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Why do People Blame Victims of Abuse? The Role of Stereotypes of Women on Perceptions of Blame


Stereotyping research suggests that traditional women (e.g., housewives) are seen as warm and weak, whereas nontraditional women (e.g., career women) are seen as lacking warmth but competent. We expected a nontraditional female abuse victim to be perceived as less warm than a traditional victim, and thus be blamed more in an abuse scenario. In an experiment, 118 Midwestern United States college students read a marital conflict in which the husband perpetrated high levels of psychological abuse. The victim’s gender role and reaction to the abuse each were manipulated. As expected, when the victim was nontraditional or she reacted negatively to the abuse (e.g., yelled back), she was rated more negatively and blamed more due to her lack of warmth.

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Correspondence to Nicole M. Capezza.

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Capezza, N.M., Arriaga, X.B. Why do People Blame Victims of Abuse? The Role of Stereotypes of Women on Perceptions of Blame. Sex Roles 59, 839 (2008). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-008-9488-1

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  • Victim blame
  • Stereotypes
  • Psychological abuse
  • Warmth
  • Competence
  • Traditional and sexist beliefs