The Impact of Violence Against Women on Child Growth, Morbidity and Survival : Studies in Bangladesh and Nicaragua
Abstract: The aim of this thesis was to explore the impact of physical, sexual and emotional violence against women of reproductive age and the level of controlling behaviour in marriage on child health and survival in two different cultural settings: Bangladesh and Nicaragua. Data were acquired from four quantitative community-based studies. In two studies, a cohort including a prospective two year follow-up of 3164 mother-infant pairs in rural Bangladesh was investigated. A third study was a case-referent study in Nicaragua including mothers of 110 cases of under-five deaths and 203 referents, and in a forth study an other cohort of 1048 rural Bangladeshi women and their 2691 children was followed until 5 years of age. Maternal exposure to any form of violence, including physical, sexual, emotional, and controlling behaviour was independently associated with lower body size at birth, increased risk of stunting and under-weight at 24 months of age, slower growth velocity during the first two years of life and a higher incidence of diarrhoeal episodes and respiratory tract infections. In the Nicaraguan setting, the children of women who experienced any history of physical violence had a two-fold increase in risk of death before the age of 5 years, and those whose mothers experienced both physical and sexual violence had a six-fold increase in risk of death. In Bangladesh, an association between violence against women and under-five mortality was found among daughters of educated mothers who were exposed to severe physical violence or a high level of controlling behaviour in marriage. In all four studies, lifetime violence experience among participating mothers was high (37-69%), and the timing was less relevant than the exposure to violence per se. In conclusion, this investigation revealed that violence against women severely affects child health and survival. The findings are especially relevant in a context of high level of child under-nutrition, morbidity and under-five mortality. Efforts for protecting women from all forms of violence are needed as part of the interventions for improved child health.
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