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Childhood experiences of interparental violence as a risk factor for intimate partner violence: a population-based study from northern Vietnam


Background: This study investigated the act of witnessing interparental violence as a girl and its association with experience of intimate partner violence later in life. A higher level of acceptance of violence was tested as an explanatory factor, in the light of learnt behaviour and gender socialisation theories.

Methods: This cross-sectional study used structured interviews for data collection. In all, 730 married women, aged 17–60, in rural Vietnam participated, with a response rate of 83%. Bi- and multivariate analyses are presented.

Results: 16% reported witnessing interparental violence as a child. Of these, 40% had experienced physical/sexual violence in their intimate relationship over time and 16% in the past year. The risk of lifetime (OR 2.85, 95% CI 1.88 to 4.34) and past-year physical and sexual violence (OR 2.33, 95% CI 1.31 to 4.1) was significantly higher for those who had witnessed interparental violence during childhood than those with no such experience. Women with experience of interparental violence during childhood reported acceptance of violence within an intimate relationship to a higher extent than those with no such experience.

Conclusion: These findings should be understood within the frame of existing theories on social learning, learnt behaviour and the gender socialisation process. The findings further highlight the importance of the intergenerational effect and the need for preventative strategies focused on improving women’s autonomy, for gender equity and for effective legislation that stops all kinds of violence against women.

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