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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

What factors are associated with recent intimate partner violence? findings from the WHO multi-country study on women's health and domestic violence

Tanya Abramsky1*, Charlotte H Watts1, Claudia Garcia-Moreno2, Karen Devries1, Ligia Kiss1, Mary Ellsberg3, Henrica AFM Jansen4 and Lori Heise1

Author Affiliations

1 London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, 15-17 Tavistock Place, London WC1H 9SH, UK

2 WHO, Avenue Appia 20, 1211 Geneva 27, Switzerland

3 International Centre for Research on Women, 1120 20thSt NW, Suite 500 North, Washington D.C. 20036, USA

4 Geneva, Switzerland

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BMC Public Health 2011, 11:109  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-11-109

Published: 16 February 2011

Abstract

Background

Intimate partner violence (IPV) against women is a global public health and human rights concern. Despite a growing body of research into risk factors for IPV, methodological differences limit the extent to which comparisons can be made between studies. We used data from ten countries included in the WHO Multi-country Study on Women's Health and Domestic Violence to identify factors that are consistently associated with abuse across sites, in order to inform the design of IPV prevention programs.

Methods

Standardised population-based household surveys were done between 2000 and 2003. One woman aged 15-49 years was randomly selected from each sampled household. Those who had ever had a male partner were asked about their experiences of physically and sexually violent acts. We performed multivariate logistic regression to identify predictors of physical and/or sexual partner violence within the past 12 months.

Results

Despite wide variations in the prevalence of IPV, many factors affected IPV risk similarly across sites. Secondary education, high SES, and formal marriage offered protection, while alcohol abuse, cohabitation, young age, attitudes supportive of wife beating, having outside sexual partners, experiencing childhood abuse, growing up with domestic violence, and experiencing or perpetrating other forms of violence in adulthood, increased the risk of IPV. The strength of the association was greatest when both the woman and her partner had the risk factor.

Conclusions

IPV prevention programs should increase focus on transforming gender norms and attitudes, addressing childhood abuse, and reducing harmful drinking. Development initiatives to improve access to education for girls and boys may also have an important role in violence prevention.