Women-Centered Rituals and Levels of Domestic Violence

A Cross-Cultural Examination of Ritual as a Signaling and Solidarity-Building Strategy


  • Kate J. Stockly Center for Mind and Culture, Boston, MA
  • Stephanie Arel Center for Mind and Culture and New York University and 9/11 Museum and Memorial
  • Megan K. DeFranza Center for Mind and Culture and Boston University
  • Damian Ruck University of Tennessee
  • Luke Matthews RAND Corporation
  • Wesley Wildman Boston University New York University and 9/11 Museum and Memorial




costly signaling theory, domestic violence, ritual, women, religion, solidarity, marriage residence patterns


Prior research indicates that ritual can be a source of social solidarity by signaling trustworthiness and group commitment. A separate line of research expects domestic violence against women to be more common in societies with post-marital residence at the husband’s birthplace (i.e. patrilocality). Thus, we hypothesized that when wives are able to construct strong bonds with the female members of their communities through solidarity-building rituals, they gain social support capable of inhibiting violence, leading to lower overall levels of domestic violence--especially in patrilocal societies. Results indicated that certain types of women-centered rituals were associated with lower levels of sexual and domestic violence; however, we found inconsistent effects according to patrilocal residence. Women-centered rituals were not found to be associated with beliefs about the husband’s prerogative to punish and dominate his spouse, and patrilocality did not contribute to the effects we found.

Author Biography

Kate J. Stockly, Center for Mind and Culture, Boston, MA

Doctoral Fellow at the Center for Mind and Culture and a PhD student at Boston University in the Graduate Program in Religion.


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How to Cite

Stockly, K. J., Arel, S., DeFranza, M. K., Ruck, D., Matthews, L., & Wildman, W. (2020). Women-Centered Rituals and Levels of Domestic Violence: A Cross-Cultural Examination of Ritual as a Signaling and Solidarity-Building Strategy. Journal for the Study of Religion, Nature and Culture, 14(1), 95–123. https://doi.org/10.1558/jsrnc.38921



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