Intimate partner violence against women (IPVAW) and early marriage of female children are significant public health challenges in Nigeria. Previous research has shown a strong association between the two. Furthermore, both issues have severe implications for socioeconomic progress and present barriers to the realization of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Few studies have examined child marriage as a form of IPVAW. Community and wider societal norms regarding IPVAW are known to influence women’s lifetime experience of IPVAW in Nigeria. The channels whereby this influence occurs are yet to be completely identified and examined in their entirety. The purpose of this study was twofold: first, to undertake a comprehensive exploration of the processes involved in risk transmission of IPVAW to individual women in Nigerian society, through the testing of a public health model of health behavior; and second, to shed light on the discrepancy between self-reported rates of IPVAW and age at first marriage, and their associations with reproductive health intentions and behavior among Nigerian women. Using data from the 2013 Nigeria Demographic and Health Survey (DHS), this study comprehensively examined the ways in which community and societal contexts of IPVAW are transmitted to women embedded in such contexts. This study also investigated child marriage as a form of IPVAW, specifically with regard to the predictive power of age at first marriage with regard to women’s reproductive intentions/behavior. Results
indicate that gender-based imbalances in power distribution play a pivotal role in risk transmission of IPVAW to women in committed relationships. In particular, excessive partner control appears to be the strongest determinant of women’s lifetime experience of IPVAW. This study also provides evidence that both childhood witnessing of IPVAW and religion are pivotal elements in the prediction of women’s lifetime IPVAW risk. Women’s age at first marriage is positively, though weakly, correlated with their lifetime experience of IPVAW. Furthermore, while self-reported experience of IPVAW is correlated with women’s reproductive intentions and behavior, age at first marriage is much more strongly correlated with women’s reproductive intentions and behavior. These findings suggest that women’s age at first marriage might be a more sensitive and objective proxy indicator of their experience of IPVAW than their self-reported experience of IPVAW. Efforts to prevent IPVAW in Nigeria should address sources of power imbalances in relationships among vulnerable groups. Additionally, interventionists should harness the influence and reach of faith-based organizations in detection and primary prevention of IPVAW. IPVAW prevention interventions that target children early in the life cycle could also help in the primary prevention of IPVAW by changing societal norms over a generation. Further research on male partner engagement/involvement, as a means to preventing IPVAW in Nigeria, is also warranted. Furthermore, the potential impact of child marriage on women’s perceptions and reporting of IPVAW should be taken into account in future surveys.
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