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Battered Women Syndrome

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Battered Woman Syndrome

In Robert Agnew's general strain theory, he talks about how strain and stress could cause an individual to commit crimes that they wouldn't have committed without those circumstances. In his theory, he refers to negative affective states, which are the "anger, frustration, and adverse emotions that emerge in the wake of destructive social relationships". It is these negative affective states that are produced by strain. Agnew acknowledges that strain can be caused by negative situations, such as abuse or neglect, family conflict, or stressful life events. These situations can all be found to be extremely prevalent in households where domestic violence occurs. According to this theory, the negative stimuli presented causes, in this case, the woman to feel angry, frustrated, disappointed, depressed, and fearful. These negative feelings, in turn, are outwardly expressed through violence. In this paper, we will look at battered woman syndrome as a theory that has stemmed from Robert Agnew's general strain theory.

In her 1979 book "The Battered Woman"; Dr. Lenore Walker first came up with what is now know as battered woman syndrome. Put simply battered woman syndrome, or BWS as it is sometimes called, is a group of psychological symptoms that are easily recognized in women who have been physically, sexually, or psychologically assaulted by their domestic partner. According to Dr. Walker, "Battered woman syndrome presents evidence that the syndrome is part of a recognizable pattern of psychological symptoms called post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) reported to be produced by repeated exposure to trauma such as the physical, sexual, and/or serious psychological assault experienced by battered women" (Gelles 133). Because battered woman syndrome is considered to be in the same category as PTSD, it does not have it's own classification in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-third edition, also known as the DSM-III. Instead it is just classified along with post-traumatic stress disorder. The American Psychiatric Association gives five criteria for the diagnosis of PTSD using the DSM system,

"1. presence of a stressor that could cause a traumatic response (battering)

2. symptoms lasting for more than one month

3. measurable cognitive and memory changes

4. at least three measurable avoidance symptoms

5. at least two measurable arousal symptoms" (Gelles 138).

These five criterions are what doctors in the psychiatric field use to diagnose a woman with battered woman syndrome.

In some cases, a doctor's diagnosis comes into play in

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