Pathways between childhood trauma, intimate partner violence, and harsh parenting: findings from the UN Multi-country Study on Men and Violence in Asia and the Pacific

[Photo: Thoughts on Life and Love]

Written by Emma Fulu, The Equality Institute

This is a summary of the article by Fulu et al.[i]

Child maltreatment and intimate partner violence (IPV) are global public health issues. While violence against children (VAC) and violence against women (VAW) have generally been addressed separately, more recently researchers and practitioners have focused on the intersections of violence. Efforts to prevent both forms of violence would benefit from a meaningful integrated approach.

This article presents data from the UN Multi-country Study on Men and Violence in Asia and the Pacific, which surveyed 10,178 men and 3,106 women across six countries in the region between 2010 and 2013. The aim of this article was to move beyond looking at linear associations between VAC and VAW, and to capture the complex and intersecting pathways that connect these forms of violence.

The study found the proportion of men who experienced any childhood trauma varied between 59% in Indonesia (rural site) and 92% in Papua New Guinea (Bougainville). All forms of childhood trauma were associated with all forms of IPV perpetration. For women, the results ranged from 44% in Sri Lanka (national) to 84% in Papua New Guinea (Bougainville). All forms of childhood trauma were associated with physical and sexual IPV. Around three-quarters of all women reported that either they or their partner smacked their children at least sometimes, while men reported slightly lower proportions.

Structural equation modelling found significant, often gendered, pathways between men’s and women’s perpetration and experiences of childhood trauma, physical IPV, harsh parenting practices, and other factors. Men’s harsh parenting practices were most strongly associated with their female partner’s use of harsh parenting against their children, which itself is associated with his perpetration of physical IPV. Women’s harsh parenting practices were most strongly driven by their male partner beating their own children, which mediated the association between her partner’s use of IPV and her own harsh parenting.

These models show that child maltreatment reflects a culture within the home that normalises physical discipline of both women and children. Social acceptance of both VAW and VAC is initially established within the family, as parents’ use of physical discipline is partly driven by their own experiences of childhood trauma. This social learning is compounded by other factors, including experiences of physical IPV. These findings indicate a need for interventions to address the intersections of VAC and VAW. Prevention efforts should promote positive parenting, address the normalisation of violence across the life course, and transform men’s power over women and children.

 

[i] E. Fulu, S. Miedema, T. Roselli, S. McCook, K. L. Chan, R. Haardörfer and R. Jewkes; UN Multi-country Study on Men and Violence study team. Lancet Glob Health. 5(5), e512-e522, 2017.

 

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About the Author

 

 

 

 

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Emma Fulu has a PhD from the University of Melbourne and is a freelance researcher and writer. She is the founder the Equality Institute in Australia which works to  advance all forms of equality through scientific research, innovation and creative communications. For nearly 15 years she has worked on the prevention of violence against women and girls with the United Nations, the South African Medical Research Council, and a number of other organizations globally. As the mother of three young children, she also writes about her messy adventures of trying to be a mindful mother, an active feminist, and pursue creative side projects in her blog - I Am Not Superwoman. Queries on this blog should be emailed to Emma at emma@equalityinstitute.org

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