Influence of Community Social Norms on Spousal Violence: A Population-Based Multilevel Study of Nigerian Women

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We examined whether social norms toward spousal violence in Nigeria, at the state level, are associated with a woman’s exposure to physical and sexual violence perpetrated by her husband.


Using data from the 2008 Demographic and Health Survey, we fit four 3-level random intercepts models to examine contextual factors associated with spousal violence while accounting for individual-level predictors.


Of the 18 798 ever-married Nigerian women in our sample, 18.7% reported exposure to spousal sexual or physical violence. The prevalence was geographically patterned by state and ranged from 3% to 50%. Permissive state-level social norms toward spousal violence were positively associated with a woman’s report of physical and sexual violence perpetrated by her husband (odds ratio [OR] = 1.80; 95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.17, 2.77), after adjusting for individual-level characteristics. A number of individual-level variables were significantly associated with victimization, including a woman’s accepting beliefs toward spousal violence (OR = 1.11; 95% CI = 1.09, 1.14). Women living in states with Sharia law were less likely to report spousal violence (OR = 0.58; 95% CI = 0.35, 0.95).


Efforts to end violence against women, particularly spousal violence, should consider broader social and contextual determinants of violence including social norms.

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