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Identifying the women most vulnerable to intimate partner violence: A decision tree analysis from 48 low and middle-income countries
Authors: Carolina V. N. Coll, Thiago M. Santos, Karen Devries, Felicia Knaul, Flavia Bustreo, Anne Gatuguta, Gbenankpon Mathias Houvessou, Aluísio J. D. Barros
Source: EClinicalMedicine, DOI:
Topic(s): Intimate Partner Violence (IPV)
Sexual violence
Country: More than one region
  Multiple Regions
Published: DEC 2021
Abstract: Background: Primary prevention strategies are needed to reduce high rates of intimate partner violence (IPV) in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). The effectiveness of population-based approaches may be improved by adding initiatives targeted at the most vulnerable groups and tailored to context-specificities. Methods: We applied a decision-tree approach to identify subgroups of women at higher risk of IPV in 48 LMICs and in all countries combined. Data from the most recent Demographic and Health Survey carried out between 2010 and 2019 with available information on IPV and sociodemographic indicators was used. To create the trees, we selected 15 recognized risk factors for IPV in the literature which had a potential for targeting interventions. Exposure to IPV was defined as having experienced physical and/or sexual IPV in the past 12 months. Findings: In the pooled decision tree, witnessing IPV during childhood, a low or medium empowerment level and alcohol use by the partner were the strongest markers of IPV vulnerability. IPV prevalence amongst the most vulnerable women was 43% compared to 21% in the overall sample. This high-risk group included women who witnessed IPV during childhood and had lower empowerment levels. These were 12% of the population and 1 in 4 women who experienced IPV in the selected LMICs. Across the individual national trees, subnational regions emerged as the most frequent markers of IPV occurrence. Interpretation: Starting with well-known predictors of IPV, the decision-tree approach provides important insights about subpopulations of women where IPV prevalence is high. This information can help designing targeted interventions. For a large proportion of women who experienced IPV, however, no particular risk factors were identified, emphasizing the need for population wide approaches conducted in parallel, including changing social norms, strengthening laws and policies supporting gender equality and women´s rights as well as guaranteeing women´s access to justice systems and comprehensive health services.