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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Cross-sectional prevalence survey of intimate partner violence perpetration and victimization in Canadian military personnel

Mark A Zamorski12* and Miriam E Wiens-Kinkaid3

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Family Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Canada

2 Directorate of Mental Health, Canadian Forces Health Services Group Headquarters, 1745 Alta Vista Dr, Ottawa, ON, Canada

3 Directorate of Force Health Protection, Canadian Forces Health Services Group Headquarters, 1745 Alta Vista Dr, Ottawa, ON, Canada

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BMC Public Health 2013, 13:1019  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-13-1019

Published: 28 October 2013

Abstract

Background

Intimate partner violence (IPV) is prevalent and is associated with a broad range of adverse consequences. In military organizations, IPV may have special implications, such as the potential of service-related mental disorders to trigger IPV. However, the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) have limited data to guide their prevention and control efforts.

Methods

Self-reported IPV perpetration, victimization, and their correlates were assessed on a cross-sectional survey of a stratified random sample of currently-serving Canadian Regular Forces personnel (N = 2157). The four primary outcomes were perpetration or victimization of any physical and/or sexual or emotional and/or financial IPV over the lifespan of the current relationship.

Results

Among the 81% of the population in a current relationship, perpetration of any physical and/or sexual IPV was reported in 9%; victimization was reported in 15%. Any emotional and/or financial abuse was reported by 19% (perpetration) and 22% (victimization). Less physically injurious forms of abuse predominated. Logistic regression modelling showed that relationship dissatisfaction was independently associated with all four outcomes (OR range = 2.3 to 3.7). Probable depression was associated with all outcomes except physical and/or sexual IPV victimization (OR range = 2.5 – 2.7). PTSD symptoms were only associated with physical and/or sexual IPV perpetration (OR = 3.2, CI = 1.4 to 7.9). High-risk drinking was associated with emotional and/or financial abuse. Risk of IPV was lowest in those who had recent deployment experience; remote deployment experience (vs. never having deployed) was an independent risk factor for all IPV outcomes (OR range = 2.0 – 3.4).

Conclusions

IPV affects an important minority of military families; less severe cases predominate. Mental disorders, high-risk drinking, relationship dissatisfaction, and remote deployment were independently associated with abuse outcomes. The primary limitations of this analysis are its use of self-report data from military personnel (not their intimate partners) and the cross-sectional nature of the survey. Prevention efforts in the CAF need to target the full spectrum of IPV. Mental disorders, high-risk drinking, and relationship dissatisfaction are potential targets for risk reduction. Additional research is needed to understand the association of remote deployment with IPV.

Keywords:
Spouse abuse/statistics and numerical data; Military personnel; Marital relationship; Marital conflict; Mental disorders; Stress disorder; Post-traumatic; Depression; Alcohol consumption; Cross-sectional study; Occupational health