Norms about intimate partner violence among urban South Africans: A quantitative and qualitative vignette analysis
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South Africa has one of the highest rates of intimate partner violence (IPV) in the world. In order to combat this violence, it has been suggested that changes in social norms are needed to avoid acceptance of or complacency about IPV. Little is known, though, about variation in norms of acceptance of IPV across gender, race, and different situations. Using survey data from a panel study of young people in Cape Town and qualitative interviews with African township residents, this paper examines variation in acceptance of IPV between African and coloured men and women, as well as the background factors that influence acceptance or rejection of IPV in given situations. Vignette scenarios about IPV perpetration were presented to survey respondents and interviewees who were asked whether or not they agreed with the use of violence in the situation discussed. Acceptance of IPV is found to be highest among African women, with African respondents generally more accepting of violence than coloured respondents. The levels of normative endorsement of violence are lower than those found by studies in other African countries, but higher than those found in a previous national study in South Africa. Exposure to violence as a victim or perpetrator is the most universal correlate of acceptance of IPV, supporting a social learning theory of violence and violent norms. As exposure to violence normalizes it, and may then lead to future perpetration or victimization, shifting norms to convince people of the unacceptability of IPV is a necessary step in breaking the cycle of violence.