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Abusive men - is it nature or nurture?

(54 Posts)
WinterGloves Mon 01-Dec-14 17:39:46

MN threads, personal relationships, friends relationships, news stories... There seems to be abusive men everywhere. I've recently left an abusive relationship and I know at least 3 other people in relationships where the man is emotionally abusive.

Even when there is no abuse, you only have to read MN to see there are liars, cheats, entitled, absent parents, drinking all weekend and uncaring men everywhere.

They can't all have been raised this way surely? Is it outside influences that makes them act this way? Media? Porn? TV? Or are they just born wired to think that they superior and more deserving?

I'm raising boys. They are gentle and loving and I would hate to think that one day they might treat their partners badly.

Obviously I know that women can be all of the above too.

And I can see that my post is very anti men. And I'm sure that's unfair to some men, but I'm talking from personal experience which has coloured my view.

CogitoErgoSometimes Mon 01-Dec-14 17:58:21

I think a lot of it is nature. You have boys that you describe as gentle and loving. So do I FWIW. If they treat people kindly it's partly because they have kind personalities, partly because they are treated with kindness and partly because they are pulled up sharp (guessing) by you if they are unkind. I'm sure you know other boys (and girls for that matter) who are already unpleasant. Bullying and stamping their way through childhood, indulged by overly-fond parents or treated miserably by bad parents. Chances are they'll end up as nasty adults.

So I think that someone has to have a cruel or selfish or resentful personality in the first place. They then need plenty of opportunities to try it out without too much restriction. And finally, their behaviour has to bring them the results they want.... or they wouldn't bother.

GratefulHead Mon 01-Dec-14 18:04:12

My DS is loving and gentle, however he is also autistic and as such he wants to control his environment which is his home. I have to really enforce boundaries to ensure he knows that give and take are important.

I don't think he'd ever be physically abusive to anyone as he isn't with me or anyone else who works with him. However he does want to be in control which makes me anxious about future relationships if they happen for him.

I suspect that both nature and nurture play a part in things. My son's nature makes him want to control but the nurture is where I show him this is not always appropriate.

Tobyjugg Mon 01-Dec-14 18:11:44

It's nurture principally in my view. Thinking of all the EA men I have come across (& FIL in particular) they all had upbringings that were little short of disgraceful. It takes real strength of character (which rules my FIL out entirely) to overcome something like that. I'm not saying this applies in all cases of an EA man, but I'll bet it is in 99/100.

dirtybadger Mon 01-Dec-14 18:14:06

It's a false dilemma. It doesn't have to be one or the other.

I don't think any complex behaviour can be reduced to genetics or biology and as such believe it is for the most part environmental. But not entirely. I do believe in predispositions (on a biological basis); they may be as a result of maternal stress, very early experience affecting brain chemistry, or genetics. But whichever it is, it must interact with the environment in the right way to produce the behaviour.

That's my opinion, anyway.
I was discussing "We Need to Talk About Kevin" and The Jamie Bulger case with a group this morning and have come to think that the idea of hideous behaviour being "natural" is something we use as comfort. It's not nice to think we all have the propensity to act in these "bad" ways. But I believe we do (in theory, will differing likelihood). It's potentially harmful to write off either "position" in considering these things (abuse, murder, violence).

WillkommenBienvenue Mon 01-Dec-14 18:29:31

It is an interesting dilemma.

I think that it's nearly all nurture, although hormones play a tiny part in it as well.

It will be helpful to look at literature on abuse and ensure they know what a healthy relationship looks like, it's a partnership based on respect for each other and respect for each other's different qualities.

I think it can't happen without empathy, so that is something that's very important to nurture in them.

Quitelikely Mon 01-Dec-14 18:37:35

I really don't believe that children are born inherently bad. I think their environment is everything when it comes to determining who they become as adults.

It's no coincidence that abuse repeats itself. Ss are supposed to try to break the cycle by rescuing children but more often than not the damage is already done.

CheersMedea Mon 01-Dec-14 18:43:13

6 of one; half a dozen of the other.

An abusive childhood environment can have a very damaging effect - indeed is probably likely to - but may not do.

It's clear from looking at babies and toddlers that even at that age they have very different personalities. Some are more aggressive than others - I think there is an element of hormonal/nature-ness about that.

So if you took 100% of abusers, my guess is some would be caused by nature, some by nuture and some by a combination (ie. a predisposition to control/abuse but tipped over by experience).

Bluegill Mon 01-Dec-14 18:45:41

Well my DS can be incredibly difficult, he's not always gentle but he is sensitive, he's not always kind but he can be incredibly kind. Sadly he's been damaged somewhat by having a disgrace for a father but I try my best to instil good character. I think it's incredibly complex. It makes me sad to think he might end up like his father but I remain hopeful. I remember my ex saying he never wanted to be like his father not realising he's infinitely worse.

Seriouslyffs Mon 01-Dec-14 18:46:55

Nurture. 100%.
I do not believe anyone is born bad.
It's not a simple child is neglected or abused therefore he turns into an abuser though. He might be very indulged and struggle with social interactions and one day notice that sulking or stripping gets what he wants.

Vivacia Mon 01-Dec-14 18:54:31

I say nurture, mainly because I don't believe that people are wholly or intrinsically evil.

lurkernowposter Mon 01-Dec-14 19:14:07

Don't let what you read on here colour your view of men, not all men are abusive and don't forget many women are guilty of the same things you accuse men of.

I think it's mostly nurture, children grow up with parents who are abusive and for them its normal, boys grow into men who abuse their partners, girls grow into women who are attracted to abusive men all to often.

Windywinston Mon 01-Dec-14 22:54:04

I suspect in a few cases it's nature, in most it's nurture.

If you look at the way we raise girls, we accept they're gentle and kind but spend an inordinate amount of time teaching them to protect themselves. This both teaches them that they can be victims (a very subtle form of victim-blaming) but can also teach them what behaviours they shouldn't accept, so it's not all bad. But with boys, we accept that they're gentle and kind, but then more often than not in the past, boys are left to find their own way in adulthood. This opens the possibility of things going wrong. as a parent it's easier to imagine your child (male or female) to be a victim than an abuser, so we focus on trying to stop them being a victim, rather than focussing on them not being abusive. These are of course wild generalisations, and plenty of people do both, but plenty of people don't.

Any campaign aimed at domestic abuse, rape, etc it's almost always aimed at women and how to react and is often counter-productive. More should be done to campaign for abusive men not to be abusive, for men not to be rapists, it might actually work better.

I actually don't think loads of men are abusive, I know plenty of men and the vast majority are wonderful people, there will always be a few twats, male and female. The most abusive person I've ever come across was a woman.

This board is full of examples of abusive men, because it's where women (and a few men) come to seek help.

Windywinston Mon 01-Dec-14 22:55:38

Sorry, campaigns should be based on teaching people not to be abusive, not just men.

SolidGoldBrass Mon 01-Dec-14 23:06:07

There's also a very long (thousands of years) cultural history of it being perfectly all right for men to beat and rape and kill and imprison women. It's only recently, in most of the world, that women have been legally regarded as human beings rather than the property of fathers/brothers/husbands.

Windywinston Mon 01-Dec-14 23:22:28

Very true. It wasn't that long ago that it was legal for a man to beat and rape his wife. That kind of social conditioning doesn't go away over night. That said, even when it was legal, I doubt most men did it.

WillkommenBienvenue Tue 02-Dec-14 01:53:50

dirtybadger I found this, thought it was interesting what the judge said about learning from these cases. I do think we need better social services support where alcoholism or depression are involved.

www.theguardian.com/politics/reality-check-with-polly-curtis/2012/mar/13/prisons-and-probation-criminal-justice

WillkommenBienvenue Tue 02-Dec-14 01:58:01

wrong link oops

Frogisatwat Tue 02-Dec-14 07:08:27

Interesting. Those of you who say definitely nurture... nope. I have two boys from an abusive man who is no longer on the scene.
I have 'issues' with the eldest for which i am seeking intervention. I fear he will end up 'just like his father'
There may be an absent father but this is a 'normal' functioning family no abuse or lax boundaries.
I sometimes wonder whether their father was a sociopath. Im not going to meddle in armchair psychology though hence me pushing for help from professionals

Vivacia Tue 02-Dec-14 07:15:36

I would still say nurture Frog, your son had a father around in his formative years who was abusive and a mother who fears he'll be just the same.

EhricLovesTheBhrothers Tue 02-Dec-14 07:28:49

As a social worker I have worked with the products of abuse (teens in care) and abusive parents. It's quite obvious how the children are affected by their early experiences and how that connects to their behaviour as adults. Scratch the surface of an abusive man and you will find childhood trauma, or brutalisation through the prison system, or teenage drug use, or a number of factors that contributed to make him controlling, violent and entitled. Not to mention of course the socialisation that all boys get in our society which tells them they are entitled to women and sex, that women and girls are lesser, are objects to crave or to have and that violence is masculine. Factors which we as parents need to counteract with our parenting but which dysfunctional parents often fail to do.

Hissy Tue 02-Dec-14 07:35:56

I have worked VERY hard with my ds to ensure that he understands that abusive men have no right to a family life, contact with their children, or any respect whatsoever.

his father was (is) abusive and I was buggered if I was going to allow my sweet boy to grow up thinking his father was a role model of any kind.

CogitoErgoSometimes Tue 02-Dec-14 07:59:49

@EhricLovestheBhrothers..... are all the children of abusive men abusive in your experience? Would the abusive man have non-abusive siblings who went through the same trauma but have turned out differently?

In my own family you see there were two sisters, abandoned by their parents to the 'care' of a notoriously abusive childrens home run by a religious order. Both sisters were brutalised, one was raped, and they were dumped unceremoniously back in society age 15/16 and expected to make their own way. If you want 'bad start in life', they were the poster girls. One sister went on to be an abusive & violent parent. The other (the one who was raped, in fact) became a loving and caring parent and aunt.

That's why I think that there has to be more than just 'nurture' at play. I think inherent personality has a much bigger part in the story than we like to think and our influence as parents is not as a great as all the parenting manuals would have us believe. There are also plenty of examples of abusive/criminal people who have perfectly normal non-abusive childhoods.

Frogisatwat Tue 02-Dec-14 08:25:50

Id say you are wrong vivacia but we can agree to differ. Father has never been around much and was never abusive to them or outwardly to me. There's far more to it.
The father is one of four.. The others are perfectly lovely and my ex in laws are lovely decent people.

Meerka Tue 02-Dec-14 08:31:28

I think it's a mix of nature and nurture and the proportions are different for each person

But I also think that there is personal choice and some people choose to put themselves first without caring about others. Other people choose to balance their own needs and other peoples'.

I think that the debate about nature v nurture forgets that there's some degree of personal choice.

(again, the amount of personal choice available can vary; temperament has something to do with the choices too).

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