Disaster, Disruption to Family Life, and Intimate Partner Violence: The Case of the 2010 Earthquake in Haiti

Abigail Weitzman, Julia Andrea Behrman

Sociological Science, March 7, 2016
DOI 10.15195/v3.a9

Natural disasters have inherently social dimensions because they exacerbate preexisting inequalities and disrupt social norms and institutions. Despite a growing interest in the sociological aspects of disasters, few studies have quantitatively explored how disasters alter intrahousehold family dynamics. In this article, we develop and test a conceptual framework that explicates how natural disasters affect an important component of family life: intimate partner violence (IPV). We combine two waves of geocoded Demographic and Health Surveys data, collected before and after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, with spatial data on variation in the earthquake’s destruction. Our findings indicate that exposure to earthquake devastation increased the probability of both physical and sexual IPV one to two years following the disaster. These increases were accompanied by substantial changes in family functioning, the household economy, and women’s access to their social networks. Select household-level experiences during and after the earthquake, such as displacement, were also positively associated with IPV. These findings provide new insights into the multidimensional effects of disasters on family life and have important theoretical and policy implications that extend beyond the particular case of Haiti.

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
Abigail Weitzman: Population Studies Center, University of Michigan  Email: aweitzma@umich.edu

Julia Andrea Behrman: New York University  Email: Jab965@nyu.edu

Acknowledgements: This research was made possible with the generous support of the National Science Foundation (grant 2011117755) and theWilliam and Flora Hewlett Foundation/International Institute for Education (grant 2012-7263). Background support was also provided by the grant “Team 1000+ Saving Brain: Economic Impact of Poverty-Related Risk Factors for Cognitive Development and Human Capital” 0072-03 provided to the grantee, the Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania, by Grand Challenges Canada. We are grateful to Paula England, Jere Behrman, and Dalton Conley for their invaluable feedback on this research. We are also grateful to Himanshu Mistry and New York University’s Data Service Studio for assisting us in our spatial analyses.

  • Citation: Weitzman, Abigail and Julia Andrea Behrman. 2016. “Disaster, Disruption to Family Life, and Intimate Partner Violence: The Case of the 2010 .” Sociological Science 3: 167-189.
  • Received: December 3, 2015.
  • Accepted: December 31, 2015.
  • Editors: Jesper Sørensen, Olav Sorenson
  • DOI: 10.15195/v3.a9


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