My name is Sam Vaknin and I am the author of Malignant Self-Love, Narcissism Revisited.
Is abuse an anomalous phenomenon? Is it abnormal, exceptional, unusual? Or is it an inevitable part of human nature?
If the former, if it is an anomalous phenomenon, is it the outcome of flawed genetics, nurture, environment, upbringing, or both?
Nature and nurture. Can abuse be cured or merely modified, regulated and accommodated?
There are three groups of theories regarding abuse, three schools regarding abuses, the conduct.
The first one is that abuse is an emergent phenomenon.
The precipitous drop in intimate partner abuse in the last decade, especially in the West, seems to imply that abusive behavior is emergent and that its frequency fluctuates under given circumstances.
Abuse seems to be embedded in social and cultural contexts and to be a learned and acquired behavior.
People who grew up in an atmosphere of domestic violence, for instance, tend to perpetuate and propagate this kind of behavior by abusing their own spouses and family members.
Social stresses and anomie in their psychological manifestations foster domestic violence and child abuse.
Example, war, civil strife, unemployment, social isolation, single parenthood, prolonged or chronic sickness, unsustainably large families, poverty, persistent hunger, marital discord, a new baby, a dying parent, an invalid to be cared for, the death of one's nearest and dearest, incarceration, infidelity, substance abuse, all these stressors have proven to be contributing factors to abuse.
And then there's the second theory, and it says that abuse is hardwired.
Abuse cuts across countries, continents and disparate societies and cultures.
Abuse is common among the rich and the poor, the highly educated and the less educated, people of all races and all creeds and all socioeconomic strata.
In other words, abuse is a universal phenomenon, always has been throughout the ages.
More than half of all abusers do not come from abusive or dysfunctional households where they could have picked up this offensive compartment.
Rather, abuse seems to run in their blood.
Additionally, abuse is often associated with mental illness, now fashionably thought to be biological, medical in nature.
Hence the hypothesis that abusive ways are not learned but hereditary.
There must be a complex of genes which controls and regulates abuse, goes the current thinking.
Turning these genes off may well end the maltreatment.
Then there's the third theory, abuse as a strategy.
Some scholars postulate that all modes of behavior, including abuse, are goal oriented or result oriented.
The abuser seeks to control and manipulate his victims and develop strategies aimed at securing these results.
These strategies are what we call abusive conduct, abusive behaviors.
Abuse is therefore an adaptive and functional behavior.
Hence the difficulty encountered by both the offender and society in trying to modify and contain his odious demeanor.
Yet studying the very roots of abuse, social culture, genetic, psychological, and as a survival strategy, teaches us how to effectively cope with its perpetrators.
This is what psychologists, social caseworkers and others are trying to do.