Premarital Mental Disorders and Physical Violence in Marriage

Cross-National Study of Married Couples

Published in: British Journal of Psychiatry, v. 199, no. 4, Oct. 2011, p. 330-337

Posted on RAND.org on October 01, 2011

by Elizabeth Miller, Joshua Breslau, Maria Petukhova, John Fayyad, Jennifer M Green, Lola Kola, Soraya Seedat, Dan J. Stein, Adley Tsang, Maria Carmen Viana, Laura Helena Andrade, Koen Demyttenaere, Giovanni de Girolamo, Josep Maria Haro, Chiyi Hu, Elie G. Karam, Viviane Kovess-Masfety, Toma Tomov, Ronald C Kessler

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BACKGROUND: Mental disorders may increase the risk of physical violence among married couples. AIMS: To estimate associations between premarital mental disorders and marital violence in a cross-national sample of married couples. METHOD: A total of 1821 married couples (3642 individuals) from 11 countries were interviewed as part of the World Health Organization's World Mental Health Survey Initiative. Sixteen mental disorders with onset prior to marriage were examined as predictors of marital violence reported by either spouse. RESULTS: Any physical violence was reported by one or both spouses in 20% of couples, and was associated with husbands' externalising disorders (OR = 1.7, 95% CI 1.2-2.3). Overall, the population attributable risk for marital violence related to premarital mental disorders was estimated to be 17.2%. CONCLUSIONS: Husbands' externalising disorders had a modest but consistent association with marital violence across diverse countries. This finding has implications for the development of targeted interventions to reduce risk of marital violence.

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