Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) is the most common type of violence targeting women. IPV includes acts of physical aggression, sexual coercion, psychological abuse and controlling behaviors and these forms of violence often coexist in the same relationship. Living with IPV is associated with serious mental health outcomes such as depression and depressive symptoms. Few population based studies from Sweden have investigated the relationship between different forms of IPV and women’s depressive symptoms and even fewer used controlling behavior as an independent variable in such studies. The aim of this study was therefore to assess the prevalence of exposure to IPV in terms of controlling behavior, sexual, and physical violence and their association with self-reported symptoms of depression in a female population based sample.
The cross-sectional, population based sample contained 573 women aged 18–65 years randomly selected in Sweden. Five self-reported symptoms that define depression in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders were assessed. Physical and sexual violence were inquired about using the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Violence Against Women Instrument (VAWI), while controlling behavior was assessed with the Controlling Behavior Scale (CBS). Associations between different forms of IPV and symptoms of depression were estimated by crude and adjusted odds ratio (OR) with 95% confidence intervals (CI).
Bivariable associations revealed that women exposed to controlling behavior, had higher OR of depressive symptoms compared to unexposed women (OR 2.43; 95% CI 1.63–3.63). Women exposed to physical and sexual violence had also a higher OR of depressive symptoms (OR 3.78; 95% CI 1.99–7.17 and OR 5.10; 95% CI 1.74–14.91 respectively). After adjusting for socio-demographic and psychosocial covariates, all three forms of IPV showed statistically significant associations with self-reported symptoms of depression.
A strength with this study is the analysis of controlling behavior and its association with self-reported symptoms of depression in a female population based sample. Exposure to controlling behavior, physical and sexual violence by an intimate partner were clearly associated with women’s self-reported symptoms of depression.