Home > Uncategorized > Breeding stigma does not avoid teen pregnancy: Ron Assimwe makes the case for adolescents in Uganda

Couples & Family Therapy student conducts IPV research in Uganda

How does social stigma impact an 18-year-old Ugandan mother? Doctoral student Ron Asiimwe is looking to the heart (and mind) of this question in his latest paper. The story begins inside Tororo district hospital, a medium-sized hospital in rural eastern Uganda. Interviews were collected from 100 adolescents, who “were pregnant or recently gave birth,” about their stress levels and history with gender-based violence. With a background in Couple & Family Therapy, Ron’s paper evaluates how stigma surrounding teen pregnancy influences intimate partner violence — a phenomenon that 45% of adolescents said they had experienced. 

Ron co-authored the paper with doctoral student Chi-Fang Tseng (Human Develop & Family Studies) and Dr. Itziar Familiar-Lopez (Global Neuropsychiatry Research Group). The paper is currently under review for publication in Journal of Adolescence. 

Association of Pregnancy-Related Stigma and Intimate Partner Violence with Psychological Distress Among Adolescents in Rural Uganda

Ron Asiimwe, Chi-Fang Tseng, and Itziar Familiar-Lopez, PhD


Introduction: We explored the association between pregnancy-related stigma and intimate partner violence with psychological distress among adolescent females in rural eastern Uganda.  

Methods: We interviewed a convenience sample of 100 adolescents (>18 years) who were pregnant (> 3 months) or recently gave birth (< 3 month) at Tororo District Hospital, Uganda. Psychological distress (depression and anxiety symptoms) was evaluated using the Hopkins Symptom Checklist (HSCL-25), physical and sexual intimate partner violence (IPV) were assessed using the WHO violence against women instrument, and pregnancy-related stigma was captured using an ad hoc questionnaire. Regression models were used to evaluate associations of pregnancy stigma and IPV with distress.

Results: Participants’ mean age was 18 years, 84% were primiparous, 66% were married and 57% had only primary school-level education. 48% women had clinically meaningful distress levels. 45% percent reported sexual IPV, 32% physical IPV, and 86% reported experiencing pregnancy-related stigma. Adjusted models showed that higher levels of psychological distress were associated with higher report of pregnancy-related stigma (β= 0.27, p =0.03), physical IPV, (β = -0.24, p< 0.01), or sexual IPV (β= -0.19, p=0.05), compared to those who did not.  Unemployed (β= -0.24, p=0.01) and lower educational level (β= -0.21, p=0.05) were also independent predictors of psychological distress. 

Conclusion: Findings suggest that IPV is common among adolescents in rural Uganda IP, as is pregnancy-related stigma, and both are independent predictors of psychological distress. The implications of these findings and the need for clinical interventions for IPV among adolescents are discussed.

Key words: Adolescent pregnancy, psychological distress, stigma, intimate partner violence, Uganda

About RCGV

MSU’s Research Consortium on Gender-Based Violence faculty and staff are dedicated to research and outreach initiatives related to ending and preventing gender-based violence and improving the community response to survivors. RCGV faculty are committed to mentoring the next generation of gender-based violence researchers by providing substantial educational and employment opportunities to undergraduate and graduate students.

Gender-based violence (GBV) is a significant and widespread social problem internationally, devastating adults, children, families and societies across the globe. It includes any form of harm that is both a consequence and cause of gender power inequities. It can be physical, psychological, sexual, economic, or sociocultural, and includes but is not limited to sexual abuse, rape, intimate partner abuse, incest, sexual harassment, stalking, femicide, trafficking, gendered hate crimes and dowry abuse. Gender-based violence intersects with race-based, class-based or religiously oppressive forms of abuse, and cross-cuts many other social problems (e.g., poverty, substance abuse, mental and physical health, crime).

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