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Effect of an Advocacy Intervention on Mental Health in Chinese Women Survivors of Intimate Partner Violence: A Randomized Controlled Trial

The Journal of the American Medical Association. 304(5): 536-543. 2010.
Tiwari A.F.Y., Fong D.Y.T., Yuen F.K.H., Yuk H., Pang P., Humphreys J. and Bullock L.


Intimate partner violence (IPV) against women can have negative mental health consequences for survivors; however, the effect of interventions designed to improve survivors' depressive symptoms is unclear.

To determine whether an advocacy intervention would improve the depressive symptoms of Chinese women survivors of IPV.

Assessor-blinded randomized controlled trial of 200 Chinese women 18 years or older with a history of IPV, conducted from February 2007 to June 2009 in a community center in Hong Kong, China.

The intervention group (n = 100) received a 12-week advocacy intervention comprising empowerment and telephone social support. The control group (n = 100) received usual community services including child care, health care and promotion, and recreational programs.

Primary outcome was change in depressive symptoms (Chinese version of the Beck Depression Inventory II) between baseline and 9 months. Secondary outcomes were changes in IPV (Chinese Revised Conflict Tactics Scales), health-related quality of life (12-Item Short Form Health Survey), and perceived social support (Interpersonal Support Evaluation List) between baseline and 9 months. Usefulness of the intervention and usual community services was evaluated at 9 months.

At 3 months, the mean change in depressive symptom score was 11.6 (95% CI, 9.5 to 13.7) in the control group and 14.9 (95% CI, 12.4 to 17.5) in the intervention group; respective changes at 9 months were 19.6 (95% CI, 16.6 to 22.7) and 23.2 (95% CI, 20.4 to 26.0). Intervention effects at 3 and 9 months were not significantly different (P = .86). The intervention significantly reduced depressive symptoms by 2.66 (95% CI, 0.26 to 5.06; P = .03) vs the control, less than the 5-unit minimal clinically important difference. Statistically significant improvement was found in partner psychological aggression (-1.87 [95% CI, -3.34 to -0.40]; mean change at 3 months, 1.5 [95% CI, -1.0 to 3.9] in the control group and 0.3 [95% CI, -0.7 to 1.4] in the intervention group; mean change at 9 months, -6.4 [95% CI, -7.8 to -5.0] and -8.9 [95% CI, -10.6 to -7.2]) and perceived social support (2.18 [95% CI, 0.48 to 3.89]; mean change at 3 months, 6.4 [95% CI, 4.9 to 7.8] and 9.2 [95% CI, 7.7 to 10.8]; mean change at 9 months, 12.4 [95% CI, 10.5 to 14.3] and 14.4 [95% CI, 12.7 to 16.1]) but not in physical assault, sexual coercion, or health-related quality of life. By end of study, more women in the intervention group found the advocacy intervention useful or extremely useful in improving intimate relationships vs those in the control group receiving usual community services (93.8% vs 81.7%; difference, 12.1% [95% CI, 2.1% to 22.0%]; P = .02) and in helping them to resolve conflicts with their intimate partners (97.5% vs 84.1%; difference, 13.4% [95% CI, 4.7% to 22.0%]; P = .001).

Among community-dwelling abused Chinese women, an advocacy intervention did not result in a clinically meaningful improvement in depressive symptoms.

TRIAL REGISTRATION: Identifier: NCT01054898.

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