Research on partner abuse has lagged in much of the world where attention has been on other problems (such as famine and war) and other crimes against women (e.g., honor killings, genital mutilation). We conducted a sweeping review of scholarly articles published in peer-reviewed journals and by government agencies outside of the United States and English-speaking developed nations that provided quantitative data on physical, psychological, and sexual abuse of intimate partners as well as consequences, risk factors, and attitudes. One hundred sixty-two articles reporting on more than 200 studies in Asia, the Middle East, Africa, Latin America, and Europe met the inclusion criteria from various types of samples. Most of the studies reported on female victimization only, but 73 reported on both male and female victimization.
We also conducted an analysis of data from our literature review, including 1 major cross-national study, to determine the relationship among prevalence of abuse, social factors, and women’s empowerment. Results indicate that partner abuse is a widespread problem around the world, with multiple causes. Overall prevalence of abuse is higher in Third World countries compared to the United States, and rates for physical and psychological abuse are comparable across gender in most countries when all types of samples are considered. No significant association was found between rates of partner violence (PV) and a nation’s level of human development. However, a significant relationship was found between a nation’s level of gender empowerment and rates of PV by both males and females but only for university dating samples from the International Dating Violence Study (IDVS). In addition, an analysis of the IDVS indicates that efforts by 1 partner to dominate the other are positively correlated with physical abuse perpetration for women, but not for men. Among the limitations of this review was the relatively few numbers of large population studies that ask about both male and female perpetration and victimization and the consequences and context of PV. Implications of the findings include the need for a broader conceptualization of PV as not merely a gender problem but also (and perhaps primarily) a human problem.