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Original research
Ensuring the comparability of cross-national survey data on intimate partner violence against women: a cross-sectional, population-based study in the European Union
  1. Manuel Martín-Fernández,
  2. Enrique Gracia,
  3. Marisol Lila
  1. Department of Social Psychology, University of Valencia, Valencia, Spain
  1. Correspondence to Dr Manuel Martín-Fernández; manuel.martin{at}


Objectives To ensure the cross-national comparability of the set of questions addressing physical and sexual intimate partner violence against women (IPVAW) included in the European Union (EU) Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) survey. Once the measurement invariance of these measures is established, we aim to make appropriate and valid comparisons of the levels of physical and sexual IPVAW across the EU countries.

Design Cross-sectional, population-based study.

Participants Data were drawn from the survey conducted by the FRA on violence against women, including the responses of 42 002 adult women from the 28 countries of the EU.

Main outcome measures The set of questions addressing lifetime prevalence of physical and sexual IPVAW used in the FRA survey. The psychometric properties (ie, reliability and validity) of these measures were examined, as well as their latent structure and their measurement invariance across the 28 EU countries.

Results The physical and sexual IPVAW measures presented adequate internal consistency and validity evidence based on their relations to other variables in all countries. A latent two-factor structure was supported and scalar invariance was established across countries. Our results showed that the average levels of physical and sexual IPVAW were highest in Denmark, Finland, Sweden and UK compared with the rest of the EU countries. In many of the other countries the levels of these types of violence overlapped, especially in the case of sexual IPVAW.

Conclusions The findings of this study showed that the set of questions addressing physical and sexual IPVAW included in the FRA survey can be compared across all EU countries, highlighting the importance of testing the measurement equivalence of the instruments used in large sociodemographic surveys in order to make valid cross-national comparisons.

  • intimate partner violence
  • measurement invariance
  • European Union
  • public health
  • psychometrics
  • cross-national research

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  • Contributors MMF designed the analytic strategy, conducted the statistical analysis and wrote the manuscript. EG conceived the study, supervised the writing of the manuscript and acquired the funding and the FRA special licence. ML supervised the writing of the manuscript and acquired the funding.

  • Funding This research was supported by grants PSI2017-84764-P (EG, ML) and BES-2015-075576 (MMF) from the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness (

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Ethics approval The European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights supervised and approved the secondary data analyses conducted in this study, as well as the study design, granting a special licence for this purpose (Reference No 102577).

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data availability statement Data may be obtained from a third party and are not publicly available. The data sets used for the results presented in this manuscript are available from the UK Data Service ( The data set details are the following: Title: European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights: Violence Against Women Survey, 2012: Special Licence Access. Alternative title: FRA VAW Survey. Persistent identifier: 10.5255/UKDA-SN-7730-1.