Domestic Violence And Child Health Outcomes In Zimbabwe

Type Thesis or Dissertation
Title Domestic Violence And Child Health Outcomes In Zimbabwe
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2009
Background: This study intends to examine the association between domestic violence and
selected negative child health outcomes in Zimbabwe. While studies have identified a number of factors affecting child health outcomes, the role of domestic violence has been neglected. Domestic violence, as a global public health concern, has been related to reproductive health outcomes, such as unwanted or unplanned pregnancy, lack of contraceptive use, preterm delivery and sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV/AIDS. In addition, the reduction of child mortality levels worldwide has become a prominent issue and is addressed as Goal 4 in the Millennium Development Goals. However, the possibility of domestic violence being related to the health outcomes of their children has not been explored in the African context.
Methods: This study is a secondary data analysis of the 2005/2006 Zimbabwe Demographic and Health Survey (ZDHS). The ZDHS has been chosen as it is representative of the country as a whole. The total sample of 2,152 women who participated in the Domestic Violence module of the ZDHS was used in this study. Thus the population of interest in this study is physically abused Zimbabwean women who have children. The outcome variables of this study are poor nutritional health outcomes, stunting, wasting and underweight and under-five child mortality. The predictor variables are physical violence experiences, including, domestic violence, being hit during pregnancy and sexual violence. The data analysis happened in three stages. The first being univariate analysis of the variables in this study, to provide descriptive statistics of the study population. The second stage was bivariate analysis producing odds ratios to examine the association between each of the predictor variables with each of the outcome variables. The final stage was multivariate analysis using logistic regression and producing odds rations to examine more than one predictor variable with each outcome variable to obtain an association.
Results: Associations were found between physical violence and the various negative child health outcomes. Of importance, domestic violence and being hit during pregnancy was found to increase the condition of wasting in under-five children. Similarly being hit during pregnancy is associated with increased odds of having underweight young children. Increased likelihood of the underweight condition is also associated with sexual violence experiences of the mother. However, sexual violence is not associated with stunting and / or wasting in under-five children.
The study finally found that domestic violence, being hit during pregnancy and sexual violence is associated with increased odds of child mortality occurring to the young children of abused women.
Conclusions: This study has shown, that in various settings, domestic violence is in fact a contributor to poor child health outcomes in Zimbabwe. Thus the health of under-five children cannot be separated from the life experiences of their mothers, who remain their primary caregivers. Traumatic experiences of the mother contribute negatively to the health of young children. Physically abused women are in fact less able to provide nutritional care, for varying lengths of time, for their offspring. In terms of the most adverse child health outcome, child mortality, the odds of this occurrence is exacerbated by experiences of domestic violence.

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