Indexed on: 22 Aug '15Published on: 22 Aug '15Published in: PloS one
In Sri Lanka, over one in three women experience intimate partner violence (IPV) victimization in their lifetime, making it a serious public health concern. Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) such as child abuse and neglect, witnessing domestic violence, parental separation, and bullying are also widespread. Studies in Western settings have shown positive associations between ACEs and IPV perpetration in adulthood, but few have examined this relationship in a non-Western context. In the present study, we examined the association of ACEs with IPV perpetration among Sri Lankan men surveyed for the UN Multi-Country Study on Men and Violence in Asia and the Pacific. We found statistically significant positive associations between the number of ACE categories (ACE score) and emotional, financial, physical, and sexual IPV perpetration among Sri Lankan men. We analyzed the contributions of each ACE category and found that childhood abuse was strongly associated with perpetration of IPV in adulthood, with sexual abuse associated with the greatest increase in odds of perpetration (Adjusted odds ratio 2.36; 95% confidence interval: 1.69, 3.30). Witnessing abuse of one's mother was associated with the greatest increase in the odds of perpetrating physical IPV (AOR 1.82; 95% CI: 1.29, 2.58), while lack of a male parental figure was not associated with physical IPV perpetration (AOR 0.76; 95% CI: 0.53, 1.09). These findings support a social learning theory of IPV perpetration, in which children who are exposed to violence learn to perpetrate IPV in adulthood. They also suggest that in Sri Lanka, being raised in a female-headed household does not increase the risk of IPV perpetration in adulthood compared to being raised in a household with a male parental figure. The relationship between being raised in a female-headed household (the number of which increased dramatically during Sri Lanka's recent civil war) and perpetration of IPV warrants further study. Interventions that aim to decrease childhood abuse in Sri Lanka could both protect children now and reduce IPV in the future, decreasing violence on multiple fronts.