Spousal violence and in-law conflict in Asia : The case of China, Taiwan and Hong Kong

Tuen Yi CHIU, Susanne Y.P. CHOI

Research output: Book Chapters | Papers in Conference ProceedingsBook ChapterResearchpeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Violence against women is a globally pervasive problem which stems from societal and cultural factors and creates tremendous health, social, economic and developmental burdens for the society as a whole. Although violence against women occurs in different contexts by various types of perpetrators, violence by an intimate partner (intimate partner violence or IPV) is by far the most common form. It is estimated that one in every three women has experienced physical and/or sexual violence by an intimate partner in her lifetime (World Health Organization, 2013). IPV against women encompasses physical, psychological, sexual, economic, manipulative and possessive abuses that are perpetrated by a current or former spouse or partner in marital, cohabiting and dating relationships (UN General Assembly, 2006; Matud, 2007; Hattery, 2009: 11– 12; World Health Organization and London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, 2010). While IPV is a type of gender-based violence which fundamentally derives from women’s subordination in society with respect to men (Ellsberg and Heise, 2005; Tang, 2009), variations in the prevalence of violence (as high as 65 per cent) observed across countries suggest multiple pathways to IPV against women. A large number of surveys and qualitative studies have been conducted in the West, but systematic research about the scale, extent and context of IPV in other parts of the world, including Asia, is limited (Krahé and Abbey, 2013). We will explore in this chapter the premise that IPV against women is rooted in cultural traditions. With this aim in mind, we examine the mechanisms in which in-law conflict contributes to the occurrence of IPV against married women in three Chinese societies in Asia: China, Taiwan and Hong Kong. Although many IPV risk factors observed in the West are also found in these three societies, there is an important distinction: in Asia, the presence of mother-inlaw and daughter-in-law conflict constitutes a specific and significant risk factor. In addition to explicating the effect of in-law conflict on IPV against women in these three Chinese societies, we argue that this culturally specific risk factor is sustained by Chinese patriarchy. The customs of patrilineality (family continuity centred on sons) and patrilocality of newly-wed couples subject the married woman to the power and control of her husband’s family after marriage, and lay the foundation for a greater influence of the husband’s parents on the conjugal relationship after marriage, thus contributing to in-law conflict and IPV against women. Our argument is relevant to many other Asian societies that differ from the West in the greater influence of the husband’s extended family on the conjugal relationship, and resemble Chinese societies in the practice of patrilineality and patrilocal residence after marriage. We focus on China, Taiwan and Hong Kong because of their similar cultural heritage and the ubiquity of patrilocal residence and in-law conflict in these three societies. Despite these commonalities, variations exist among these three places. As discussed in the following sections, modernization and economic development in Taiwan and Hong Kong started earlier and have moved faster than in China. Since Chinese patriarchy exists not only in China but also in other Chinese societies, the comparison of China, Taiwan and Hong Kong offers a more systemic analysis of Chinese culture in Asia, permitting us to see whether the disparity in stages of modernization and economic development has changed traditional Chinese patriarchy and the relationship between in-law conflict and IPV against married women.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationRoutledge Handbook of Families in Asia
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages14
ISBN (Electronic)9781134712830
ISBN (Print)9780415715461
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2015
Externally publishedYes


Dive into the research topics of 'Spousal violence and in-law conflict in Asia : The case of China, Taiwan and Hong Kong'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this