Research Brief: Childhood violence increases risk for physical intimate partner violence for young adult women in Kenya


People who experience violence in childhood are often at increased risk for future experiences of violence as adults. Prior to this study, limited research existed on the relationship between experiencing childhood violence and physical intimate partner violence (IPV) in adulthood. There is also limited information from low- and middle-income countries about IPV among young women who are married or pregnant. Kenya Violence Against Children Survey (VACS) data from 2010 were used to fill these gaps.

Key Points from the Report

  • Women who experienced any childhood violence (physical, emotional, and or sexual) were 3 times more likely to experience physical IPV in adulthood than women who had not experienced any childhood violence.
  • The more types of violence experienced in childhood, the higher the risk of experiencing physical IPV as young adults.
  • Women who experienced sexual violence in childhood were 2.5 times more likely to experience physical IPV in adulthood than women who did not experience sexual violence in childhood.
  • The majority of married women experienced physical, sexual, and or emotional violence in childhood.
  • Being married and having been pregnant were both associated with increased risk for experiencing physical IPV.

What is added by this report?

Young Kenyan women are more likely to experience physical IPV if they experienced violence in childhood, particularly sexual violence. Exposure to two or three types of violence as a child also was associated with increased risk of physical IPV. Results from this study increase the understanding that violence in childhood is a risk factor for future experiences of violence. Strategies that prevent childhood violence may help protect youth from harmful relationships and experiences in adulthood. Also, IPV services should consider childhood experiences to better understand the history and contexts of victims’ experiences.


Chiang L, Howard A, Gleckel J, Ogoti C, Karlsson J, Hynes M, Mwangi M. Cycle of Violence among young Kenyan women: The link between childhood violence and adult physical intimate partner violence in a population-based surveyExternal. Child Abuse and Neglect 2018; 84: 45-52.

*Footnote: some variation between prevalence estimates from published papers and country reports may exist. This variation reflects slight differences in the subsamples and variables used in the analyses.

Page last reviewed: March 14, 2019