Disaster, disruption to family life, and intimate partner violence: The case of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti

Abigail Weitzman, Julia Andrea Behrman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

46 Scopus citations


Natural disasters have inherently social dimensions because they exacerbate preexisting inequalities and disrupt social norms and institutions. Despite a growing interest in the sociological aspects of disasters, few studies have quantitatively explored how disasters alter intrahousehold family dynamics. In this article, we develop and test a conceptual framework that explicates how natural disasters affect an important component of family life: intimate partner violence (IPV). We combine two waves of geocoded Demographic and Health Surveys data, collected before and after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, with spatial data on variation in the earthquake's destruction. Our findings indicate that exposure to earthquake devastation increased the probability of both physical and sexual IPV one to two years following the disaster. These increases were accompanied by substantial changes in family functioning, the household economy, and women's access to their social networks. Select household-level experiences during and after the earthquake, such as displacement, were also positively associated with IPV. These findings provide new insights into the multidimensional effects of disasters on family life and have important theoretical and policy implications that extend beyond the particular case of Haiti.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)167-189
Number of pages23
JournalSociological Science
StatePublished - Mar 7 2016


  • Family
  • Intimate partner violence
  • Natural disasters

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Social Sciences


Dive into the research topics of 'Disaster, disruption to family life, and intimate partner violence: The case of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this