Facing ambivalence: women´s narratives about physical and emotional violence in family relations
Family Research Centre University of Jyväskylä Jyväskylä, Finland
My ongoing qualitative doctoral research in sociology deals with Finnish women´s narratives of harmful family relationships. The data consist of 40 women´s writings which were collected through a request published in newspapers and magazines. My main questions dealt with how violence is experienced and defined, and what can be told about violence and family relations in current social and cultural climate. The perspective on family relations is broad and informants described harmful or violent relations with their husbands, mother-in-laws, sisters, fathers, mothers, grandfathers and brothers.
I looked through the narratives with the concepts of relationality and ambivalence: an individual, who is living in a close but hurting family relation often faces cultural expectations of maintaining the relationship but also demands for autonomous, active choices. It is important to understand individual feelings of ambivalence as connected to ambivalences on the social structural level. One of my analytical tasks was identifying types of narratives. I constructed three types of stories: 1) stories of stopping and staying still; 2) stories of redefining the borders; 3) stories of breaking away. On the basis of these narratives I was able to take a closer look at the various emotional and/or concrete processes that women undergo in their harmful family relations. Narratives of stopping and staying still can help in perceiving the strong effects of violence, whereas stories of breaking away and abandoning the relationship may help to create models for counselling and other violence-related family work. Especially stories of redefining the borders show the ambivalence and complexity of family relations and could function as a basis for a broader understanding of domestic violence. Awareness of these different types of narratives can further both academic and professional knowledge about physical and emotional violence in various family relations.