Social norms and beliefs about gender based violence scale: a measure for use with gender based violence prevention programs in low-resource and humanitarian settings

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Original Article

Background: Gender-based violence (GBV) primary prevention programs seek to facilitate change by 
addressing the underlying causes and drivers of violence against women and girls at a population 
level. Social norms are contextually and socially derived collective expectations of appropriate 
behaviors. Harmful social norms that sustain GBV include women’s sexual purity, protecting family 
honor over women’s safety, and men’s authority to discipline women and children. To evaluate the 
impact of GBV prevention programs, our team sought to develop a brief, valid, and reliable measure 
to examine change over time in harmful social norms and personal beliefs that maintain and tolerate 
sexual violence and other forms of GBV against women and girls in low resource and complex 
humanitarian settings.

Methods: The development and testing of the scale was conducted in two phases: 1) formative phase 
of qualitative inquiry to identify social norms and personal beliefs that sustain and justify GBV 
perpetration against women and girls; and 2) testing phase using quantitative methods to conduct a 
psychometric evaluation of the new scale in targeted areas of Somalia and South Sudan.

Results: The Social Norms and Beliefs about GBV Scale was administered to 602 randomly selected men 
(N = 301) and women (N = 301) community members age 15 years and older across Mogadishu, Somalia 
and Yei and Warrup, South Sudan. The psychometric properties of the 30-item scale are strong. Each 
of the three subscales, “Response to Sexual Violence,” “Protecting Family Honor,” and “Husband’s 
Right to Use Violence” within the two domains, personal beliefs and injunctive social norms, 
illustrate good factor structure, acceptable internal consistency, reliability, and are supported 
by the significance of the hypothesized group differences.

Conclusions: We encourage and recommend that researchers and practitioners apply the Social Norms 
and Beliefs about GBV Scale in different humanitarian and global LMIC settings and collect parallel 
data on a range of GBV outcomes. This will allow us to further validate the scale by triangulating 
its findings with GBV experiences and perpetration and assess its generalizability across diverse 
settings.

Keywords: Gender-based violence, Global health, Humanitarian, Metrics, Scale, Social norms

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