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January 3, 2011

Gender-Based Disparities in Infant and Child Mortality Based on Maternal Exposure to Spousal Violence: The Heavy Burden Borne by Indian Girls

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliations: Department Society, of Human Development and Health, Harvard School of Public Health (Drs Silverman and Decker and Mss Wirth, McCauley, and Falb) and Boston University School of Public Health (Drs Cheng and Raj), Boston, Massachusetts; and Population Council, New Delhi (Dr Saggurti), and National Institute for Research in Reproductive Health, Indian Council for Medical Research, Mumbai (Dr Donta), India.

Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2011;165(1):22-27. doi:10.1001/archpediatrics.2010.261

Objectives  To examine associations between intimate partner violence (IPV) against Indian women and risk of death among their infants and children, as well as related gender-based disparities.

Design  Analyses of nationally representative data to estimate adjusted hazard ratios (aHRs) and attributable risks for infant and child mortality based on child gender and on IPV against mothers.

Setting  India.

Participants  Women aged 15 to 49 years (n = 59 467) across all 29 Indian states participating in the Indian National Family Health Survey 3 provided information about 158 439 births and about infant and child mortality occurring during the 20 years before the survey.

Main Outcome Measures  Maternal IPV and infant and child (<5 years) mortality among boy vs girl children.

Results  Infant mortality was greater among infants whose mothers experienced IPV (79.2 of 1000 births) vs those whose mothers did not experience IPV (59.1 of 1000 births) (aHR, 1.09; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.03-1.15); this effect was significant only for girls (1.15; 1.07-1.24; for boys, 1.04; 0.97-1.11). Child mortality was also greater among children whose mothers experienced IPV (103.6 of 1000 births) vs those whose mothers did not experience IPV (74.8 per 1000 births) (aHR, 1.10; 95% CI, 1.05-1.15); again, this effect was significant only for girls (1.14; 1.07-1.21; for boys, 1.05; 0.99-1.12). An estimated 58 021 infant girl deaths and 89 264 girl child deaths were related to spousal violence against wives annually, or approximately 1.2 million female infant deaths and 1.8 million girl deaths in India between December 1985 and August 2005.

Conclusion  Intimate partner violence against women should be considered an urgent priority within programs and policies aimed at maximizing survival of children in India, particularly those attempting to increase the survival of girls 5 years and younger.