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August 1964

The Wifebeater's Wife: A Study of Family Interaction

Author Affiliations

Assistant Professor (Dr. Snell), Department of Psychiatry, Emory University, formerly Staff Psychiatrist, Framingham Court Clinic, Framingham, Mass; Director (Dr. Rosenwald). Framingham Court Clinic; Medical Director, Bridgewater State Hospital, Bridgewater, Mass (Dr. Robey), Chelsea Court Clinic Chelsea, Mass, formerly Staff Psychiatrist, Framingham Court Clinic.

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1964;11(2):107-112. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1964.01720260001001

When a man beats his wife, why does she take him to court? This question appears to answer itself, but our experience with the wives of wifebeaters in a court psychiatric clinic has led us to believe that this decision to seek legal assistance is not a simple reaction but rather a result of complex familial interaction. This paper will share some of our observations from our work with these women and will suggest some explanations for what we have seen.

Our experience with wifebeaters' wives was gained in one of the psychiatric clinics which have been established under the Massachusetts Division of Legal Medicine to serve various district courts of the Commonwealth. The court to which our clinic is attached is in Framingham and serves a predominantly middle-class suburban area. In the five years of the clinic's operation (1957-1962) 37 men charged by their