Influence of community social norms on spousal violence: a population-based multilevel study of Nigerian women

Am J Public Health. 2013 Jan;103(1):148-55. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2012.300829. Epub 2012 Nov 15.


Objectives: We examined whether social norms toward spousal violence in Nigeria, at the state level, are associated with a woman's exposure to physical and sexual violence perpetrated by her husband.

Methods: Using data from the 2008 Demographic and Health Survey, we fit four 3-level random intercepts models to examine contextual factors associated with spousal violence while accounting for individual-level predictors.

Results: Of the 18,798 ever-married Nigerian women in our sample, 18.7% reported exposure to spousal sexual or physical violence. The prevalence was geographically patterned by state and ranged from 3% to 50%. Permissive state-level social norms toward spousal violence were positively associated with a woman's report of physical and sexual violence perpetrated by her husband (odds ratio [OR] = 1.80; 95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.17, 2.77), after adjusting for individual-level characteristics. A number of individual-level variables were significantly associated with victimization, including a woman's accepting beliefs toward spousal violence (OR = 1.11; 95% CI = 1.09, 1.14). Women living in states with Sharia law were less likely to report spousal violence (OR = 0.58; 95% CI = 0.35, 0.95).

Conclusions: Efforts to end violence against women, particularly spousal violence, should consider broader social and contextual determinants of violence including social norms.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Culture*
  • Female
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nigeria / epidemiology
  • Prevalence
  • Residence Characteristics / statistics & numerical data*
  • Social Conformity*
  • Spouse Abuse / statistics & numerical data*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult