Researchers have found that Indian women who are more educated than their husbands, who earn more, or are the sole earners in their families are more likely to experience frequent and severe intimate partner violence (IPV) than women not employed or less educated than their spouse.
There are two existing theories that aim to predict what happens when a woman has status and resources that are equal to or greater than her husband's. One theory, called bargaining theory, posits that a woman who has more relative resources in a relationship should be at a lower risk for IPV. A man in such a relationship would worry that his wife would withhold resources if he behaved violently toward her.
The other theory, known as gender deviance neutralization, suggests that a woman's superior resources would be viewed as gender deviant and a man would use violence to gain power or maintain control in the relationship. This study supports the latter theory.
Abigail Weitzman, a graduate student at New York University, looked at data from the female-only module of India's National Family Health Survey (NFHS) collected between 2005 and 2006.
This module contains data from a nationally representative sample of women aged 15-49 and includes nine variables pertaining to IPV. It also asks a number of questions about women's current employment, relative earnings, and access to other money.
Weitzman looked only at data from married women and explored the occurrence, frequency, and severity of violence.
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Weitzman found that compared to women with less education than their husbands, women with more education face 1.4 times the risk of IPV, 1.54 times the risk of frequent violence, and 1.36 times the risk of severe violence. She found a similar pattern for women who were better employed than their spouse. And women who were the sole breadwinners in their family faced 2.44 times the risk of frequent violence and 1.51 times the risk of severe violence as unemployed women whose husbands were employed.
The study has been published in the journal Population and Development Review.