Domestic Violence, Marital Control, and Family Planning, Maternal, and Birth Outcomes in Timor-Leste

Publication Date:

Jun 2015


Meiksin R, Meekers D, Thompson S, Hagopian A, Mercer MA. (2015). Domestic Violence, Marital Control, and Family Planning, Maternal, and Birth Outcomes in Timor-Leste. Matern Child Health J. 19(6), 1338-47. doi: 10.1007/s10995-014-1638-1



Patriarchal traditions and a history of armed conflict in Timor-Leste provide a context that facilitates violence against women. More than a third of ever-married Timorese women report physical and/or sexual domestic violence (DV) perpetrated by their most recent partner. DV violates women’s rights and may threaten their reproductive health. Marital control may also limit women’s reproductive control and healthcare access. Our study investigated relationships between DV and marital control and subsequent family planning, maternal healthcare, and birth outcomes in Timor-Leste. Using logistic regression, we examined 2009-2010 Demographic and Health Survey data from a nationally representative sample of 2,951 women in Timor-Leste. We controlled for age, education, and wealth. We limited our analyses of pregnancy- and birth-related outcomes to those from the 6 months preceding the survey. Rural women with controlling husbands were less likely than other rural women to have an unmet need for family planning (Adj. OR 0.6; 95 % CI 0.4-0.9). Rural women who experienced DV were more likely than other rural women to have an unplanned pregnancy (Adj. OR 2.6; 95 % CI 1.4-4.8), fewer than four antenatal visits (Adj. OR 2.3; 95 % CI 1.1-4.9), or a baby born smaller than average (Adj. OR 3.1; 95 % CI 1.4-6.7). DV and marital control were not associated with the tested outcomes among urban women. Given high rates of DV internationally, our findings have important implications. Preventing DV may benefit both women and future generations. Furthermore, rural women who experience DV may benefit from targeted interventions that mediate associated risks of negative family planning, maternal healthcare, and birth outcomes.

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