Food insecurity and men's perpetration of partner violence in a longitudinal cohort in South Africa

BMJ Nutr Prev Health. 2022 Feb 7;5(1):36-43. doi: 10.1136/bmjnph-2021-000288. eCollection 2022.


Background: Although food insecurity has been associated with intimate partner violence (IPV), few studies examine it longitudinally or among male perpetrators.

Methods: We used secondary data from a trial that followed 2479 men in a peri-urban settlement in South Africa (February 2016-August 2018). Men self-completed questionnaires at baseline (T0), 12 months (T1) and 24 months (T2) on food security, household type, relationship status, childhood abuse exposure, alcohol use, and perpetration of physical and/or sexual IPV. Cross-lagged dynamic panel modelling examines the strength and direction of associations over time.

Results: At baseline, rates of IPV perpetration (52.0%) and food insecurity (65.5%) were high. Food insecure men had significantly higher odds of IPV perpetration at T0, T1 and T2 (ORs of 1.9, 1.4 and 1.4, respectively). In longitudinal models, food insecurity predicted men's IPV perpetration 1 year later. The model had excellent fit after controlling for housing, relationship status, age, childhood abuse and potential effect of IPV on later food insecurity (standardised coefficient=0.09, p=0.031. root mean squared error of approximation=0.016, comparative fit index=0.994). IPV perpetration did not predict later food security (p=0.276).

Conclusion: Food insecurity had an independent, longitudinal association with men's IPV perpetration in a peri-urban South African settlement. These findings suggest food security could be a modifiable risk factor of partner violence.

Trial registration number: NCT02823288.

Keywords: malnutrition; mental health; preventive counselling.

Associated data