Community-level and individual-level influences of intimate partner violence on birth spacing in sub-Saharan Africa

Obstet Gynecol. 2012 May;119(5):975-82. doi: 10.1097/AOG.0b013e31824fc9a0.


Objective: To estimate the extent to which intimate partner violence (IPV), at the levels of the individual and the community, is associated with shortened interbirth intervals among women in sub-Saharan Africa.

Methods: We analyzed demographic and health survey data from 11 countries in sub-Saharan Africa. Only multiparous women were included in the analysis. Interbirth interval was the primary outcome. Personal history of IPV was measured using a modified Conflict Tactics Scale. Community prevalence of IPV was measured as the proportion of women in each village reporting a personal history of IPV. We used multilevel modeling to account for the hierarchical structure of the data, allowing us to partition the variation in birth intervals to the four different levels (births, individuals, villages, and countries).

Results: Among the 46,697 women in the sample, 11,730 (25.1%) reported a personal history of physical violence and 4,935 (10.6%) reported a personal history of sexual violence. In the multivariable regression model, interbirth intervals were inversely associated with personal history of physical violence (regression coefficient b=-0.60, 95% confidence interval -0.91 to -0.28) and the community prevalence of physical violence (b=-1.41, 95% confidence interval -2.41 to -0.40). Estimated associations with sexual violence were of similar statistical significance and magnitude.

Conclusion: Both personal history of IPV and the community prevalence of IPV have independent and statistically significant associations with shorter interbirth intervals.

Level of evidence: II.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Africa South of the Sahara
  • Birth Intervals* / statistics & numerical data
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Linear Models
  • Logistic Models
  • Middle Aged
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Sex Offenses / statistics & numerical data
  • Spouse Abuse* / statistics & numerical data
  • Young Adult