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Domestic Violence in Hong Kong in the Context of the Sociological Imagination

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The term ‘Sociological Imagination’ was proposed by C. Wright.Mills in the 50s. “The sociological imagination enables us to grasp history and biography and the relation between the two within society”. In brief, it is an ability to view and examine the world and to comprehend the connections and the interplays among individuals (private matters) and societies (social issues). Finding the latent ‘linkages’ to distinguish a problem to be a ‘private’ or ‘social’ one and resolve it.

All the time, people tend to attribute personal problems to their mentality. Without sociological imagination, people are unconscious about the underlying social issue. However, ‘unordinary men’ with social imagination are capable of thinking outside of the box. When they encounter private problems, they will relate it with ‘historical conditions’ and ‘social factors’ imminently which relate to his experience with different contexts (history, societal, biology).

Thence, they can understand how were his life-experiences built and how was it impacted by these contexts thus genuinely experiencing their life. Individuals can understand his own experience and gauge his own fate only ‘by locating himself within his period’. This helps a person to grip his life tightly. Other than relating their experience with different factors, they will also investigate whether others have the same problem to differentiate if it’s a social issue and using it discern existing social problems for the hoodwinked ones, then resolving them and better the society eventually.

That’s what Wright wants his ideology to achieve as he also wants scientist to prioritize the clarification of the causes of ‘uneasiness’ and ‘indifference’ at different times and eliminate them as he believed such interactions will enhance the ‘milieu’. Lastly, according to the book, “Neither the life of an individual nor the history of a society can be understood without understanding both” and history of a society is a summation of biography (all people’s life in the society) which indicating we to study comprehensively.

Domestic violence in Hong Kong is severe. The number of domestic violence has lingered around 2000 cases since 2013 which has never been alleviated. We mainly classified it into child abuse, elderly abuse and battered spouse in Hong Kong. Child Abuse will be discussed below in physical, physiological and sexual aspects.

To start off, physical child abuse refers to physical injury inflicted upon a child with cruel and malicious intent as discipline and punishment (William, 2018). Parents may harm their children by kicking, hitting, burning etc. Physical abuse is the dominant form of domestic violence in Hong Kong (61%). According to a survey, cases of child physical abuse increased from 877 cases in 2011 to 947 cases in 2019 (WenWeiPo, 2019), reflecting the problem is aggravating. The causations of this problem are mainly considered to be ‘parents’ problem’ and ‘false parenting’. In Hong Kong, every four employees, there will be one of them suffered from clinical depression because of infamous working pressure. When they cannot cope with their emotions properly, they will wreak their frustration to the weak-children. For ‘false parenting’, the parenting of the former generations is stringent who accustomed to teach children by beating, especially when children disobey. Children growing up under such parenting are likely to adapt it as they misconceive it to be correct.

Not only physical, child abuse also includes neglect. Child neglect is defined as parents not taking responsibility for their children which they failed to meet their child’s basic needs, for example, food, care etc. (Petersen, 2014). Child neglect comes the second domain of domestic violence which occupied 12% during 2017-2018 in Hong Kong (WenWeiPo, 2018). Besides, HK01 (2019) found that child neglect cases duplicated from 114 in 2007 to 229 in 2017 while there were 1000 cases of child neglect in the last decade. Parents often ignored and are unacquainted with the issue. As mentioned, parents in Hong Kong are preoccupied by their work. Most of them can't even spend time with their children, not to mention picking and looking after them at all times. Thus, many parents choose to let children take care of themselves at early stages which is overestimating their ability and endangering them. Aside from that, the regulation in Hong Kong is blurry and the enforcement is sluggish.

Meanwhile, child sexual abuse exits in Hong Kong which refers to an adult or older adolescent uses a child for sexual stimulation that a child is forced to engage sexual activities by pressurizing and persuading. According to a survey, there is an ascending tendency on child sexual abuse recently which increased from 270 cases in 2007 to 315 cases in 2017 (WenWeiPo, 2019). In 80% of the child sexual abuse cases, victims know the abuser. So, for social workers, the problem is unpredictable also next to untraceable as children do not know how to express and share the case and reluctant to do so. Therefore, there are data showing many of them reveal the truth after up to a year.

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All these domestic violence bring catastrophic impacts to children. Physically, not only body aches and wound, their body might also be unable to recapture and fully develop in the future as they are at a growing stage i.e. physical abuse victims’ flexibility are often impaired. Not having sufficient food of child neglect is detrimental to children’s body growth, victims would have deficient body growth. However, the incurred psychological problems are often more acute due to lack of care from parents as there are reports signifying that domestic violence victims have a 2% ratio of intending to commit suicide which is 96 times higher than normal children. Besides, 11% of them have mental problems which most commonly is depression. For victims of physical abuse and sexual abuse, a large proportion of them feel insecure even in a safe room and are rejective to socialize. Most of them are scarred for life and the damage is irreversible.

Domestic violence in Hong Kong is classified into elderly abuse, child abuse and battered spouse majorly. To examine them with sociological imagination is to first determine a problem to be or not to be a social issue and find the reason that spark the problem and thus probing into how changes in contexts (history, societal) gives rise to it. In that case, we would have a thorough understanding of the problem and able to uproot it.

According to a report, there were 657 cases of elderly abuse in 2015 while 9 cases of elderly abuse in elderly’s home were exposed from 2016-2019.Whenever there is an elderly abuse, people associate with youngsters and some may ascribe the problem back to the elderly themselves, saying that they ask for it as they are too troublesome. Showing people like to impute problems to ‘private’ which youngsters hatred the elderly and the elderly have to share the responsibilities to a small extent.

The sociological imagination must explore where these phenomena come from. Indeed, 63% of elderly abuser are youngsters and even their offspring. Most elderly have an unfriendly relationship with their offspring and the next generation. They often consist of different values which easily stir up conflicts. For instance, elderly had an impoverished childhood as they have experienced wars, so they cherish every piece of food which nowadays people do not. Elderly is often more politically conserved, but youngsters demand for freedom. We have to delve into the history in order to learn theses. For youngsters, they are hostile to elderlies because elderly saturated the HK’s economy which leading to a low social-mobility, but at the same time always criticize them to be unable to endure pressure. It is the change of societal context that make them differ in values and put ourselves in their shoes, ‘locating at the right time’. In addition, the supervision of elderly abuse in elderly home is only responsible by 80 people which the resources allocated for them are insufficient. At this point, we have to think outside of the frame. We should not only contribute it with lack of funds, but try to relate it with the ‘social structure’. Our society, deplorably does not stress on elderly as they are the burden of the economics. Sociological imagination also imparts us to study the social structure as it derives many problems of a time.

Child physical abuse has stayed at high levels consistently. The public tends to refer the problem to ‘private’ which mainly because parents cannot wipe off their pressure from work and vent them to their child violently. For ‘pressure from work’, when only a small portion of people in the society has it, it can still be a private problem, but when a multitude of people have it (one-fourth of employees), it is a social issue. We have to further examine it by using sociological imagination, asking why do HK people work from dusk till dawn continuously that eventually drives them crazy?

Gradually, we can find it is always related to the societal and historical contexts - HK’s economy reaches the pinnacle as they focus on international trading. Companies spurred on workers to maximize profits since then people have accustomed to this working mode. According to our social structure, our social-mobility is low while the labor market almost overflow. So, people have to work immensely hard to maintain their competitiveness, ultimately leading to child abuse. As mentioned, ‘strict parenting’ is also a cause of child abuse. To understand why such parenting is adapted, we also need to venture into the Chinese culture. In the traditional Chinese family, only the emperor is above the importance of parents. As sons, you have to conform to your parents otherwise corporal punishment will be inflicted which part of the tradition has been preserved till now. Some parents would still consider beating is a legitimate way of teaching.

For child neglect, it is again the problem of changing in societal context. In the past, people less care much about child safety. Children have to take care of their own starting from primary school. So, some parents nowadays do not care much on their child’s safety so as their parents didn’t.

Lastly, for sexual abuse, many teens suffered from it, but we seldom look up of its cause. Looking at the societal context of our own time, the sexual education in HK is lack of depth and vague while Chinese are more conservative about sex. This induces the curiosity about sex for some people and turns to tragedies.

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Domestic Violence in Hong Kong in the Context of the Sociological Imagination. (2022, September 01). Edubirdie. Retrieved November 30, 2023, from
“Domestic Violence in Hong Kong in the Context of the Sociological Imagination.” Edubirdie, 01 Sept. 2022,
Domestic Violence in Hong Kong in the Context of the Sociological Imagination. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 30 Nov. 2023].
Domestic Violence in Hong Kong in the Context of the Sociological Imagination [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Sept 01 [cited 2023 Nov 30]. Available from:
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