Volume 42 - Article 10 | Pages 293–342

Intimate partner violence and contraceptive use in developing countries: How does the relationship depend on context?

By Xinguang Fan, Maria Vignau Loria

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Date received:24 May 2018
Date published:21 Feb 2020
Word count:5924
Keywords:contraceptive use, developing countries, domestic violence, fertility preferences, intimate partner violence, legal regulation, women empowerment


Background: Reducing domestic violence and increasing contraceptive use are two ways to improve women’s health in developing countries. Social scientists debate whether women’s experiences of intimate partner violence influence contraceptive use. The empirical evidence evaluating the relationship yields inconsistent results. These contradictory findings might be due to specific regional conditions that moderate the relationship.

Methods: Using 30 panels of DHS data from 17 developing countries, this study examines the relationship between intimate partner violence and contraceptive use in a cross-national comparison and assesses whether this relationship is moderated by macro contextual factors, including the presence or absence of legal regulations against domestic violence and the national level of female empowerment.

Results: Experience of either physical or sexual violence is associated with an increase in contraceptive use, and is statistically significant in a cross-national setting. The magnitude of the positive relationship between physical and sexual violence and contraceptive use decreases in the presence of legal regulations against domestic violence. The positive association of sexual violence with contraceptive use decreases in contexts with higher levels of women’s empowerment. However, there is no change in the positive association between physical violence and contraceptive use in contexts with higher levels of women’s empowerment. These results are robust to additional sensitivity tests.

Contribution: This study demonstrates how macro contexts moderate the relationship between intimate partner violence and contraceptive use. The results inform and reconcile previous findings by demonstrating that the positive relationship between women’s experience of violence by an intimate partner and contraceptive use can be attenuated when structural conditions change – namely, adoption of legal protections and improved women’s empowerment.

Author's Affiliation

Xinguang Fan - Peking University, China [Email]
Maria Vignau Loria - University of Washington, United States of America [Email]

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