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Jeffrey Swindle photo

The impact of global and local institutions on Malawian's attitudes toward wife-beating

a PSC Small Fund Research Project

Investigator:   Jeffrey Swindle

Studies estimate that rates of intimate partner violence are very high around the world. Despite this, attitudes toward such violence are increasingly shifting toward the rejection of wife-beating as justifiable. What is responsible for this rapid attitudinal shift? I argue that this shift came about due to the efforts of global institutions, especially foreign aid agencies and NGOs, to spread global cultural scripts advocating for the elimination of violence against women, as well as the acceptance of these scripts by local cultural institutions, in particular churches, tribal Chiefs, schools, and family clans. I test my theory in the context of Malawi, where attitudes have dramatically shifted despite long-standing cultural practices of domestic violence. I conduct
multilevel regression analysis to assess the effects of foreign aid projects and NGO activity targeted at eliminating violence against women on individuals' attitudes. I plan to conduct 120 interviews with the leaders of local cultural institutions in the northern, central, and southern regions of Malawi in order to assess their support of these global cultural scripts. My results will
advance policy discussions (when and where are foreign aid and NGO projects likely to have the greatest cultural impact?) and social science theory (when and where do global and local institutions influence cultural change at the individual level?). My study also provides a generalizable model that researchers can use to assess the influence of both global and local institutions on other types of attitudes and in other countries around the world.

Funding Period: 03/01/2015 to 02/29/2016

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