Household debt and relation to intimate partner violence and husbands' attitudes toward gender norms: A study among young married couples in rural Maharashtra, India

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Article (peer-reviewed)

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Objective: Evidence has linked economic hardship with increased intimate partner violence (IPV) perpetration among males. However, less is known about how economic debt or gender norms related to men's roles in relationships or the household, which often underlie IPV perpetration, intersect in or may explain these associations. We assessed the intersection of economic debt, attitudes toward gender norms, and IPV perpetration among married men in India. Methods: Data were from the evaluation of a family planning intervention among young married couples (n=1,081) in rural Maharashtra, India. Crude and adjusted logistic regression models for dichotomous outcome variables and linear regression models for continuous outcomes were used to examine debt in relation to husbands' attitudes toward gender-based norms (i.e., beliefs supporting IPV and beliefs regarding male dominance in relationships and the household), as well as sexual and physical IPV perpetration. Results: Twenty percent of husbands reported debt. In adjusted linear regression models, debt was associated with husbands' attitudes supportive of IPV (β=0.015, p=0.004) and norms supporting male dominance in relationships and the household (β=0.006, p=0.003). In logistic regression models adjusted for relevant demographics, debt was associated with perpetration of physical IPV (adjusted odds ratio [AOR] = 1.4, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.1, 1.9) and sexual IPV (AOR=1.6, 95% CI 1.1, 2.1) from husbands. These findings related to debt and relation to IPV were slightly attenuated when further adjusted for men's attitudes toward gender norms. Conclusion: Findings suggest the need for combined gender equity and economic promotion interventions to address high levels of debt and related IPV reported among married couples in rural India.