Background If effective interventions are to be used to address child mortality and malnutrition, then it is important that we understand the different pathways operating within the framework of child health. More attention needs to be given to understanding the contribution of social influences such as intimate partner violence (IPV).
Aim To investigate the relationship between maternal exposure to IPV and child mortality and malnutrition using data from five developing countries.
Methods Population data from Egypt, Honduras, Kenya, Malawi and Rwanda were analysed. Logistic regression analysis was used to generate odds ratios of the associations between several categories of maternal exposure to IPV since the age of 15 and three child outcomes: under-2-year-old (U2) mortality and moderate and severe stunting (<–2 Z-score height-for-age and <–3 Z-score height-for-age) in 6–59-month-old children. Analyses were adjusted for potential confounders, and the role of mediating factors was explored.
Results The prevalence of physical and/or sexual IPV since the age of 15 years ranged from 15.5% (Honduras) to 46.2% (Kenya). For child stunting, prevalence ranged from 25.4% (Egypt) to 58.0% (Malawi) and for U2 mortality from 3.6% (Honduras) to 15.2% (Rwanda). In Kenya, maternal exposure to IPV was associated with higher U2 mortality (adjusted odds ratio (OR)=1.42, 95% CI 1.18 to 1.71) and child stunting (adjusted OR=1.36, 95% CI 1.16 to 1.61). In Malawi and Honduras, marginal associations were observed between IPV and severe stunting and U2 mortality, respectively, with strength of associations varying by type of violence.
Conclusion The relationship between IPV and U2 mortality and stunting in Kenya, Honduras and Malawi suggests that, in these countries, IPV plays a role in child malnutrition and mortality. This contributes to a growing body of evidence that broader public health benefits may be incurred if efforts to address IPV are incorporated into a wider range of maternal and child health programmes; however, the authors highlight the need for more research that can establish temporality, use data collected on the basis of the study's objectives, and further explore the causal framework of this relationship using more advanced statistical analysis.
- Millenium Development Goals
- developing countries
- child nutrition
- child mortality
- child health
- child survival
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Competing interests None.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.