Domestic Violence and Childhood Exposure to Armed Conflict: Attitudes and Experiences

Year: 2017 HiCN Working Paper No. 255

We examine the effect of exposure to armed conflict in childhood and youth on women and men’s attitudes toward domestic violence in Sub-Saharan Africa. More specifically, our study identifies age periods during childhood that are most critical for the formation of beliefs on domestic violence as well as mechanisms underlying these effects.

We merge individual data on the attitudes of 438,000 women and 172,000 men who were interviewed between 2001 and 2015 in 20 Sub-Saharan African countries with geo-coded data on all armed conflicts in the region between 1946 and 2006. Our identification strategy exploits geographic variation in conflict intensity across sub-national regions and temporal variation in exposure to conflict events across birth cohorts.

Men and women who were exposed to conflict between ages 6 and 10 appear to be the most vulnerable to internalizing surrounding violence and expressing more acceptance of domestic violence. Women who experienced conflict during this age were also more likely to report being a victim of domestic violence. We explore several mechanisms and observe that reduced educational attainment is one plausible channel through which childhood exposure to conflict affected women’s acceptance of domestic violence later in life.