Reducing Intimate Partner Violence through Informal Social Control: A mass media experiment in rural Uganda

Research Method

Blocked and clustered field experiment with 6,449 respondents in 112 villages.

Country

Uganda

Co-Authors

Donald Green, Anna Wilke

Partners

Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA Uganda), Peripheral Vision International (PVI)

Research Question

Can mass media shore up informal channels for reducing intimate partner violence?

Abstract

We assess a mass media campaign designed to reduce intimate partner violence (IPV). A placebo-controlled experiment conducted in 2016 exposed over 10,000 Ugandans in 112 rural villages to a sequence of three short video dramatizations of IPV. A seemingly unrelated opinion survey conducted eight months later indicates that villages in which IPV videos were aired experienced substantially less IPV in the preceding six months than villages that were shown videos on other topics. A closer look at mechanisms reveals that the IPV videos had little effect on attitudes about the legitimacy of IPV. Nor did the videos increase empathy with IPV victims or change perceptions about whether domestic violence must be stopped before it escalates. The most plausible causal channel appears to be a change in norms: women in the treatment group became less likely to believe that they would be criticized for meddling in the affairs of others if they were to report IPV to local leaders, and their personal willingness to intervene increased substantially. These results suggest that education-entertainment has the potential to markedly reduce the incidence of IPV in an enduring and cost-effective manner.