Abstract: Perpetrating Economic Abuse across the Globe: Results from the UN Multi-Country Study on Men and Violence in Asia and the Pacific (Society for Social Work and Research 25th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Social Change)

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Perpetrating Economic Abuse across the Globe: Results from the UN Multi-Country Study on Men and Violence in Asia and the Pacific

Wednesday, January 20, 2021
* noted as presenting author
Judy L. Postmus, PhD, Professor & Associate Dean, Rutgers University, NJ
Hsiu-Fen Lin, PhD, PhD Candidate, Rutgers University, NJ
Kristina Nikolova, PhD, Assistant Professor, Wayne State University, Detroit, MI
Laura Johnson, PhD, Assistant Research Professor, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ
Background & Purpose: Intimate partner violence (IPV) is a major public health concern, with over one-third of women globally experiencing IPV at some point in their lifetime. Most IPV research across the globe has focused on physical violence; however, one “invisible” form of abuse perpetrated is economic abuse. Curiously, no research exists that examines how men use economic abuse as another strategy to further trap women in relationships and leave them with greater financial harm. Using the United Nations (U.N.) Multi-Country Study on Men and Violence in Asia and the Pacific, the purpose of this paper is to identify the prevalence of men’s use of economic abuse and examine how food scarcity and other variables are related to men’s use of economic abuse.

Methods: The U.N. Study took place between 2010 and 2013 in six countries: Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea (PNG), and Sri Lanka. Within each of the selected sites, multi-stage cluster sampling was used to obtain a representative sample of households from randomly selected census enumeration areas. The dependent variable focused on men’s perpetration of economic abuse and other forms of abuse. The main independent variable was food scarcity; other variables included alcohol use, depression, relational control attitudes, and gender inequality beliefs. Multinomial logistical regression was used with SPSS 26 to analyze the association between variables.

Results: Over 1 in 5 men from this study sample (n=8,050) perpetrated economic abuse at least once over their adult life, with two-thirds also perpetrating other forms of abuse. Men reporting food scarcity were 1.51 times more likely to perpetrate economic abuse compared to men who did not report food scarcity. There were no significant relationships between food scarcity and perpetrating other types of IPV. Men with drinking problems were 3.53 times more likely to perpetrate economic abuse; those reporting depressive symptoms were 1.83 time more likely to perpetrate such abuse. Men who had gender inequality beliefs and relation control attitudes toward their partners had 1.34 times and 1.22 times greater likelihood of committing economic abuse, respectively.

Conclusions & Implications: This is the first study to examine the prevalence of and factors that contribute to the perpetration of economic abuse. Findings suggest that perpetration of economic abuse is common in intimate relationships and is often used in conjunction with other forms of abuse. Interventions aimed at reducing food insecurity or poverty may be effective at decreasing the use of economic abuse strategies by men. Additionally, interventions should target men’s drinking, depression, gender inequality beliefs, and control in relationships. Theories on the perpetration of IPV often suggest that abusers’ coercive controlling behaviors are the result of traditionally held beliefs about gender roles and that this often extends to finances within the relationship. While challenging patriarchal values and beliefs is often a component of batterer intervention programs, it is unclear if any of these programs discuss how these gendered attitudes extend to financial management practices within relationships. As such, batterer intervention programs should include a discussion of economic abuse.