Women who spent a large portion of their childhoods living in poor neighborhoods are at greater risk of experiencing intimate partner violence in early adulthood, according to a new U.K. study published in the journal Epidemiology.
Intimate partner violence (IPV) — physical, psychological, or sexual violence committed by a current or former partner — is the most common form of violence experienced by women worldwide.
“Intimate partner violence is a major public health problem, in the U.K. and beyond,” said lead author Dr. Alexa Yakubovich, from the University of Oxford and Unity Health Toronto.
“To develop more effective prevention strategies, we need a better understanding of what causes this violence in the first instance. Our study supports the idea that factors beyond individuals are important for determining women’s risk of experiencing intimate partner violence.”
A research team from the University of Oxford and the University of Bristol evaluated data from the latter’s “Children of the 90s” study, which followed participants from birth and included their experiences of IPV between ages 18 to 21. The researchers evaluated the level of deprivation in women’s neighborhoods throughout the first 18 years of their lives.
“The Children of the 90s study was one of the first to measure exposure to intimate partner violence alongside a wide range of individual, family, social and economic factors, over time,” said co-author Professor Gene Feder from Bristol’s Centre for Academic Primary Care.
The results show that women who had lived in the most deprived neighborhoods for longer durations over their childhoods were 36% more likely to experience any intimate partner violence between ages 18 to 21.
They also experienced this violence more frequently than those who had spent less or no time living in more deprived neighborhoods.
“This research adds to the evidence that economic inequality and deprivation, even at a neighborhood level increases a woman’s risk of experiencing abuse. Reducing intimate partner violence requires reduction of economic as well as gender inequality, in addition to supporting survivors and their families,” said Feder.
In general, neighborhoods with fewer social and economic resources have higher rates of public forms of violence, like burglary and vandalism. However, whether these relationships translate to violence within the home, and between intimate partners, has been less clear.
Prior to this study, most research examining the link between neighborhood deprivation and intimate partner violence over time had been from the United States.
“This is the first UK study, to our knowledge, to demonstrate that long-term exposure to deprived neighbourhoods appears to be an important factor contributing to increased risks of violent victimisation in young women by their partners,” said senior author Dr. David Humphreys from the University of Oxford.
“Further research is required to understand how communities can be assisted in supporting young women at risk of violence in the home.”
Source: University of Oxford