Academic journal article South African Journal of Psychiatry

Family Violence among Mothers Seen at the University of Ilorin Teaching Hospital, Ilorin, Nigeria

Academic journal article South African Journal of Psychiatry

Family Violence among Mothers Seen at the University of Ilorin Teaching Hospital, Ilorin, Nigeria

Article excerpt

Family violence (FV) is a term used to describe any form of violence against any member of a household or family by one of its members. Usually women and children are the victims and men the perpetrators of FV. (1-4) Violence in the family is a complex global problem that results from biological, social and cultural factors, as well as having psychological and social consequences. (1,3,5,6) It cuts across age, race, religion and socio-economic boundaries. (1,2,6,7)

This study focuses on physical assault by men against women with children in a marriage setting--a phenomenon also known as 'wife beating'. (8,9) Emotional and sexual assault were excluded although, in the African setting, these are regrettably still trivialised in the marriage context because of overbearing religious and sociocultural influences, some of which denigrate women. (8-11)

In Nigeria, media reports of wife beating and the campaign by women's rights organisations suggest that the problem of family violence exists. Medical data on its extent and consequences are still scanty, however, especially at the crucial primary care level. Globally, 20% of women experience some form of violence at least once in their lifetime. (5) A study of 144 women in Sierra Leone reported a wife-beating rate of 66.7%, (12) while another in Nigeria, involving 1 000 women, reported a rate of approximately 30%, (9) and another involving 308 women reported a rate of 78.8%. (13)

Various factors have been found to be associated with increased risk of FV against women. Among these are: age <35 years, separated or divorced, low socio-economic status and alcohol abuse. (1,9,14,15) The socio-economic and educational disadvantages of women, coupled with inequalities imposed by culture, religion, and judicial systems, may be more prevalent in Africa, (8-11, 13) so a higher frequency of FV can be expected.

The medical effects of FV are many, and frequent examples include behavioural disorders (anxiety, depression, diagnosable conditions such as acute stress disorders and post-traumatic stress disorders), physical injuries or even death. (1,2,7,11,16) Children of women affected by violence may also suffer serious psychosocial or physical abuse. (9,17,18)

Globally, there is consensus that FV is still under-recognised and under-reported within the medical community. (2,9,19,20) The reason for this has been adduced to be the negative and neglectful attitude of the medical community towards FV, and to inadequate training in how to recognise and manage it. (19,20) Other reasons that have been suggested are societal misconceptions about FV as a private or criminal matter (rather than medical) and the high tolerance threshold of women towards FV. (2,19,20)

Many women attending primary care facilities in Nigeria are known to have psychological problems from diverse causes, among which adverse life events are prominent; (21,22) the contribution of FV to this is as yet unknown. Clinical experience also indicates that many women afflicted by FV do not volunteer information without prompting. A simple, short, local screening instrument for eliciting information about FV in a busy outpatient situation will be useful. But the first need is to establish whether the opportunity provided by the primary care setting would be rewarding by ascertaining the extent of the problem, its nature and impact.

Few studies have been done in Nigeria to address FV in the primary care setting, and none to our knowledge in Ilorin. Our present study therefore adds to the limited literature on reporting the frequency of FV, its correlates and effects. Most importantly, this study could provide a basis for planning initial intervention strategies and for conducting a long-term epidemiological study from which appropriate screening or diagnostic instruments and intervention methods can be developed.


This study was a cross-sectional investigation carried out at clinics in the General Outpatient Department (GOPD) of the University of Ilorin Teaching Hospital (UITH) over a 5-month period. …

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