Attitudes towards domestic violence in 49 low- and middle-income countries: A gendered analysis of prevalence and country-level correlates

Lynnmarie Sardinha, Hector Najera

Research output: Contribution to journalLetter (Academic Journal)

10 Citations (Scopus)


Violence against women by an intimate partner (DV) is a serious public health and human rights issue. Attitudes justifying DV strongly predict its perpetration and victimisation. This paper presents gendered ecological analyses of the societal acceptance of DV in 49 low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) across geographical regions.

Methods and findings
We utilised data from 49 Demographic and Health Surveys conducted between 2005 and 2017, United Nations Statistics and topic-specific meta-databases. DV acceptance was measured as the justification of ‘wife-beating’ in at least one of five circumstances, and by the summative scale. Stepwise multiple linear regression examined country-level social, economic and political empowerment predictors of societal acceptance of DV amongst women, men, and the aggregate gender difference. Women were more likely than men to justify DV in Sub-Saharan Africa and South (east) Asia with societal acceptance of DV being more widespread in these regions compared with Latin America, the Caribbean, Central/West Asia and Europe. Political conflict and limited economic rights for women were associated with higher levels of DV acceptance amongst women and men. Men in more democratic countries were less likely to justify DV. Amongst women, higher national female literacy rates predicted lower levels of justification. There were higher levels of DV acceptance amongst women and a wider aggregate gender difference in countries with a larger representation of women in national parliament.

Justification of DV is widespread amongst women and men in LMICs with acceptance rates varying across countries and regions. Gender differences in the impact of contextual factors on DV acceptance supports a gendered approach to national-level interventions. Our findings highlight the need for tailored interventions targeting DV acceptance in conflict-impacted societies. The emphasis of inter(national) policies on the ‘empowerment’ domains of widely-used gender (in)equality indices need to be coupled with strategies tackling discriminatory gender norms.
Original languageEnglish
JournalPLoS ONE
Publication statusPublished - 31 Oct 2018

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  • Projects

  • Activities

    • 1 Fellowship awarded competitively

    ESRC Future Leaders Fellowship project: Attitudes to domestic violence on low- and middle-income countries

    Lynnmarie Sardinha (Recipient)

    1 Oct 201430 Jun 2018

    Activity: Other activity typesFellowship awarded competitively

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