Global attitudes about domestic violence changed dramatically during the first decade of the 2000s, according to a new study.
Nigeria had the largest change in attitude, with 65 percent of men and 52 percent of women rejecting domestic violence in 2008, compared with 48 percent and 33 percent in 2003, according to the study.
For the study, University of Michigan researcher Rachael Pierotti analyzed data on hundreds of thousands of people collected in demographic and health surveys funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). About half of the 26 countries surveyed are in sub-Saharan Africa.
Data on male attitudes was available for 15 of the countries. The study found that men were more likely than women to reject domestic violence in Benin, Ethiopia, Ghana, Indonesia, Madagascar, Malawi, Nigeria, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia.
In two countries — Madagascar and Indonesia — attitudes among both men and women changed in the wrong direction, according to the researcher. She found that the percentage of men and women rejecting domestic violence decreased in those countries.
The survey questions about attitudes toward domestic violence differed slightly from one country to another, according to Pierotti. A common question was:
Sometimes a husband is annoyed or angered by things his wife does. In your opinion, is a husband justified in hitting or beating his wife in the following situations?
- If she goes out without telling him;
- If she neglects the children;
- If she argues with him;
- If she refuses to have sex with him;
- If she burns the food.
Pierotti found that people were most likely to say that violence was justified if a wife neglected the children, and least likely if a wife burned the food.
She also found that attitudes about domestic violence changed among all age groups.
“Often it’s the case that social change starts with younger people,” she said. “But in this case, people of all ages became more rejecting of domestic violence.”
She found that people who lived in urban areas, and who had more education, were more likely to reject wife-beating than those who lived in rural areas and who had less education. She also found that people with access to newspapers, radio, and television were more likely to reject wife-beating.
“The global spread of ideas about women’s rights and the increasing international attention to the problem of violence against women may be contributing to the striking change in attitudes about this issue,” she said. “But more research will be needed in order to confirm if this is really the reason.”
The study appears in the American Sociological Review.