Innovative methods to analyse the impact of gender norms on adolescent health using global health survey data


Cislaghi, Beniamino; Weber, Ann M.; Shakya, Holly B.; Abdalla, Safa; Bhatia, Amiya; Domingue, Benjamin W.; Mejía-Guevara, Iván; Stark, Lindsay; Seff, Ilana; & Richter, Linda M., et al. (2022). Innovative methods to analyse the impact of gender norms on adolescent health using global health survey data. Social Science & Medicine. vol. 293 , PMCID: PMC8819155


Background Understanding how gender norms affect health is an important entry point into designing programs and policies to change norms and improve gender equality and health. However, it is rare for global health datasets to include questions on gender norms, especially questions that go beyond measuring gender-related attitudes, thus limiting gender analysis. Methods We developed five case studies using health survey data from six countries to demonstrate approaches to defining and operationalising proxy measures and analytic approaches to investigating how gender norms can affect health. Key findings, strengths and limitations of our norms proxies and methodological choices are summarised. Findings Case studies revealed links between gender norms and multiple adolescent health outcomes. Proxys for norms were derived from data on attitudes, beliefs, and behaviours, as well as differences between attitudes and behaviours. Data were cross-sectional, longitudinal, census- and social network-based. Analytic methods were diverse. We found that gender norms affect: 1) Intimate partner violence in Nigeria; 2) Unhealthy weight control behaviours in Brazil and South Africa; 3) HIV status in Zambia; 4) Health and social mobility in the US; and 5) Childbirth in Honduras. Interpretation Researchers can use existing global health survey data to examine pathways through which gender norms affect health by generating proxies for gender norms. While direct measures of gender norms can greatly improve the understanding of how gender affects health, proxy measures for norms can be designed for the specific health-related outcome and normative context, for instance by either aggregating behaviours or attitudes or quantifying the difference (dissonance) between them. These norm proxies enable evaluations of the influence of gender norms on health and insights into possible reference groups and sanctions for non-compliers, thus informing programmes and policies to shape norms and improve health.



Gender norms

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Journal Article

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Social Science & Medicine


Cislaghi, Beniamino
Weber, Ann M.
Shakya, Holly B.
Abdalla, Safa
Bhatia, Amiya
Domingue, Benjamin W.
Mejía-Guevara, Iván
Stark, Lindsay
Seff, Ilana
Richter, Linda M.
Baptista Menezes, Ana Maria
Victora, Cesar G.
Darmstadt, Gary L.

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