This study aimed to assess the prevalence of intimate partner violence in the last 12 months and associated factors among women in Liberia. The overall prevalence of intimate partner violence among women in the last 12 months was 44.74 (42.73, 46.77). This finding is higher than the studies done in Namibia, Sub-Saharan Africa, India and Ethiopia (10,23–25). The possible reason for the discrepancy might be difference in sample size, study population and socio-cultural differences among countries. The study conducted in Namibia included pregnant women attending ANC and used a small sample size(n=386) as compared with our study which included all ever-married women(married, divorced, widowed or separated) and large sample size which is a nationally representative sample. The study conducted in sub-Saharan Africa included 16 countries in which there may be socio-cultural differences within and among countries affecting the prevalence of IPV.
The prevalence of physical, emotional, and sexual violence in the last 12 months were 34.15 (32.25, 36.10), 34.49 (32.59, 36.45 and 6.56 (92.35, 94.37) respectively. The finding is lower than the study conducted in Saudi-Arabia(26). However, this finding is higher than the study conducted in India (24). The possible reason for the discrepancy might be sample size difference (n=403 in Saudi-Arabia), the instrument used, and the type of study design. The current study used a large community based cross-sectional study unlike the study done in Saudi-Arabia used institution-based cross-sectional design which may affect women’s disclosure of abuse and they have used small sample size as compared with our study (n=403). Emotional violence was the most common form of violence among ever-married women in Liberia followed by physical violence. This finding is in line with the studies conducted in Lagos , Saudi-Arabia and Ethiopia (19,26,27).
Age of the women was significantly associated with intimate partner violence. Older women were less likely to experience intimate partner violence as compared with younger women. This finding is inconsistent with the studies conducted in Ethiopia, Namibia, and Bangladeshi (19,23,28). The possible reason for the discrepancy might be the difference in study population used, in which those studies conducted the study on pregnant women which might increase IPV. Pregnancy might increase the likelihood of experiencing IPV (29,30). The other possible reason might be older women are mature and can discuss openly with their spouses.
Region of the women were significantly associated with intimate partner violence. Women residing in south central were less likely to experience IPV as compared with those live in north western region of Liberia. This might be due to the fact that IPV has spatial variation with in the country and across countries (31). Regions within the country might have different socio-demographic makeup that might affect the prevalence of IPV.
Sex of household head was significantly associated with IPV. Households headed by female are less likely to experience IPV as compared with those headed by male. The possible reason might be that when a woman heads a household she will have the power to make a decision on all important issues and she will be empowered which in turn reduces her likelihood of experiencing IPV. If a woman is the head of the household she will have autonomous control and ownership of all assets in the household including media platforms in which exposure to media can help the women to develop a negative attitude towards wife-beating and will any justifications for rejecting wife-beating (32).
Women's education was significantly associated with IPV. Women with education were more likely to face IPV as compared with those with no education. This finding is inconsistent with the studies conducted in Ethiopia and Sub-Saharan Africa (13,31). The possible reason might be, even though education is important to change an attitude and behavior we cannot conclude that knowing is enough to get the actual intended behavior. There are factors that influence a person’s behavior in addition to education like socio-cultural factors especially gender-based violence is highly influenced and significantly varied across cultures and societal norms (33).
Husbands’ education was significantly associated with IPV. Women whose husbands have higher educational levels were less likely to experience IPV as compared to those with no education. This is consistent with the studies done in Ghana, and Rwanda (14,15). Education is a powerful instrument to shape attitudes and change behavior. Educated individuals can get information from different sources about domestic violence and other health-related information in general (19). The other possible reason might be that educated men may give freedom to their wife as compared with uneducated ones and education may also help to change men attitude towards gender roles and norms as well as the traditional perception towards gender equality(27).
Attitude towards wife-beating was significantly associated with IPV. Having a positive attitude towards wife-beating increases women's experience of IPV .This finding is consistent with the study done in Zimbabwe and Ethiopia(20,34) The possible reason might be women having positive attitude towards wife beating may simply accept beating as just part of the normal life of couples and may become victims of IPV.
Husband’s alcohol drinking habit was significantly associated with IPV. A woman whose husband drinks alcohol was more likely to experience IPV than their counterparts. This is consistent with the studies done in Ethiopia, Ghana, Rwanda, Nigeria, and Uganda (14,15,22,35,36). The possible reason might be that alcohol can affect both physical and psychological functioning and it may also mess up the marital relationship in general by inviting them to engage in conflict rather than resolving it. Alcohol might also reduce judgmental capability and rational interpretation as well as an understanding of stimulus around the person. Another possible explanation might be related with financial issue within the family, drinking habit of the man may result in financial catastrophe of the family which may in turn causes nagging and argument between couples. In addition to their drinking habit alcohol drinkers may face alcohol related problems like cohabitation of unmarried partners which may perpetuate the occurrence of conflict between the couples and IPV at large.
Women decision making autonomy was significantly associated with IPV. Women who were empowered to make decision in all matters were less likely to experience IPV as compared with women who have no decision making autonomy. This finding is in line with the studies done in Zimbabwe, Sub-Saharan Africa, and India (13,24,34). The possible reason might be women who have a decision making power are empowered to decide on important issues and may protect their right. Empowered women might more likely use media which may increase her awareness on social and gender issues and may change her attitude (13). Empowered women have a greater self-esteem control over their own lives and their surrounding environment ,as a result she will have a low probability of being exposed to IPV(37) .
The study used nationally weighted representative data that better reflects the proportion of married women experiencing intimate partner violence method and its associated factors at the national level and regional level. The other strength of the current study is the use of a large sample size that can help to increase the statistical power and validity of the study. Utilization of large sample size and nationally representativeness of DHS data helps to generalize to the population of Liberia.
Due to the cross-sectional nature of the study it’s impossible to establish a temporal relationship between intimate partner violence and its predictors. Moreover, since this study was solely dependent on the secondary data set, some important variables that would affect intimate partner violence may not be found.