Springer Nature is making SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 research free. View research | View latest news | Sign up for updates

How do area-level socioeconomic status and gender norms affect partner violence against women? Evidence from Tanzania



To explore how area-level socioeconomic status and gender-related norms influence partner violence against women in Tanzania.


We analysed data from the 2010 Tanzania Demographic and Health Survey and used multilevel logistic regression to estimate individual and community-level effects on women’s risk of current partner violence.


Prevalence of current partner violence was 36.1 %; however, variation in prevalence exists across communities. Twenty-nine percent of the variation in the logodds of partner violence is due to community-level influences. When adjusting for individual-level characteristics, this variation falls to 10 % and falls further to 8 % when adjusting for additional community-level factors. Higher levels of women’s acceptance towards wife beating, male unemployment, and years of schooling among men were associated with higher risk of partner violence; however, higher levels of women in paid work were associated with lower risk.


Area-level poverty and inequitable gender norms were associated with higher risk of partner violence. Empowerment strategies along with addressing social attitudes are likely to achieve reductions in rates of partner violence against women in Tanzania and in other similar low-income country settings.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. Abramsky T, Watts CH, Garcia-Moreno C et al (2011) What factors are associated with recent intimate partner violence? findings from the WHO multi-country study on women’s health and domestic violence. BMC Public Health. doi:10.1186/1471-2458-11-109

  2. Ackerson LK, Subramanian SV (2008) State gender inequality, socioeconomic status and intimate partner violence (IPV) in India: a multilevel analysis. Aust J Soc Issues 43(1):81–102

  3. Ackerson LK, Kawachi I, Barbeau EM, Subramanian SV (2008) Effects of individual and proximate educational context on intimate partner violence: a population-based study of women in India. Am J Public Health 98(3):507–514. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2007.113738

  4. Bonomi AE, Trabert B, Anderson ML, Kernic MA, Holt VL (2014) Intimate partner violence and neighbourhood income: a longitudinal analysis. Violence Against Women 20(1):42–58

  5. Boyle MH, Georgiades K, Cullen J, Racine Y (2009) Community influences on intimate partner violence in India: women’s education, attitudes towards mistreatment and standards of living. Soc Sci Med 69(5):691–697. doi:10.1016/j.socscimed.2009.06.039

  6. Browning CR (2002) The span of collective efficacy: extending social disorganization theory to partner violence. J Marriage Fam 64(4):833–850. doi:10.1111/j.1741-3737.2002.00833.x

  7. Caetano R, Ramisetty-Mikler S, Harris TR (2009) Neighborhood characteristics as predictors of male to female partner violence. J Interpers Violence 25(11):1986–2009. doi:10.1177/0886260509354497

  8. Clarke P (2008) When can group level clustering be ignored? Multilevel models versus single-level models with sparse data. J Epidemiol Community Health 62:752–758

  9. Cunradi CB, Caetano R, Clark C, Schafer J (2000) Neighbourhood poverty as a predictor of intimate partner violence among white, black and Hispanic couples in the United States: a multilevel analysis. Ann Epidemiol 10(5):297–308

  10. DeMaris AM, Benson ML, Fox GL, Hill T, Van Wyk J (2003) Distal and proximal factors in domestic violence: a test of an integrated model. J Marriage Fam 65(3):652–667. doi:10.1111/j.1741-3737.2003.00652.x

  11. Ellsberg M, Jansen HA, Heise L, Watts CH, Garcia-Moreno C (2008) Intimate partner violence and women’s physical and mental health in the WHO multi-country study on women’s health and domestic violence: an observational study. Lancet 371(9619):1165–1172. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(08)60522-X

  12. Gage AJ (2005) Women’s experience of intimate partner violence in Haiti. Soc Sci Med 61(2):343–364. doi:10.1016/j.socscimed.2004.11.078

  13. Gage AJ, Hutchinson PL (2006) Power, control, and intimate partner sexual violence in Haiti. Arch Sex Behav 35(1):11–24. doi:10.1007/s10508-006-8991-0

  14. Gibbs A, Sikweyiya Y, Jewkes R (2014) Men value their dignity’: securing respect and identity construction in urban informal settlements in South Africa. Glob Health Action. doi:10.3402/gha.v7.23676

  15. Heise L (2011) What works to prevent partner violence? An evidence overview, UK Department for International Development

  16. Jain S, Buka SL, Subramanian SV, Molnar BE (2010) Neighbourhood predictors of dating violence victimization and perpetration in young adulthood: a multilevel study. Am J Public Health 100(9):1737–1744. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2009.169730

  17. Jewkes RK (2002) Intimate partner violence: causes and prevention. Lancet 359(9315):1423–1429. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(02)08357-5

  18. Kiss L, Schraiber LB, Heise L, Zimmerman C, Gouveia N, Watts C (2012) Gender-based violence and socioeconomic inequalities: does living in more deprived neighbourhoods increase women’s risk of intimate partner violence? Soc Sci Med 74(8):1172–1179. doi:10.1016/j.socscimed.2011.11.033

  19. Koenig MA, Ahmed S, Hossain MB, Mozumder AK (2003) Women’s status and domestic violence in rural Bangladesh: individual- and community-level effects. Demography 40(2):269–288

  20. Koenig MA, Stephenson R, Saifuddin A, Jejeebhoy SJ, Campbell J (2006) Individual and contextual determinants of domestic violence in North India. Am J Public Health 96(1):132–138. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2004.050872

  21. Krishnan S, Vohra D, de Walque D, Medlin C, Nathan R, Dow WH (2012) Tanzanian couples’ perspectives on gender equity, relationship power, and intimate partner violence: findings from the RESPECT study. AIDS Res Treat. doi:10.1155/2012/187890

  22. Mahenge B, Likindikoki S, Stöckl H, Mbwambo J (2013) Intimate partner violence during pregnancy and associated mental health symptoms among pregnant women in Tanzania: a cross sectional study. BJOG 120(8):940–947. doi:10.1111/1471-0528.12185

  23. McCloskey LA, Williams C, Larsen U (2005) Gender inequality and intimate partner violence among women in Moshi, Tanzania. Int Fam Plan Perspect 31(3):124–130. doi:10.1363/ifpp.31.124.05

  24. McQuestion MJ (2002) Endogenous social effects on intimate partner violence in Colombia. Soc Sci Res 32(2):335–345

  25. National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) [Tanzania] and ICF Macro (2011) Tanzania Demographic and Health Survey 2010. Dar es Salaam. Tanzania, NBS and ICF Macro. http://dhsprogram.com/pubs/pdf/FR243/FR243%5B24June2011%5D.pdf. Accessed 29 Aug 2011

  26. Naved RT, Persson LA (2005) Factors associated with spousal physical violence against women in Bangladesh. Stud Fam Plann 36(4):289–300

  27. O’Campo P, Gielen AC, Faden RR, Xue X, Kass N, Wang MC (1995) Violence by male partners against women during the childbearing year: a contextual analysis. Am J Public Health 85:1092–1097

  28. Rabe-Hesketh S, Skrondal A (2008) Multilevel and longitudinal modeling using Stata. Stata Press, Texas

  29. Sa Z, Larsen U (2008) Gender inequality increases women’s risk of HIV infection in Moshi, Tanzania. J Biosoc Sci 40(4):505–525. doi:10.1017/S002193200700257X

  30. Sampson RJ, Groves BW (1989) Community structure and crime: testing social-disorganization theory. Am J Sociol 94(4):774–802

  31. Sampson RJ, Raudenbush SW, Earls F (1997) Neighbourhoods and violent crime: a multilevel study of collective efficacy. Science 277(5328):918–924

  32. Shaw C, McKay H (1942) Jevenille delinquency and urban areas. University of Chicago Press, Chicago

  33. Silberschmidt M (2001) Disempowerment of men in rural and urban Africa: implications for male identity and sexual behavior. World Dev 29(4):657–671

  34. Speizer IS (2010) Intimate partner violence attitudes and experience among women and men in Uganda. J Interpers Violence 25(7):1224–1241

  35. Uthman OA, Moradi T, Lawako S (2009) The independent contribution of individual-, neighbourhood-, and country-level socioeconomic position on attitudes towards intimate partner violence against women in sub-Saharan Africa: a multilevel model of direct and moderating effects. Soc Sci Med 68(10):1801–1809. doi:10.1016/j.socscimed.2009.02.045

  36. Uthman OA, Moradi T, Lawoko S (2011) Are individual and community acceptance and witnessing of intimate partner violence related to its occurrence? Multilevel structural equation model. PLoS ONE 6(12):e27738. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0027738

  37. VanderEnde KE, Yount KM, Dynes MM, Sibley LM (2012) Community-level correlates of intimate partner violence against women globally: a systematic review. Soc Sci Med 75:1143–1155

  38. Vyas S (2013) Estimating the association between women’s earnings and partner violence: evidence from the 2008–09 Tanzania National Panel Survey. http://agris.fao.org/agris-search/search.do?recordID=US2014605867. Accessed 23 Nov 2013

  39. Vyas S, Heise L (2014) Using propensity score matching to estimate an “unbiased effect-size” between women’s employment and partner violence in Tanzania. J Interpers Violence 29(16):2971–2990. doi:10.1177/0886260514527823

  40. Vyas S, Watts C (2009) How does economic empowerment affect women’s risk of intimate partner violence in low and middle income country?: a systematic review of published evidence. J Int Dev 21:577–602

Download references

Author information

Correspondence to Seema Vyas.

Ethics declarations

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest. The authors received no financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.

Ethical approval

This study analyses secondary data gathered as part of the DHS programme. The DHS ethical review states “Procedures and questionnaires for standard DHS surveys have been reviewed and approved by the ICF International Institutional Review Board (IRB). Additionally, country-specific DHS survey protocols are reviewed by the ICF IRB and typically by an IRB in the host country. The ICF International IRB ensures that the survey complies with the US Department of Health and Human Services regulations for the protection of human subjects (45 CFR 46), while the host country IRB ensures that the survey complies with laws and norms of the nation.”

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the original study. http://dhsprogram.com/What-We-Do/Protecting-the-Privacy-of-DHS-Survey-Respondents.cfm.

Additional information

This article is part of the special issue "Violence and Health: Implications of the 2030 Agenda for South-North Collaboration".

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Vyas, S., Heise, L. How do area-level socioeconomic status and gender norms affect partner violence against women? Evidence from Tanzania. Int J Public Health 61, 971–980 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00038-016-0876-y

Download citation


  • Partner violence against women
  • Tanzania
  • Multilevel model
  • Poverty
  • Gender norms