Comparing Burgess and Draper's Theory of Family Violence and the Film, The Burning Bed
Burgess and Draper argue coercive patterns of family interaction represent the principal causal pathway that connects ecological instability to violence within families. They maintain this raises the possibility that some of the common correlates of such violence are themselves reactions to sudden or chronic ecological instability. For example, alcoholism, depression, and anxiety may be responses to ecological stresses in the family, such as loss of employment, excessive financial debt, or divorce. Burgess and Draper suggest that violence towards one's mate or children may consequently be a direct result of ecological instability. They argue that certain individual traits (e.g. problem drinking), which have previously been assumed to precipitate violent behavior, may actually be the result of the same factors that lead to family violence itself.
The movie, The Burning Bed, is a made for TV movie centered on the issue of family violence. The main characters were Francine and Mickey Hughes, a battered wife and abusive husband. In the story, Francine struggled with Mickey's violence and intimidation for the better part of twenty years and finally ended up killing him in his sleep. It is a vivid and realistic movie about domestic violence and the way society viewed such violence in the not so distant past. By comparing the movie to Burgess and Draper's hypothesis, some agreements and some disagreements become apparent. Do Burgess and Draper adequately explain and predict the Hughes's pattern of domestic violence?
II. Ecological Instability
Ecological instability describes when a person is in a situation, either perceived or actual, that is not the ideal. It can describe a time of lacking or need and usually is not thought of as a good time. These periods can be short lived or take years and years to run their course. Causes of ecological instability may be the result of divorce, loss of employment, debilitating injury, excessive financial debt or something like a natural disaster. Whatever the cause, the person in the situation feels like a victim and begins to think and behave as one.
Burgess and Draper emphasis the importance of cultural norms and stability of the environment. (Ohlin, 71) This stability is, supposedly, what every person in society is working to achieve. As resources decline, stress builds proportionally. Economic or psychosocial insecurities brought on by the loss of a job (as in Mickey Hughes' case) translate into sexual insecurity as well. Social indicators of family violence should be regarded as "markers" of ecological instability when couple's stress exceeds their resources. Therefor, families marked with unemployment or underemployment, have higher rates of family violence. (Ohlin, 87)
Values in American society expect males to be...