IZA DP No. 4067: Religion and Intimate Partner Violence in Chile: Macro- and Micro-Level Influences
published in: Social Science Research, 2009, 38(3), 635-643
The Catholic Church has had a strong influence on the Chilean legal and social landscape in ways that have adversely affected victims of intimate partner violence; e.g., it succeeded until just five years ago in blocking efforts to legalize divorce. At the same time, quantitative studies based on survey data from the United States and other countries show a generally favorable influence of religion on health and many other domains of life, including intimate partner violence. The present study explores the puzzle posed by these seemingly opposing macro- and micro- level forces. Results based on data from the 2005 Survey of Student Well-Being, a questionnaire on gender based violence administered to students at a large public university in Chile, show that moderate or low levels of religiosity are associated with reduced vulnerability to violence, but high levels are not. This non-linearity sheds light on the puzzle, because at the macro level the religious views shaping Chile's legal and social environment have been extreme.