Association Between Women’s Experience of and Attitudes Towards Domestic Violence and Low Birth Weight: An Analysis of Demographic and Health Survey Data

Presenter: Subhashini Katumuluwa, Stony Brook University School of Medicine and Faculty of Medicine and Allied Sciences, Rajarata University of Sri Lanka

Background: More than 95% of low birth weight (LBW) infants are born in developing countries, and half of these infants are born in South and Central Asia. This study aimed to investigate whether specific domestic violence-related variables are associated with LBW in a sample from these regions.

Methodology: Demographic and Health Survey data for women from Pakistan (2012/13) and Tajikistan (2012) who had had at least one live birth in the five years preceding the survey and had a birth size reported for the most recent live birth were analyzed.  Independent variables included “ever” experiencing varying combinations of emotional/physical abuse and women’s views on wife beating. Adjusted odds ratios (AORs) for LBW were calculated using generalized estimating equations (GEE), controlling for clustering, sociodemographic/personal characteristics, and obstetric history.

Results: A total of 7436 and 3226 women from Pakistan and Tajikistan, respectively, met the inclusion criteria. Prevalence of LBW in the two samples were 20.5% (95% confidence interval (CI) 19.58-21.42) and 14.2% (CI 13.04-15.44), respectively. A subgroup of women (Pakistan n=2033, Tajikistan n=2159) who answered a specific domestic violence question set were also analyzed. GEE analysis found increased likelihood of LBW for women who agreed with one or more reasons for wife beating in both Pakistan (AOR 1.26, CI 1.11-1.44) and Tajikistan (AOR 1.36, CI 1.06-1.74). Increased likelihood of LBW was also found for Pakistani women who had ever experienced severe physical abuse (AOR 2.79, CI 1.92-4.07).

Conclusion: Experience of and attitudes towards domestic violence are potential modifiable risk factors for LBW in this study population and may indicate the importance of targeting both men and women in interventions.