Community influences on intimate partner violence in India: Women's education, attitudes towards mistreatment and standards of living

Soc Sci Med. 2009 Sep;69(5):691-7. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2009.06.039. Epub 2009 Jul 18.


Intimate partner violence (IPV) directed towards women is a serious public health problem. Women's education may offer protection against IPV, but uncertainty exists over how it might reduce risk for IPV at the community and individual levels. The objectives of this study are to: (1) disentangle community from individual-level influences of women's education on risk for IPV; (2) quantify the moderating influence of communities on individual-level associations between women's education and IPV; (3) determine if women's attitudes towards mistreatment and living standards at the community and individual levels account for the protective influence of women's education; and (4) determine if the protective influence of education against IPV is muted among women living in communities exhibiting attitudes more accepting of mistreatment. Study information came from 68,466 married female participants in the National Family Health Survey conducted throughout India in 1998-1999. Multilevel logistic regression was used to address the study objectives. IPV showed substantial clustering at both the state (10.2%) and community levels (11.5%). At the individual level, there was a strong non-linear association between women's education and IPV, partially accounted for by household living standards. The strength of association between women's education and IPV varied from one community to the next with evidence that the acceptance of mistreatment at the community level mutes the protective influence of higher education. Furthermore, women's attitudes towards mistreatment and their standards of living accounted for community-level associations between women's education and IPV. Place of residence accounted for substantial variation in risk of IPV and also modified individual-level associations between IPV and women's education. At the community level, women's education appeared to exert much of its protective influence by altering population attitudes towards the acceptability of mistreatment. However, there was no residual association between women's education and IPV at the community level once living standards are taken into account. While women's education provides strong, independent leverage for reducing the risk of IPV, planners must keep in mind important community factors that modify its protective influence.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Attitude*
  • Cluster Analysis
  • Educational Status
  • Female
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • India
  • Logistic Models
  • Middle Aged
  • Residence Characteristics*
  • Risk Factors
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Spouse Abuse / psychology*
  • Spouse Abuse / statistics & numerical data*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult