold non-traditional gender-role attitudes face an increased risk (Firestone, Harris and Vega 2003). In Mexico, womens participation in domestic decision-making increases the risk of physical violence (Oropesa 1997; Casique 2004; Pozo Del, Castro and Rquer 2004). The role of ethnic exogamy as a risk factor for partner violence has received relatively little attention in Mexico. Research in the USA, however, shows that among interracial and inter-ethnic couples exogamy creates social stresses that result from conflicting group expectations, discrimination and social exclusion, and a lack of support or even rejection by family members (see Gaines and Leaver 2002; Troy, Lewis-Smith and Laurenceau 2006). These stresses can easily lead to violence (Bratter and Eschbach 2005).

Analytical approach and hypotheses The objectives of our analyses are: (1) to determine whether indigenous women or women with an indigenous partner are at elevated risk of experiencing violence; (2) to examine the effect of couples ethnic homogamy or heterogamy on womens odds of experiencing partner violence; and (3) to assess whether any relationship between partner violence and indigenous membership or homogamy/heterogamy remains after controlling for socio-economic and structural variables. As part of the analysis we explore interactions among race/ethnicity, poverty and violence, placing special attention on heterogamous couples.

6 Sonia M. Fras and Ronald J. Angel

Data The data employed in the following analyses are from the ENDIREH, conducted in 2003 by the Mexican National Institute of Statistics, Geography and Informatics. The ENDIREH is a national representative sample of women fifteen years of age and older who were either married or cohabiting. An interviewer conducted the survey since 11 per cent of Mexican women are illiterate and would not be able to participate in a computer-assisted interview (INEGI 2001). The sample employed in the following analyses consists of 31,261 respondents. Sample weights are used to ensure national representativeness of the results. In terms of ethnic composition, the sample of couples consists of the following: 27,391 (87.6 per cent) two non-indigenous partners; 2,592 (8.3 per cent) two indigenous partners; 535 (1.7 per cent) indigenous female and non-indigenous male; 743 (2.4 per cent) indigenous male and non-indigenous female.

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Variables The dependent variable is based on a variation of the Conflict Tactics Scale (CTS; Straus 1990). The CTS has been adapted for use in Mexico (Castro et al. 2003; Castro, Peek-Asa and Ruiz 2003; Peek-Asa et al. 2002). The determination of physical violence is based on the following question: [in the last twelve months] has your husband (or partner) (1) thrown an object at you; (2) pushed, or pulled your hair out; (3) tied you up; (4) kicked you; (5) hit you with his hands or an object; (6) tried to suffocate or choke you; (7) attacked you with a knife; (8) threatened you with a weapon (knife, pocketknife, gun or rifle). Respondents who reported at least one episode were coded as having experienced physical violence. The more common acts were being pushed or having ones hair pulled (6.89 per cent), followed by being hit (5.15 per cent). During the last year, 7.88 per cent of nonindigenous women with a non-indigenous partner had experienced physical violence; the percentage was slightly higher (8.26 per cent) for indigenous women whose partner is also indigenous. In couples in which only the male is indigenous, 10.31 per cent of women experienced physical violence, and finally in couples in which only the woman is indigenous, the risk of violence was greatest, 11.21 per cent. As prevalent as violence was in the sample, the vast majority of women did not experience violence during the reference year. It is of course possible that they had experienced violence at some earlier period. The type of violence examined in the following analyses has been referred to as situational couple violence to contrast it with more

Ethnic heterogamy and the risk 7

serious intimate terrorism (Johnson 1995; Johnson and Leone 2005). Situational couple violence is the type of violence most commonly identified in surveys. We identify individual and relationship-level sets of characteristics that are hypothetically related to the risk of partner violence. These include socio-economic and demographic characteristics, abuse background, household characteristics, relationships characteristics, gender-role expectations and attitudes of both partners, and participation in decision-making. Among the socio-economic and demographic characteristics, the variable indigenous measures whether or not an indigenous language is spoken by either member of the couple. It is used to classify couples into the four groups: (1) homogamous non-indigenous couple; (2) homogamous indigenous couple; (3) heterogamous, male indigenous and female non-indigenous couple; and (4) heterogamous, male nonindigenous and female indigenous couple. Our measure of SES follows the classification scheme developed by Echarri for use in Mexico (see Castro, Rquer and Medina 2004). This scheme is based on three household characteristics. The first is average years of education of the members of the household. The second household characteristic refers to the occupational status of the household member with the highest potential income based on the average for that occupation. The third characteristic is the existence of basic household amenities. Based on these three characteristics each household is assigned to one of four economic strata: very low, low, middle and high. Given the high prevalence of poverty among indigenous people we combine the middle and high categories. The distribution of our sample is the following: very low (31 per cent of the sample, of which 76 per cent are non-indigenous couples); low (36 per cent, of which 89 per cent are non-indigenous) and medium-high (32 per cent, of which 95 per cent are non-indigenous). Other socioeconomic controls include the age of the woman and years of education she has completed. Both are continuous variables measured in years. Finally, employment is coded 1 if the female worked for pay during the week preceding the interview and 0 otherwise. Abuse background taps the respondents experience of physical violence during childhood or adolescence. It is coded 1 if any type of physical violence was reported and 0 otherwise. Certain poor households in Mexico receive public financial assistance from a program entitled Oportunidades (Opportunities), which provides minimal support to the most destitute families. If the household was receiving any assistance from this programme it is coded 1. Finally, number of household residents is a continuous variable based on the number of people living in the house. Relationship characteristics are operationalized by two variables. Cohabitation is coded 1 if the couple was cohabiting and 0 if the couple

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8 Sonia M. Fras and Ronald J. Angel

was married. Womens participation in decision-making reflects the percentage of household decisions in which the female participated. The decision areas include: (1) her employment; (2) how money is spent or saved; (3) what type of food is bought; (4) how much freedom the children are given; (5) how the children are raised or educated; (6) the womans freedom to go out when and where she wishes; (7) what to do when children are sick; (8) when to buy furniture, electrical appliances or a car; (9) moving to another house, apartment or city; (10) when to have sex; (11) family planning; (12) the use of contraceptives; and (13) which partner uses contraceptives. The last set of variables relates to gender roles and attitudes. The index of mens expectations of women is based on questions concerning twelve roles or situations that might evoke a male partners anger or attempt to control his partner. The index ranges from 0 (no controlling gender-role expectations) to 12 (extremely controlling gender-role expectations). Related to employment the respondent was asked if her husband/partner gets upset because: (1) she works; or (2) she earns more than he does. Related to sexual and reproductive behaviour, and to household responsibilities, she was asked if he gets upset because: (3) she uses contraceptives; (4) she does not get pregnant; (5) she does not want to have sex; (6) he does not like how she raises the children; (7) he believes she is not a good mother or wife; and (8) she reminds him of his family duties. Additional questions related to the extent of control a male exerts over his partner included the respondent reporting that her partner was annoyed because he feels: (9) she is jealous; (10) she does not obey him; (11) he does not like the way she dresses; and (12) she visits (or is visited by) family or friends. Woman holds non-traditional gender-role attitudes is a dichotomous variable based on the female respondents agreement or disagreement with four statements related to female gender-role expectations. These are: (1) a good wife must obey her husband in all that he orders; (2) it is a womans obligation to have sex even if she does not want to; (3) when mens income is enough for the household expenses, a woman is free to decide whether or not to work; and (4) a woman can choose her friends even if her partner does not like them. A respondent who disagreed with the first two statements and agreed with the third and fourth statements was coded 1, indicating strong non-traditional gender-role attitudes. Any other response pattern was coded 0. These variables are not endogenous since it is unlikely that attitudes or gender roles change in the relatively short period of time covered in the survey. Analysis The analysis proceeds in three parts. In the first part we examine association among our control variables, the ethnic composition of the

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Ethnic heterogamy and the risk 9

couple, and the occurrence of physical partner violence during the twelve months preceding the interview. This large number of variables gives rise to many associations, but we pay particular attention to heterogamous couples. In the second part of the analysis we present the results of logistic regression that predict physical violence as a function of the couples ethnic make-up and the other controls. In the third part, we present stratified analyses that compare the predictors of partner violence for each of the homogamous/heterogamous couple groups. Results Table 1 compares the characteristics of women who report having experienced violence to those who did not for each of our predictor variables. The first two columns present characteristics for homogamous couples (column 1: non-indigenous; column 2: indigenous) and the third and fourth columns present the same information for the two heterogamous couples, the first in which the male is indigenous and the female non-indigenous (column 3) and the second in which the male is non-indigenous and the female is indigenous (column 4). The table reveals similarities as well as differences among the four groups. For both homogamous and heterogamous couples, women who experienced violence were younger than those who did not. Women in heterogamous relationships were much younger than those in homogamous couples. They were also more likely to have suffered physical violence during childhood or adolescence, especially so among those non-indigenous women with an indigenous partner, and they were more likely to have a partner who holds traditional views of womens roles and who monopolizes the household decisionmaking processes. Receiving public assistance is unrelated to physical violence for any group. The data also reveal more complicated associations related to homogamy and heterogamy that clearly illustrate the unique situation of heterogamous couples in which the male is indigenous and the female non-indigenous. For homogamous couples, whether indigenous or non-indigenous, low SES is related to an increased risk of violence. For heterogamous couples, though, the patterns are very different. Among those couples in which the male is indigenous rates of violence are far greater in the highest socio-economic category than in either of the lower two categories. SES is unrelated to the risk of violence in heterogamous couples in which the female is the indigenous partner. These patterns suggest that indigenous males in heterogamous relationships may experience more social stress as SES increases. Further evidence is offered by the association between female employment and the risk of violence. For indigenous women, both in homogamous or heterogamous relationships, female employment is

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10 Sonia M. Fras and Ronald J. Angel

Table 1. Characteristics of couples in which abuse was reported by ethnic composition of the couple (weighted means and percentages) Homogamous couples Heterogamous couples Indigenous male and non-indigenous female Reported violence % Sub-sample ** 43.86 38.60 17.54 *** 64.30 35.70 *** Indigenous female and non-indigenous male Reported violence % Sub-sample n/s 45.20 42.09 12.71

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Non-indigenous Reported violence Socio-economic and demographic SES Very low Low Medium-high Employment Unemployed Employed Age (Violence) (No violence) Years of education (Violence) (No violence) Abuse background Family violence No family violence Household characteristics Public financial assistance Oportunidades Beneficiary No beneficiary % Sub-sample *** 29.42 38.69 31.89 *** 61.98 38.02 ***

Indigenous Reported violence % Sub-sample ** 74.69 19.21 6.10 n/s 68.29 31.71 ***

10.71 9.97 6.13 8.34 9.98 35.38 (12.31) 40.01 (13.53)

10.53 8.29 2.06 9.60 9.56 36.11 (9.81) 40.10 (11.24)

14.81 18.03 29.67 13.90 27.25 33.47 (10.62) 39.04 (10.58)

6.45 9.69 7.48 9.77 5.24 33.18 (7.67) 36.90 (10.12)

59.69 40.31 **

*** 7.03 (4.39) 7.63 (4.86) 13.69 5.94 *** 39.89 60.11 n.s. 87.92 12.08 2.87 (3.01) 3.09 (2.75) 12.23 8.00

n/s 8.89 (6.79) 6.09 (3.73) ** 41.47 58.53 n.s. 53.51 46.49 23.38 14.38

*** 7.23 (3.82) 5.94 (3.51) ** 51.66 48.34 n.s. 81.24 18.76 11.27 4.42


** 51.10 48.90 n.s. 74.03 25.97

8.94 9.72

8.76 10.90

19.70 16.11

6.73 11.31

Table 1 (Continued )
Homogamous couples Heterogamous couples Indigenous male and non-indigenous female % Subsample n.s. 5.19 (2.22) 5.39 (1.92) n.s. 19.47 80.53 11.13 8.37 * 50.20 49.80 5.26 (2.12) 5.06 (1.80) 17.58 19.52 n.s. 25.38 74.62 Suffered violence % Subsample n.s. 4.96 (1.35) 5.32 (1.92) 7.20 8.10 n.s. 19.86 80.14 Indigenous female and non-indigenous male Suffered violence % Subsample n.s.

Non-indigenous Suffered violence Number of household residents (Violence) (No violence) Residency Rural Urban Relationship characteristics, gender roles and attitudes Marital status Married Cohabiting Woman holds non-traditional gender roles No Yes Males expectations of women (Violence) (No violence) Womans participation in decision-making (Violence) (No violence) N 4.98 (2.16) 4.73 (1.99) 9.01 9.04 % Subsample ***

Indigenous Suffered violence

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7.84 14.23 8.32 10.42 3.07 (2.37) 0.85 (1.35)

*** 81.38 18.62 *** 66.08 33.92 ***

7.19 20.70 9.78 9.48 2.58 (2.46) 0.61 (0.98)

*** 81.02 18.98 n.s. 92.66 7.34 ***

16.82 25.76 15.22 33.08 2.92 (1.95) 1.06 (1.21)

* 75.33 24.67 *** 78.67 21.33 ***

8.32 7.05 9.07 5.20 2.51 (1.52) 1.24 (1.68)

n.s. 68.47 31.53 n.s. 70.38 29.62 ***

Ethnic heterogamy and the risk 11

*** 0.75 (0.25) 0.84 (0.21) 27,391 0.54 (0.27) 0.66 (0.25) 743

*** 0.70 (0.24) 0.79 (0.19) 535

*** 0.66 (0.17) 0.81 (0.17)



Note: Each cell presents percentages or means of women that experienced physical partner violence. For example, in the very low category of SES, 10.71 per cent of women experienced violence (89.29 per cent did not). The second column of each of the categories of ethnic homogamy or heterogamy shows column percentages to 100 per cent. For example, in the SES variable, 29.42 per cent of the sample is in the very low category of SES, 38.69 per cent low and 31.89 per cent medium-high.

Statistical tests of group differences: x2 for categorical variables, and t-test for continuous variables (age, years of education, number of household residents, mans expectations of women, womans participation in decision-making). $ p B.10, *p B.05, **pB.01, ***p B.0001

12 Sonia M. Fras and Ronald J. Angel

unrelated to the risk of violence. For heterogamous couples in which the male is indigenous, on the other hand, the risk is greatly elevated. When the female is the indigenous partner the risk of violence is lower. These data again suggest that indigenous males in heterogamous relationships face stresses that raise the probability that they will act violently toward their partner. Non-indigenous women who hold non-traditional genderrole attitudes are at elevated risk of violence. Analyses The first column in Table 2 presents bivariate logistic regressions of each of the predictor variables and the dependent variable (occurrence of physical violence during the year preceding the interview) for the total sample. Compared to women in homogamous couples or
Table 2. Bivariate odds ratios and full logistic regression model of the predictors of partner violence weighted (eb)
Bivariate Odds ratio Socio-economic and demographic Indigenous (non-indigenous couple) Man and woman indigenous Woman indigenous Man indigenous SES (medium-high) Very low Low Age Employed Years of education Abuse background Family violence Household characteristics Public financial assistance Number of household residents Urban Relationship characteristics, gender roles and attitudes Cohabiting (married) Woman non-traditional gender roles Males expectations of women Womans participation in decision-making Constant (2 log likelihood Full model

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1.10 0.88 2.33*** 1.77** 1.66*** 0.97*** 1.22*** 0.98*** 2.43*** 1.11$ 1.06*** 0.98 2.01*** 1.26*** 11.26*** 0.96

1.11 0.45*** 1.95*** 1.04 0.99 0.97*** 1.03 0.97*** 1.62*** 0.99 0.98* 1.08 1.47*** 1.38*** 1.75*** 0.35*** (1.55*** 15042.610

Note: Reference categories in parentheses. N 0 31,252; 2,515 experienced physical violence (8.05 per cent, weighted n 0 2,900); 28,737 experienced no violence (91.95 per cent, weighted n031,414). $ pB.10, *pB.05, **pB.01, ***pB.0001

Ethnic heterogamy and the risk 13

indigenous women in heterogamous relationships, non-indigenous women with an indigenous partner are at far greater risk of violence. The odds ratio (2.33) shows that they are more than twice as likely to suffer violence then women in non-indigenous homogamous couples (the reference category). The bivariate logistic association between SES and violence reveals that women in the lower categories of SES face an elevated risk of partner violence, as do employed women. In contrast, older woman and those with more education face a lower risk of violence. Having experienced violence in childhood or adolescence is highly significant and greatly increases the risk of violence. The next group of variables relates to household characteristics. Living in a larger household is associated with an elevated risk of victimization. Urban residence is insignificant, but receiving benefits from the public assistance programme Oportunidades is marginally significant (pB.10) and increases the risk of violence. The last set of variables relates to relationship characteristics, gender roles and attitudes. These all affect the risk of partner violence, but not in the same direction. Cohabitation, holding non-traditional gender roles and having a partner with rigid expectations of women substantially increase a womans risk of violence, while a womens participation in decision-making has a protective effect. The second column of Table 2 presents the full logistic regression in which all of the predictor variables are entered simultaneously. This model again reveals the differential risk of violence associated with the ethnic composition of the couple. Net of other factors, women in homogamous relationships, whether both partners are indigenous or non-indigenous (the reference category), are similar in their risk of violence. In homogamous indigenous relationships the cultural similarity between men and women seems to lower the risk of violence. By contrast, a woman in an exogamous relationship faces a different risk depending on whether she or her partner speaks an indigenous language. When the woman is the indigenous partner the risk decreases substantially, while in situations in which the male is the indigenous partner the risk of violence increases markedly. The coefficients for the two heterogamous categories show clearly that the ethnicity of the male greatly affects the risk of violence. The nonsignificant coefficients for the SES measures suggest that the stresses associated with social marginalization rather than income per se increase the risk that a male will act violently toward his female partner. Although indigenous women in heterogamous relationships may experience stresses associated with heterogamy, their socialization into more traditional gender roles appears to operate as a protective mechanism against partner violence.

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14 Sonia M. Fras and Ronald J. Angel

In the full model, age and education are negatively associated with partner violence. The full model also supports the social learning perspective since women who experienced family violence in childhood or adolescence face a higher risk of recent victimization. The last set of variables is highly predictive of partner violence. Cohabiting women, those who hold non-traditional gender roles and those who have a partner with rigid expectations of women all face a higher risk of partner violence. By contrast, greater participation in decision-making decreases the risk. Our analyses suggest the need for more refined attention to ethnic heterogamy in studies involving populations in which racial and ethnic differences are associated with socio-economic differences and marginalization. The lack of significance of SES when more detailed individual and relationship variables are controlled is also an intriguing finding. It appears that the relationship between SES and partner violence is mediated by relationship characteristics, gender roles and attitudes. Table 3 presents odds ratios for logistic regressions that predict the risk of violence separately for each of the four combinations of gender and ethnicity. It offers further insights into the uniqueness of the situation in which the male is indigenous and the female nonindigenous. In this table relatively few coefficients are significant for all four groups, suggesting that it is important to take heterogamy and homogamy into account in studies of domestic violence in Mexico and probably elsewhere. This table reveals three factors that increase womens risk of suffering domestic violence in all four groups: youth; having a male partner with patriarchal attitudes; and exclusion from domestic decision-making. Other variables have very different effects depending on the group involved. In order to test for the significance of difference among groups we performed two logistic regressions, one for homogamous couples and another for heterogamous couples, in which we test for interaction effects between each of the dependent variables and the ethnic composition of the couple. The results (not shown) reveal no significant interactions among homogamous couples. Among heterogamous couples, however, we found a statistically significant and positive interaction between the fact that the male is indigenous and the females non-traditional gender roles, suggesting that women with non-traditional gender roles whose partner speaks an indigenous language are at greatly increased risk of experiencing violence than indigenous women with non-traditional gender roles who have a non-indigenous partner. Conclusion Our analyses indicate that among couples in which the male partner is a member of a traditional indigenous group and the female partner is

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Table 3. Logistic regression analyses of the predictors of partner violence by couples race/ethnic composition weighted odds ratios (eb)
Homogamous couple Heterogamous couple Indigenous malec Indigenous femaled

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Non-indigenousa Socio-economic and demographic SES (medium-high) Very low Low Age Employed Years of education Abuse background Family violence Household characteristics Public financial assistance Number of household residents Urban Relationship characteristics, gender roles and attitudes Cohabiting (married) Males expectations of women Woman non-traditional gender roles Womans participation in decision-making


1.06 0.99 0.97*** 1.04 0.96*** 1.64*** 0.93 0.98 1.10

2.24 2.40 0.99$ 1.10 0.95 1.26 1.13 0.90** 0.83

0.87 0.67 0.96** 0.13 1.12** 2.35** 1.27 0.91 1.16

0.33 0.69 0.95$ 0.30* 1.11

Ethnic heterogamy and the risk 15

1.90 1.70 0.89 1.11

1.44*** 1.77*** 1.41*** 0.39***

2.48*** 1.71*** 1.48 0.41**

1.42 1.78*** 1.54 0.13**

0.77 1.52*** 0.41 0.04**

16 Sonia M. Fras and Ronald J. Angel

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Table 3 (Continued )
Homogamous couple Non-indigenousa Constant (2 log likelihood (1.60*** 13417.904 Indigenousb (2.34* 936.219 Heterogamous couple Indigenous malec (0.90 381.076 Indigenous femaled 1.43 178.036

Note: Reference categories in parentheses. a n 0 27,391; 2,158 (7.88 per cent) experienced physical violence; 25,233 (92.12 per cent) experienced no violence. b n 0 2,592; 214 (8.26 per cent) experienced physical violence; 2,378 (91.74 per cent) experienced no violence. c n 0 743; 83 (10.31 per cent) experienced physical violence; 651 (88.69 per cent) experienced no violence. d n 0 535; 60 (11.21 per cent) experienced physical violence; 475 (88.79 per cent) experienced no violence. $ pB.10, *pB.05, **pB.01, ***pB.0001

Ethnic heterogamy and the risk 17

not, the risk that he will act violently toward her increases substantially. That risk increases further if the woman holds non-traditional gender-role attitudes and engages in behaviours that her partner finds threatening. The stereotype of indigenous cultures as sanctioning violence against women in Mexico appears not to be true generally. Our analyses suggest that only a subset of indigenous males act violently toward their female partners. That violence appears to result, at least in part, from the social stressors associated with exogamy and social marginalization. Our findings suggest that in assessing the risk of abuse and violence, along with individual couples characteristics and cultural orientations, structural and contextual factors and their interactions must be taken into account. Our findings show that it is unlikely that heterogamy per se increases the risk of abuse since in heterogamous relationships in which the female is the indigenous partner the risk of abuse is greatly diminished. Our results, then, clearly highlight the complexity of the relationship among SES, culture, gender and the risk of experiencing partner violence. Our findings extend previous research by emphasizing the importance of understanding the intersection of social structure and culture as an explanation for partner abuse (Atkinson, Greenstein and Lang 2005). The fact that higher levels of education increase the risk of violence for non-indigenous females in relationships with indigenous males clearly suggests that the greater autonomy that education gives a woman is threatening to at least some indigenous males. The fact that higher education among indigenous women in homogamous relationships with indigenous men does not increase the risk of violence and the fact that employment actually diminishes the risk of violence among these women adds further support to a social stress or identity threat explanation. Our results are consistent with and corroborate previous findings concerning the role of other factors in determining the risk of partner violence. In our data women who experienced violence in childhood or adolescence were at elevated risk of violence in adulthood. As in Mexico, in North America women who are married to men who hold patriarchal attitudes are at elevated risk of violence (Smith 1990). In contrast to previous research in Mexico (Oropesa 1997; Casique 2004; Pozo Del, Castro and Rquer 2004), in our data, women in relation ships in which major household decisions were made in a more egalitarian manner by both partners were at lower risk of violence in all couple combinations. However, the protective effect of participating in decision-making was weaker for women in heterogamous relationships than for women in homogamous relationships. The fact that SES was not a significant predictor of partner violence after we introduced controls for ethnic composition of the couple, traditional gender roles and attitudes, as well as the sharing of

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18 Sonia M. Fras and Ronald J. Angel

decision-making in the household, suggests that the failure to include such controls results in a misattribution of these effects to other factors. Our data also indicate that the potential socialization of indigenous women in heterogamous relationships into the acceptance of subordination to men decreases their risk of violence since it removes a potential source of threat to the male partners ego, as suggested by Kwesiga et al. (2007). Others have also found that women who act in accordance with traditionally prescribed gender roles face a reduced risk of violence (Fras 2009). Homogamous couples are likely to share a common universe of discourse (DiMaggio and Mohr 1985) and thus similar cultural values regarding gender roles and attitudes, which might explain the absence of differences between indigenous and non-indigenous couples. Taken together, our results highlight the fact that the stress experienced by a couple and its manifestation as violence reflects the interaction of gender and ethnicity (see Gaines and Leaver 2002). As strong as the findings that emerge are, however, and as compelling as our case that heterogamy increases the risk of partner violence against women may be, there are potential methodological limitations that may affect at least the magnitude of our findings. Our definition of indigenous is based on language use. Consequently, our study population does not include those individuals who are members of indigenous groups but who either do not speak the language on a regular basis or choose not to report that they do. These individuals may be very different to indigenous language-speaking households. In addition, other ethnic groups (i.e. Afro-Latinas), although small, are included in the non-indigenous category even though they are likely to experience similar cultural and societal stresses as other minority groups. Our assessment of risk is based on womens self-reports of violence and their reports of their partners patriarchal attitudes. It is possible that cultural differences affect the perception of acts as violent, as well as a womans willingness to report those acts. In Mexico recent legislation outlawing domestic violence reflects a growing recognition that the traditional belief that a male has the right to discipline his partner by physical means is unacceptable, at least in terms of official policy. The existence of laws against domestic violence of course does not guarantee that they will be enforced. In the case of domestic violence a change in public consciousness and social sanctions are necessary. Even with their potential limitations, though, our data show that the phenomenon of partner violence is complex and affected by social and structural, as well as cultural and individual factors. In order to further understand the phenomenon of partner violence it seems clear that in an ethnically and culturally heterogeneous nation like Mexico the impact of heterogamy cannot be ignored.

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Ethnic heterogamy and the risk 19

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SONIA M. FRIAS is Researcher in the Regional Center for Multidisciplinary Research at the National Autonomous University of Mexico. ADDRESS: Avda. Universidad s/n, circuito 2. Colonia Chamilpa. 62210 Cuernavaca, Morelos, Mexico. Email: RONALD J. ANGEL is a Professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of Texas at Austin. ADDRESS: Mailcode A1700, Austin, TX 78712, USA. Email: